It took a late Aiden McGeady penalty to salvage a draw against Bolton after a shocking display at the University of Bolton Stadium.
Sunderland were poor in the first half and Bolton had the best chance of the half through Dennis Politic. Jack Hobbs took the lead for Bolton not long into the second period, but a 90-minute penalty from McGeady spared Sunderland’s blushes.
Coming off the back of a disappointing draw to Rotherham Jack Ross made a few changes to the side: Tom Flanagan came into the side for Alim Ozturk, Grant Leadbitter replaced Dylan McGeouch and Will Grigg was back in the starting 11 to replace the injured Marc McNulty.
The hosts had a few familiar faces with Liam Bridcutt and Will Buckley in the squad as Bolton looked to gain their first three points of the season.
Sunderland had the first opening of the game as Denver Hume played a great through ball to George Dobson, but the former Walsall man’s loose first touch allowed Remi Matthews to come out and save Dobson’s shot.
15 minutes into the match and Sunderland had edged it but it wasn’t as one-sided as the 4,000 travelling fans would have hoped for.
Bolton were inches away from taking the lead as Dennis Politic curled an effort which left John McLaughlin helpless, fortunately, it crashed off the inside of the post and to safety.
It had been a poor start from the lads, they looked slow and devoid of ideas on how to get past the Bolton defence.
Midway through the half Sunderland should have taken the lead as Chris Maguire crossed it well to Will Grigg whose header was poor and went wide of the post.
The lads were getting closer and it was Maguire’s turn to take aim, he was slipped in by Lynden Gooch but on the angle, he couldn’t beat Matthews.
Sunderland had started to step it up a gear and press the Bolton backline but still didn’t look dominant in any way.
As the first half drew to a close it was a frustrating 45 minutes for all those concerned with Sunderland. Every time Bolton went forward, they gained confidence and looked threatening down their right-hand side with Politic and Thibaud Verlinden standout performers.
There was one change at the break as Denver Hume came off for Connor McLaughlin, this meant Mr Versatile Luke O’Nien switched over to left-back.
Four minutes into the second half and Bolton took the lead, from a free-kick it was floated into Buckley who headed it across to Jack Hobbs with the goal at his mercy – it was far too easy and a terrible goal to concede.
Sunderland came so close to equalizing a minute later as the ball was crossed into O’Nien at the far post and on the volley his effort was well saved by Matthews.
If you looked at the two sides and didn’t know which one had been thrown together less than a month ago, you wouldn’t think it would be Bolton.
An hour into the game and Sunderland looked all at sea, they looked like a team without any direction and were playing against a side full of confidence.
With Sunderland in desperate need of a goal Ross took off Chris Maguire and brought on Charlie Wyke to play up top with Grigg – it was met with calls of “you don’t know what you’re doing & you’re getting sacked in the morning” from the Sunderland fans.
Sunderland missed a golden opportunity to level the scores from an inswing Leadbitter freekick which was met by Flanagan who could only hit the bar.
With Ross’ last throw of the dice, he brought on Max Power for Grant Leadbitter in a bid to salvage something.
Aiden McGeady looked as frustrated as any Sunderland fan and he was furious when the referee waved away a penalty appeal where he looked as if he was tripped in the box.
With just over five minutes remaining McGeady tried his luck from 20 yards out and his curling effort was brilliantly saved by Matthews who got fingertips to the effort.
Minutes later Gooch’s shot from 25 yards out was saved again by the Bolton keeper who was in fine form.
Sunderland were given a penalty in injury time as it was a clear handball from Yoan Zouma – McGeady stepped up and sent Matthews the wrong way to give Sunderland small hope of still winning the game.
The equaliser shouldn’t not disguise the fact that it was a shambolic performance from Sunderland and the fans let them know with a chorus of boos on the full-time whistle.
Full Time: Bolton 1-1 Sunderland
ALS Man of the Match: Aiden McGeady