Sunderland held on for a 1-1 draw against Sheffield Wednesday down at Hillsborough. After scoring early, courtesy of George Honeyman, a stunning David Jones strike levelled it for the home side. It was a great test for SAFC, who could have crumpled when the momentum shifted, but instead we saw resilience and tact that ultimately earned us a solid point away from home.
Simon Grayson had this to say afterwards. “It was a good performance again to come here and not get beat. When you look at the game we started well, had some good chances and were really the better team in the first half. If we had got the second goal then we would’ve silenced the crowd. They weren’t running out of ideas but they hadn’t opened us up or anything like that. (It was) a wonder goal that gave them the impetus and got the crowd behind them. We withstood a lot of pressure and that is a good mentality to have. After their goal there were some real questions asked of the team, whether we were going to concede a second and lose the game, but we didn’t. We withstood a lot of pressure,” he continued. “This place (Hillsborough) can get going when it is like that but ultimately we are pleased with the first half. If we had scored the second goal then we would’ve won the game. Up until the wonder goal we looked very comfortable with what we were doing.”
Grayson was happy with the fight that his players showed in the later stages of the game to dig in and get the draw. “That side of the game is every bit as important as what we did against Norwich,” said Grayson. “You have to stand strong and make sure you put your bodies on the line and do whatever is required to win a game or get a result. We had to do that. They were kicking towards their supporters and really had a go in the closing stages. They built a bit of pressure but we withstood things and that is what we had to do. It is something we had to change, and it is even something that had to change since pre-season. We went to St Johnstone and conceded three in five minutes, and then conceded five against Celtic when we shouldn't have done. You have to be strong mentally and you have to have a team spirit where people will work for each other. Any team that has done well in this division has had that spirit and togetherness, and have been willing to put their bodies on the line. You can’t just play fancy football all the time. There are times when you have to dig deep, and this is another valuable point to add to the start of the season.”
The gaffer was delighted with George Honeyman's goal and overall contribution to the game. "You want your goals to come from different areas of the pitch,” said Grayson. "George gives you work, endeavour and quality as well. With it being so early in the game, he could quite easily have lost his composure and hit it over the bar, but he showed good technique and got us off to a great start. We tried to build on that, and looked comfortably defensively. We looked good on the counter-attack, and had two or three really good chances that could have meant we put the game to bed.”
Grayson also commented on our failure to land Max Gradel, from Bournemouth. "We spoke to Max, but he eventually decided to go back to France,” said Grayson. "We had agreed something with Bournemouth and he is a good player that I wanted to bring to the club - it shows you where we are with the players we are looking at. That would have been a big signing for us, but he just felt that his family wanted to go back to France. That was disappointing, but it is part and parcel of football.”
Grayson gave an update on Josh Maja's fitness. "He had an operation on his knee on Tuesday morning,” he said. “He will probably be out for a month, they just found a bit of a problem with his knee and we had to operate.”
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 1-1 SUNDERLAND
BLOG BY PADDY HOLLIS
After a superb 3-1 win at Norwich on Sunday, hopes were high going into this trip to Hillsborough. In a real game of two halves, we started well but were very nearly taught a harsh lesson on life in the Championship. George Honeyman’s first league goal for the club was finished with bags of coolness as he slotted in past several defenders on the line. We were pegged back thanks to a superb strike by David Jones and, in all honesty, we were fortunate to leave Yorkshire with a point.
On the plus side, it’s a solid point at a tricky place to visit and extends our unbeaten start to the season to three matches. We created chances and soaked up a lot of pressure. However, there was a distinct difference between our performances tonight and on Sunday. A lot of our players looked sluggish and tired not long into the second half and the intensity of the hosts along with their strong bench left us hanging on for a result.
The relentlessness of a Championship season could leave us struggling to keep afloat when playing teams with as much ferocity as Sheffield Wednesday. It was good to see some dogged defending from our backline and it looked as though we’d hang onto the win, Jones’ goal was something special and it gave the hosts what they deserved
Despite taking the lead, this draw definitely feels like a point gained rather than two points dropped. Once being Pegged back to 1-1, previous Sunderland sides could have lost all shape and lost 2 or 3-1. However, under Simon, Grayson it has been made clear even at this early stage that we are now a side that will dig in for a result. If you didn’t have the chance to follow the match, upon seeing the score you’d think a point is a good result. You’d be right. It wasn’t a pretty performance and had Vaughan and Grabban taken their golden chances we could have been out of sight by the time the home side got on the score sheet. It wasn’t to be, but it could have been worse.
The draw at Hillsborough was a big lesson learnt from this Sunderland side. We were shown what to expect from a side that will be in and around the top six come the end of the season. It might not have been a glamorous conclusion but we did show once more that we will be a tough unit to breakdown.
It will be a welcome return to home soil on Saturday against Leeds United, but we’ve returned from three away games with two wins and a draw. The positivity is back at the club and with injured players returning soon and a few new additions through the door we might just be able to have a good go at this league.
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