SWINDON Town lost for the first time in four games after a second-half Charlie Wyke header settled a turgid affair at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday night.

In a game that rarely saw clear-cut chances occur for either side, Wyke’s 19th goal of the season settled a game in which Town showed very little attacking threat.

Scott Twine’s thunderous free-kick that rattled the bar with the last kick of the game was as close as Town came in truth – and defeat saw John Sheridan’s men drop to 19th.

Swindon made two changes to the side that beat Northampton Town on Saturday – one coming in goal as Connal Trueman made his debut after joining on an emergency loan from Birmingham City on Monday. Meanwhile, Rob Hunt is preferred to Paul Caddis at right-back.

For Sunderland, two of the Black Cats’ back four would usually be found in midfield - Luke O'Nien and Max Power slotted in at centre-back and right-back, respectively. Meanwhile, ex-Oxford United man Chris Maguire began the evening on the bench.

Town were the first to test their opposition’s goalkeeper after Scott Twine won a free-kick 25 yards out and slightly to the left of centre in the third minute.

Swindon’s number 10 struck a dipping effort over the wall, but Lee Burge got down well to push it away following an awkward bounce. Dom Thompson tried to cut the ball back to Brett Pitman, but the stopper was immediately back on his feet to intercept.

Aiden McGeady began the game brightly for the Black Cats, but a number of crosses from the left went untouched as Dion Conroy and Tom Broadbent stood up to everything that was thrown at them.

Ex-Forest Green Rovers man, Carl Winchester had the hosts first real strike at goal in the 15th minute, but his long-range effort skidded harmlessly wide.

Sunderland continued to see the majority of the ball, and they almost opened the scoring when Lynden Gooch went past Jonathan Grounds before cutting a low cross towards Charlie Wyke. Luckily for Grounds and his teammates, the striker was unable to direct his first-time shot on target.

Minutes later, Wyke also headed a deep free-kick over the bar as Mackem frustration grew.

With less than 10 minutes to go until half-time, Twine was next to set his sights at goal. This time, it was a long-range free-kick that dipped and swerved on it’s way into the grateful arms of Burge. The goalkeeper threatened to have difficulty with the shot, but he held on well in the end.

Aside from a couple of deliveries into the box that were easily dealt with by the opposition’s defence, neither side went close to threatening the goal again before the break.

In the second half, it was Sunderland who looked the more likely to score in the opening 10 minutes. After Swindon cleared a corner, Thompson gave the ball away and Gooch smashed a left-footed shot at goal, but Trueman turned it behind well.

Moments later, Sunderland got in down the right, but after Gooch delayed and delayed, Town were able to bring bodies back in numbers to snuff the danger out.

Town were looking comfortable dealing with the majority of what Sunderland threw at them, but with 20 minutes to go, Broadbent accidentally caught Wyke out on the right and the Black Cats took their chance to pounce.

Substitute Maguire whipped a delightful ball onto the head of Wyke, who flicked it into the far corner to give Sunderland the lead – the goal was his seventh in his past six games, six of which were also headers.

Minutes later though, Town almost responded through a substitute of their own. Twine cut a pass through to Hallam Hope down the left channel, but Burge raced out of his goal to smother the danger as the left-winger set himself.

With 15 minutes to go, the home side really should have made it 2-0 after a mistake from Broadbent saw Sunderland break three-on-one. Only, a poor pass from Wyke to Maguire saw the move lose all momentum and Town scrambled back to intercept.

As the game reached its latter stages, tidy build-up play from Sunderland resulted in captain, Max Power curling a cross into the middle that substitute, Aiden O'Brien couldn't quite connect with.

Down the other end, Payne played it wide to Hope – and after Power slipped – it looked as though the chance had opened up for the winger, but Power scrambled across to block it out for a corner.

With Sunderland having wasted chances to kill the game, Swindon almost made them pay in sensational fashion with the final kick of the game.

Twine lined up a free-kick from 30 yards out on the left that travelled like a heat-seeking missile onto the bar before bouncing away – breaking Town hearts as the final whistle blew.

SAFC starting XI: Burge, McFadzean, O'Nien, Sanderson, Power, Gooch, Winchester, Scowen, McGeady, Wyke, Jones.

SUBS: Matthews, Maguire, Vokins, Diamond, O'Brien, Neil, Younger.

STFC starting XI: Trueman, Conroy, Grounds, Pitman, Twine, Garrick, Payne, Palmer, Hunt, Thompson, Broadbent.

SUBS: Matthews, Caddis, Iandolo, Curran, Missilou, Omotoye, Hope.