Ten man Sunderland fought back from a goal behind to draw 1 – 1 with Oxford at the SOL on Saturday and remain unbeaten in the league. The visitors had taken an early lead through Ricky Holmes after Sunderland started the game slowly. Max Power was then sent off for a reckless tackle before second half sub and debutant Charlie Wyke notched his first goal for the club and gave the lads a share of the spoils.
Sunderland went into the game hoping to extend their unbeaten run and make it four wins on the bounce having beaten AFC Wimbledon and Gillingham away from home last week since our last game at the SOL. A bumper crowd of over 32k was expected as the feel good factor continues to grow on Wearside.
The transfer window came and went without any incomings or outgoings which means we are stuck with the two mercenaries Djilibodgi and N'Dong for now at least. Whether are not they return to training to start picking up their massive wage packets remains to be seen.
Sunderland had no fresh injury concerns and Ross hinted that there was a chance Tom Flanagan and Charlie Wyke could feature. The last time we faced Oxford at the SOL we smashed them 7 – 0 and you could get 200/1 at the bookies for a repeat of this score line. Ross made two changes from the side that beat Wimbledon with Ozturk and Oviedo replacing Loovens and James.
Oxford had the better of the opening stages and had the first effort on goal on ten minutes when their Holmes curled a shot goalwards what McLaughlin had to tip round the post. From the resulting corner the visitors had another great chance but the glancing header was scrambled clear from Sunderland and then Maguire was cautioned for a foul on the half way line.
On fifteen minutes Oxford took the lead from a free kick conceded by Cattermole on the edge of the box after Sunderland conceded possession after an error by Ozturk. After a delay while the Oxford player received treatment the Oxford Holmes clipped the free kick over the wall and past McLaughlin who could only palm the ball into not be back of the net. We tried to respond immediately with Maja running through on goal but the keeper got out to grasp the ball.
Things went from bad to worse for Sunderland on twenty minutes after Max Power was red carded for an over aggressive late challenge on the half way line. It was a stupid challenge and Power did himself no favours when leaving the pitch getting into an altercation with the Oxford bench which saw one of their coaches also sent to the stands.
Our first decent effort on goal came five minutes later when Oviedo hung a cross from the left wing to the back post but Ozturk headed over. Sunderland had a let off on the half hour when a cross to the back post dropped to an unmarked Oxford player but his left footed half volley was saved by McLaughlin down low to his right.
The game fizzled out a bit towards the end of the first half although the visitors did force a couple of corners after some slack Sunderland defending. There was three additional minutes added but the lads failed to muster another effort before the ref blew for half time in fact it was Oxford who continued to press forward.
Ross made one change at the break with Charlie Wyke making his debut replacing Chris Maguire who was walking a fine line with the referee having been booked in the first half. Two minutes into the second half Oviedo was booked after he was adjudged to have kicked the Oxford right winger in the chest. From the resulting free kick Sunderland conceded a corner but Lee Cattermole cleared the danger.
Five minutes later Sunderland drew level with debutant Charlie Wyke noticing his first goal for the club. The big striker picked up the ball on the right hand side of the box and drilled a low effort past the keeper and into the back of the net via the inside of the post. Oxford had a great opportunity to retake the lead instantly from a corner but the effort was hit just over the bar.
On sixty minutes George Honeyman showed a good bit of trickery and turn of pace to draw a foul on the right wing and Sunderland almost took the lead from the free kick. The ball was pulled back for Baldwin on the edge of the box with everyone expecting a cross into the box but the defender’s low shot was the wrong side of the post.
With twenty minutes remaining Ross made his second change with McGeouch replacing Josh Maja. The visitors thought they had taken the lead moments later after McLaughlin made a howler spilling a fairly tame long range effort but the keeper was rescued by the linesman who flagged the striker who had pounced on the rebound offside. Ten minutes from time Ross made his final change replacing Donald Love with Reece James.
Sunderland tried pushing for a winner and the ref bottled sending off an Oxford midfielder with five minutes remaining who had cynically hauled down Lee Cattermole who was breaking whilst already on a yellow card. There were only four minutes of added time signalled by the fourth official and Sunderland were reliant on McGeouch making a couple of great tackles to snuff out Oxford attacks.
The visitors forced a corner and almost won it at the death after Cattermole sliced a clearance which looked to be heading for the back of the net but McLaughlin made the save.
Final Score: Sunderland 1 Oxford 1
ALS Man of the Match: Charlie Wyke