Sunderland 0-1 Blackpool: Kaikai wonder goal boosts Seasiders' play-off hopes
(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Blackpool sealed a crucial three points in the race for a play-off place with a tight 1-0 victory over fellow promotion-chasers Sunderland.

After a distinctively poor first half, the tie was settled by a wonder goal from Sullay Kaikai in the 56th-minute – a strike that killed The Black Cats' automatic promotion dreams once and for all. 

Story of the game

Lee Johnson made just the one change from the weekend's disappointing 3-3 draw with Accrington, with veteran midfielder Grant Leadbitter coming into the side to replace Carl Winchester.

Tangerines boss Neil Critchley made three changes from Saturday's shock home defeat to Shrewsbury, with Ethan Robson, James Husband and Ollie Turton all returning to the starting lineup.

Heading into this fixture, it was safe to say that it was a 'must not lose' game for either side given their current positions in the table – and the opening 20-minutes echoed that, with the most notable highlight being a Blackpool corner which came to nothing.

The game did eventually lighten up though – sort of after 24-minutes – when the first shot on target was recorded. Aiden O'Brien latched onto a long-ball over the top of the defence, but his attempted volley caused goalkeeper Chris Maxwell no problems at all.

Another half-chance occurred on the 31-minute mark as O'Brien worked some space to cross towards 30-goal striker Charlie Wyke, but the forward could not get a clean connection on his header and it flew above the Blackpool crossbar.

It took the visitors 40-minutes to register a shot on target as Jerry Yates stung the hands of Lee Burge after latching onto a mistake by the Sunderland midfield.

The Black Cats had the final chance – if you can call it one – before the break as Lynden Gooch whipped in an enticing ball towards the head of Wyke but it was caught by Maxwell with relative ease.

These two sides may not win any awards in terms of promotion this season, but they will both safely take home the prize for the worst opening 45 minutes of the season – with the two teams recording a single shot on target in the entire half each.

A second half incomparable to the first that was decided by a screamer.

Just a matter of minutes after the interval, this lacklustre fixture sprung into life as we were presented with three good opportunities for the hosts in quick succession.

Aiden McGeady had a shot flash over the crossbar, just before Max Power made Maxwell work hard to deny his curling effort which looked destined for the back of the net.

But the best opportunity of this trio of chances fell to Wyke as Leadbitter planted a perfect corner onto the head of the in-form striker, and it took an instinctive stop by Maxwell to deny The Black Cats from taking the lead.

Despite offering next to no attacking presence throughout the game so far, it was Blackpool who got their noses in front on 56-minutes, with a goal that words simply cannot do justice.

A corner from the right-hand side was only cleared as far as Sullay Kaikai on the edge of the box who unleashed a stunning strike into the top-corner of the net. 

Sunderland did not let going behind get to them as they kept pushing – and if it was not for another top save from Maxwell to deny Wyke from close range, Lee Johnson's side would have drawn level.

Blackpool weathered the Sunderland storm and had a great chance to kill the game off go begging as Yates outmuscled Luke O'Nien but instead of passing wide to an unmarked teammate at the back-post, he opted to shoot and his effort subsequently went wide of the target.

Sunderland came a whisker away from equalising right at the death when Wyke’s header from point-blank range had heroically saved by Maxwell, who was the clearly the standout player of the night.

The Black Cats' fourth defeat in seven League One games means their feint automatic promotion dreams are now over – and a spot in the play-offs that looked a formality weeks ago, is still not confirmed just yet.

Starting XI's

Sunderland: Burge; Power, Wright, O'Nien, Hume; Gooch, Leadbitter, Scowen, McGeady; Wyke, O'Brien. (4-4-2)

Blackpool: Maxwell; Turton, Ballard, Thorniley, Husband, Garbutt; Ward, Dougall, Robson, Kaikai; Yates. (5-4-1)

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