The nightmare continues. We failed to beat Walsall for the second week running and as a result, we have to play them again next week!
Once again, we headed to the delights of Walsall, but this time FA Cup glory was at stake. It turned out to be a largely bitty and scrappy affair with nothing like the passion and drama of last Saturday’s 2-2 draw.
Team news: Honeyman, who took a knock in training, was replaced by O’Nien. We also had a very late change as Chris Maguire appeared to be struggling in the warm up and couldn’t start the game so Oviedo was upgraded from the bench and took his place.
As we kicked off on a poor, muddy surface everything seemed a little subdued. Maybe it was just the almost impossible mission of repeating last week’s excitement seven days later. However, Aiden McGeady seemed determined to carry on his sparking form of late and tortured the Walsall defence in the opening ten minutes. Top scorer Josh Maja was also lively, getting a few shots away followed by a McGeady chance which was scuffed, as he appeared to be in two minds on the half volley.
Walsall striker and Mag fan Andy Cook then produced the first hint of the threat he was to show later in the game as he flung himself at a cross but failed to connect.
At the other end, Maja followed up as he got the slightest of touches to redirect a shot only for the Walsall keeper to make a smart save to his left.
Sunderland continued to apply pressure without really possessing the extra quality that has seen them go second in League 1 whilst scoring in every league game. That pressure finally paid off in the 37th minute as a Maja’s marker prevented him from reaching a cross, only for the ball to run on to find the on rushing McGeady somewhere around the penalty spot. McGeady made no mistake, slamming the ball under the advancing keeper. 1-0 and a very, very mini pitch invasion!
As half time approached the away fans paid an emotional tribute to popular lads’ fan Keith Charlton, who sadly passed away this week.
The second half kicked off as we attacked the far end. A half chance for the lads was followed by Cook scoring Walsall’s equaliser in the 53rd minute. He’d been rested from Walsall’s midweek game and clearly was part of their game plan against Flanagan and Baldwin. And it worked especially well in the second half as he won pretty much everything in the air and was on the end of a lot of Walsall’s best attacks.
With 28 minutes to go Sinclair came on for Oviedo who looked frustrated when trotting off. The game was very even at this stage and fairly end to end with a McGeady chance followed up by Walsall going right up the other end and having a chance of their own.
The ‘big/fat’ lad upfront Cook again looked dangerous for Walsall as our defence seemed a little sloppy and just slightly off the pace.
Young Bali Mumba came on for Gooch, another who just couldn’t produce the form of recent weeks in today’s game.
As we entered the final minutes of normal time, Sunderland decided they were going to have a late push for the winner. Nothing came of it and we now head back the SoL for a replay on Tuesday week.
Final Score: 1-1
ALS Man of the Match: Keith Charlton