Sunderland salvaged a deserved point with the final kick of the game to draw 1 – 1 with promotion rivals Fleetwood at the SOL on Tuesday evening. The visitors had raced into an early lead after a slow start by Sunderland was punished by Barrie McKay with Phil Parkinson's side not levelling until Max Power struck in injury time. In between the goals the visitors were allowed to time waste by an incompetent referee at every opportunity but Joey Barton’s side were made to pay for this conceding at the death.
The victory over Bristol Rovers at the weekend saw the lads move up to fourth in the league and three off top. With the top two facing each other at Coventry depending on the result at St Andrew’s Phil Parkinson’s side could gain further ground on the automatic promotion spots although visitors Fleetwood would offer a stern test.
In fact both sides have been on superb runs of form with the lads winning four on the spin whilst Joey Barton's side have won five on the bounce. As expected given Sunderland's form Phil Parkinson named the same side that won at the weekend whilst the visitors were also unchanged from their over Portsmouth.
The visitors got the game underway kicking towards the North stand and their fairly paltry following but should have taken the lead inside a minute after sloppy play from Sunderland. Lynden Gooch played the ball backwards to Willis when a forward pass was on to Hume then Willis made a mess of his pass allowing McKay a one on one which McLaughlin did well to block. At the other end we went close after O’Nien won a free kick on the right but Willis headed over.
Fleetwood did take the lead after five minutes when McKay skinned Willis on the edge of the box before slotting the ball into the back of the net past McLaughlin. Sunderland tried to respond immediately winning a free kick on the edge of the box which was laid off to Dobson but he blazed over with a horrible effort.
Sunderland’s best effort of the opening stages came after ten minutes after an good move was started and finished by Maguire. He switched the play from right to left for Hume who in turn played a good ball back across goal which Wyke was unable to get on the end of. The ball fell kindly for Maguire who blasted an excellent half volley towards goal only for it to be deflected wide for a corner which the visitors cleared.
Max Power then picked up a yellow card for a seemingly fair albeit hard challenge where he clearly won the ball. Then five minutes later despite awarding Sunderland a free kick the hapless ref failed to yellow card two Fleetwood players who kicked the ball away.
After twenty five minutes the lads almost drew level through Chris Maguire after he combined with Luke O’Nien. The Scot clipped the ball into O’Nien who took a good touch in the box before laying it back to Maguire who curled a vicious shot off the cross bar from a tight angle. Sunderland then had a good period of sustained pressure with a succession of corners but the ball wouldn’t drop to a red and white shirt and when it did Wyke poked O’Nien's cross wide but he was offside anyway.
Five minutes before half time we fashioned another decent opportunity when Maguire fed Gooch on the edge of the box. After twisting and turning the American dragged a shot wide of the post when a return pass to the unmarked Maguire in the box would have been a better option.
Neither side made any changes at the break and the lads went straight on the attack down the right but Maguire’s cross was too close to the keeper. At the other end like in the early stages of the first half Sunderland sloppily gave the ball away and allowed the visitors to break but fortunately for Phil Parkinson’s side the cross was over hit and we cleared the danger. Power then tried his luck from range with a dipping shot but the Fleetwood keeper held it.
Alim Ozturk was then booked for a cynical trip as Fleetwood raced forward which drew the ire of the crowd for the ref – not so much for Ozturk’s yellow more for the fact the ref had ignored all of Fleetwood’s cynical time wasting and play acting. McLaughlin held the free kick which was hit from 25 yards by McKay.
With half an hour remaining Hume did well on the left to get behind his man and cross along the face of the goal with Gooch tumbling claiming a penalty. The ref waved away the protests and we continued to press and forced a corner but Maguire’s cross was easily held by the keeper.
Parkinson then made his first change with Hume replaced by Semenyo with Gooch moving to left wing back. The lads had a lot of the ball in the attacking areas but couldn’t find the right final ball to create a clear opportunity and too often the wrong decisions were being made. At the other end Fleetwood had a rare venture forward when Flanagan misread the ball allowing Burns in on goal but McLaughlin was equal to it.
Kyle Lafferty then made his way onto the pitch replacing George Dobson as Parkinson looked to get Sunderland back level. The biggest cheer of the night then went up ten minutes from time when the ref finally booked a Fleetwood player after Madden fouled Flanagan. Five minutes before full time Parkinson rolled the dice with his final change of Watmore replacing Willis. Watmore went to right wing back with O’Nien moving in one.
We forced a corner which Maguire stood up to the back post but Flanagan nodded over. There was six minutes added time and in the final minute and in fact with the final kick of the game the lads got a deserved equaliser. A long ball forward from Ozturk was nodded down by Kyle Lafferty for Max Power who fired the ball into the bottom right hand corner. There were scenes when the goal went in and some fans even charged to gather and gloat at the Fleetwood dugout whose time wasting tactics poetically blew up in their face with the goal at the death.
Final Score: Sunderland 1 Fleetwood 1
ALS Man of the Match: Chris Maguire
RATINGS VS FLEETWOOD
BY DANIEL MCCALLUM
Jon McLaughlin (6/10); Helpless for the goal. His quick distribution was able to help us start some attacks.
Luke O’Nien (7/10): Got forward well and tidy on the ball.
Jordan Willis (7/10): Helped O’Nien down the wing and covered defensively as always. Sacrificed as we chased an equaliser.
Alim Ozturk (6/10): Looked far too slow for the pace of the Fleetwood forwards, particularly in the first half. Frustrating on the ball, always passing backwards as we tried to push forward.
Tom Flanagan (6/10): Erratic on the ball and average defensively. Like Ozturk, struggled against the pacy attackers.
Denver Hume (5/10): His first touch was poor, panicky on the ball and crosses were not great.
Max Power (7/10): Wasn’t great, unfairly booked for what looked like a fair enough tackle. Scored the all-important equaliser though to shut Joey Barton up though.
George Dobson (7/10): Retained the ball well and was able to switch play with ease. Couldn’t press as hard as he usually does though as Fleetwood didn’t see too much of the ball.
Chris Maguire (8/10): A man possessed in the first half especially. He was winning every second ball, putting good set piece deliveries in and hit the bar with a fierce shot. It’s such a shame that he seemed to be the only player with any attacking impetus because Maguire’s performance deserved three points.
Lynden Gooch (5/10): Another workmanlike display, even if yet again he struggled with his end product. He huffed and puffed, but ultimately couldn’t create any real chances.
Charlie Wyke (6/10): Very good in the first half, bringing his teammates into play well. However, in the second half he was too soft, going down every time he touched a defender and expecting the referee to give something.
Antoine Semenyo (7/10): Showed glimpses of quality in linking the midfield and attack. Despite his age, he didn’t actually look too lightweight for this league.
Kyle Lafferty (6/10): Won some headers and provided another outlet as we tried to break down the Fleetwood defence.
Duncan Watmore (7/10): Took up a good position in the goalmouth scramble, drawing defenders in to leave Power free.