It was matchday yet again for Sunderland, under the floodlights at the SOL; a perfect setting for what would hopefully be a perfect performance. The Black Cats were back in the swing of things after a very successful trip to the Wham Stadium on Saturday afternoon, which saw Jack Ross’ side finish with a comfortable 3-1 victory.
Although it wasn’t an ideal performance, with another chance to keep a clean sheet going begging, it was definitely worthy of three points. However, this match against Rotherham would be even more tightly contested, with the Millers’ entering the match on a high note after a rampant 6-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers in their previous league fixture. As always, the expectation was a Sunderland victory; which didn’t appear unreasonable in front of a crowd of just under 30,000.
Two changes were made from the line-up that was victorious over Accrington at the weekend, with Conor McLaughlin and Dylan McGeouch both coming into the side, which meant that Chris Maguire and Grant Leadbitter were dropped to the bench.
Charlie Wyke was also back in the squad after returning from his suspension, but he only made it as a substitute. Will Grigg and Max Power also had to settle for places on the bench, highlighting just how much competition there is to earn a starting spot.
Luke O’Nien featured in a much more advanced role, playing almost like a ‘number 10’ and threading the balls through to Marc McNulty, who continued as a lone striker following his goal at Accy.
Lynden Gooch and Aiden McGeady were on the flanks as usual, with George Dobson starting in the heart of midfield once again. Denver Hume started at Left-Back, with Jack Ross still yet to give loanee Laurens De Bock his debut, but with academy graduate Hume starting to show his potential, it was clear to see why the Dutchman missed out. Alim Ozturk was paired with Jordan Willis in central defence, with supporters still waiting for the first clean sheet of the campaign. For the visitors, the standout name on the team sheet was former Sunderland target Freddie Ladapo; the 6ft 2 forward would definitely need to be watched closely to stop him from grabbing a goal.
19:45 soon arrived, with the game commencing under a beautiful purple haze to greet the two sides. Incredibly, with just under thirty seconds on the clock, Sunderland got off to the ideal start by taking advantage of a ‘route one’ type punt forward from Alim Ozturk. The defenders’ hopeful hoof forward turned into a Scholes’ like pass when Marc McNulty latched onto possession and calmly took the ball around Daniel Iversen, maintaining his balance in the process. He then adjusted his body to slot the ball easily into a virtually open net, with some supporters in red and white entering the ground to a pleasant surprise.
However, Sunderland had to keep the same, positive attitude and continue to push for more goals, otherwise it would be a very long 90 minutes to follow. The lead was almost doubled soon after, with most home supporters rising to celebrate what looked like an excellent finish from Aiden McGeady, but Daniel Iversen had other ideas as he somehow rose to the top corner to keep the ball out. McGeady was soon given another opportunity to beat the Rotherham goalkeeper, when Marc McNulty was tripped in the box to win a Sunderland penalty.
Unfortunately, his weak effort from the spot was stopped with ease as the Irishman failed to double the score; which would prove costly in the end. It was a frustrating half, particularly with the penalty miss, but Rotherham looked shaky defensively and hadn’t asked the Sunderland backline too many questions.
Both sets of players returned for the second half, with a satisfactory performance from Sunderland to this point, but one that they were capable of improving on. It was Rotherham who caused the biggest threat at the start of the second forty-five , as Jon McLaughlin was forced to make a clever low stop to deny Jake Hastie from snatching an equaliser. Unfortunately, the Scotsman had another bite of the cherry, and he didn’t let this opportunity pass. The ball progressed over to Hastie, who had bags of space and thumped a venomous effort passed Jon McLaughlin in the Sunderland net, levelling the score at one-a-piece. The black cats failed to get going in the second half, and couldn’t capitalise on what looked like a shaky Rotherham defence. However, a huge opportunity fell for Charlie Wyke, who had just been introduced to the field as a substitute. The forward should have put Sunderland back ahead, but failed to take advantage of the chance as he was denied from inside the penalty area. The whistle blew for the final time and with a penalty miss in the first half, it was very difficult to settle for a point.
The red and white army were forced to witness yet another 1-1 draw and with takeover talks in the latter stages, it is a very chaotic time on Wearside. Most supporters were disappointed with the performance, especially in the second forty five as we failed to cause Rotherham too many problems. Sunderland face a trip to Bolton this weekend, and with The Whites picking up a point against Oxford, it won’t be as easy as we’d first anticipated. Fortunately, we sit in a promising 4th position in the league standings, but automatic promotion should be the target yet again.