Sunderland had to settle for a point after grinding out a one all draw with Shrewsbury Town on Saturday at the SOL. After a slow start Jack Ross’ side fell behind after a header from Luke Waterfall before the lads eventually rallied and equalised on the stroke of half-time through a header from Josh Maja. Despite an improved second half showing Sunderland couldn’t muster a winner and results elsewhere mean we are now seven points off top.
Sunderland went into the game on the back of the Boxing Day victory over Bradford which had saw the lads close the gap on top spot to five points. With the two sides above Jack Ross’ side both playing away from home the potential was there for Sunderland to make further ground on the promotion places with the added bonus of still having two games in hand.
Shrewsbury headed to Wearside sitting in 18th in the league and not boasting the best away record whilst Sunderland had the opportunity to win for a fourth consecutive time at the Stadium of Light. Jack Ross had no fresh injury concerns going into the game although Adam Matthews and George Honeyman were still doubts although Charlie Wyke was pushing for a start after his cameo against Bradford where he looked a lot sharper than his appearances at the start of the season.
Jack Ross kept the same team as started against Bradford and after a minute’s silence to remember SAFC players and fans who have passed away in the last year Shrewsbury got the game underway kicking towards the North Stand in blustery conditions.
Shrewsbury forced an early chance after a mistake from Flanagan saw them win a corner which was flashed dangerously across the box before Cattermole cleared. After a slow start Sunderland eventually had a shot on goal from Maguire but he curled it over the bar from the edge of the box.
It was a really scrappy opening with very little football on show and on twenty minutes Baldwin made a hash of a clearance allowing Shrewsbury a break on goal. Max Power tried to stop the attack and made a rash challenge taking the man out but the ref played advantage and the visitors curled a shot over the bar with Power lucky to escape a yellow.
After twenty five or so minutes Ross seemed to change Sunderland’s formation with Maguire moving to the right hand side and Sunderland improved and started causing problems for the visitors. The lads started getting in decent positions on both flanks and caused the Shrewsbury defence to scramble a few crosses clear.
However on thirty minutes Sunderland conceded a sloppy opener after a long ball from a free kick on the half way line was played into the box and Waterfall jumped highest and looped header past the diving McLaughlin into the top right hand corner of the goal.
Sunderland created their best opening of the game after thirty eight minutes when Gooch did well to beat two defenders on the right wing but his cross was hacked away but only as far as O'Nien. He tried a left foot shot which was blocked but span goalwards with Maja unable to latch onto it. Two minutes later we went close again when a cross from Oviedo was cleared off the line at the back post for a corner. The corner was played in low to the feet of Flanagan who found himself in a great position but he dragged his shot across goal.
The pressure from Sunderland eventually told and we equalised on the stroke of half-time with a brilliantly worked goal from Josh Maja. Maguire played a disguised ball down the left hand side freeing Oviedo who delivered a great cross from the left allowing Maja to thump a header into the back of the net.
Neither side made any changes at the break but Sunderland were forced into a change five minutes into the half when Oviedo picked up a knock. The Costa Rican was replaced by James and with the transfer window approaching was this the last time we would see him on Wearside? Two minutes later Charlie Wyke was stripped and ready for action and he replaced Chris Maguire as Jack Ross went in search of all three points.
Wyke immediately caused problems forcing a corner after he got up well to nod a header goalwards which was put out for a corner. As with many of Sunderland’s corners this season it was easily cleared. Wyke then won a corner on the right hand side which McGeady swung into the box onto the head of Power but it was off target. We forced another corner on the right which was stood up for Maja at the back post before he took a touch and a tumble in search of a penalty but the ref wasn’t having it.
With twenty five minutes remaining Ross made his final change as Watmore replaced Gooch. Watmore caused a few problems with his pace and had an effort on goal with twenty minutes remaining but his left footed shot was poor compared to the run which preceded it what saw him skip three challenges. It was Sunderland who were looking for the winner with the visitors happy to run down the clock at every opportunity and with ten minutes to play we did fashion a chance when James clipped a ball into the box but Wyke’s header looped over.
There was five minutes added which seemed short considering the time wasting antics of the visitors. In the first of the additional minutes Power had a sight of goal before the visitors won a free kick on the right which they almost scored from. The ball was swung in and Baldwin bundled it goalwards before McLaughlin managed to get hold of it. We went down the other end and almost scored when Watmore got down the left and fired across goal with the ball deflecting off the Shrewsbury centre half and over the bar.
We had another couple of chances late on first a shot from Baldwin which was dragged wide and then James fired over before the ref blew for full time with Sunderland paying for a slow start and having to settle for a point.
Final Score: Sunderland 1 Shrewsbury Town 1
ALS Man of the Match: Luke O'Nien