Luton (A) Match Report

Sunderland made it four points from six as the lads were pegged back by Matthew Pearson’s goal which cancelled out Josh Maja’s great first half strike.

This game is exactly what Sunderland will have to get used to this season. Luton gave it everything they had and, on another day, could have even won it themselves. It was obvious Sunderland had a bit more quality, but still were clearly lacking some key players to make the difference. A draw kept Jack Ross’ men unbeaten and four points doesn’t represent a bad tally after two games.

Sunderland made the first away journey of the season against League Two promoted side Luton Town. Last time the two sides in the met in the league, Sunderland was on the last day of the Championship season where Sunderland came out 5-0 winners to seal the title while Luton were going in the opposite direction- down to League One.

It has been over a decade since the side’s met and it’s fair to say a lot has changed since then. Jack Ross is Sunderland’s 11th manager in that period. It shows how much has changed that Luton were the bookie's favourites pre-match.

Jack Ross has made a few changes to the side with Jack Baldwin and Max Power making their debuts. Matthews returned to right back while Bryan Oviedo after his fine game last time out starts at left back.

Lee Cattermole returned to the bench while Luke O’Nien and Alim Ozturk dropped to the bench.

Sunderland lined up as follows: McLaughlin; Matthews, Baldwin, Loovens, Oviedo; Mumba, Power; Maguire, Honeyman, Gooch;

13 minutes in and Sunderland’s new captain George Honeyman was adamant his side should have had a penalty- after he was being held in the box. There just didn’t seem to be enough contact to bring Honeyman down to award a spot kick.

After 20 minutes Adam Matthews foolishly brought down Danny Hylton in a dangerous area just outside the box, on the left-hand side. This was just about the most eventful moment of the first 20 minutes which just about summed up how dull the opening stages were.

Our first effort on goal came on 27 minutes; after a short corner, Honeyman played it to Gooch who just managed to gain a yard on his man. However, his effort was just wide of the post. The American didn’t really get a true contact on the strike which would have been enough to beat Marek Stech in the Luton Goal.

Moments before the halftime break, out of nowhere Sunderland struck! After a great run inside from Lynden Gooch, he slipped a fine ball through to Josh Maja who stayed composed and slotted it into the far corner, past Stech to make it 1-0. It was the first shot on target in the game and exactly what Jack Ross will have wanted just before the break.

What would have been an incredibly uneventful and forgettable half was made so much more positive. Sunderland as the half went on managed to adapt to Luton’s physical style of play.

While Maja may not be the most powerful or physical forward he has displayed his ability to finish. His two goals this campaign haven’t been easy tap-ins, they have been calm smart and well-executed finishes.

The second half started with a much higher tempo. Luton understandably were looking to get an equalizer but lacked that bit of quality to get an effort on goal.

Luton were creating all the pressure early in the half and forced Jon Mclaughlin into action direct from a corner, the Scot was under pressure and needed to tip it over the bar.

Ten minutes into the second half saw Sunderland’s first change as 16-year-old Bali Mumba was switched out for Lee Cattermole. Jack Ross clearly wanted to see a bit more physicality in the centre of the park.

16 minutes into the second half and Jack Baldwin was perhaps fortunate to get away with just a yellow card. His flying tackle completely wiped out Pelly Ruddock who was knocked for six.

Last week’s hero Gooch was asserting himself as Sunderland’s most creative player. 60 minutes into the game he burst forward, after a few stepovers he beat his man and fired a powerful shot towards goal. However, it was just a bit too central, to make it 2-0 and only resulted in a corner.

After 68 minutes Luton town equalized, after Sunderland failed to deal with a short corner. Defender Matthew Pearson found himself at the far post with the ball six yards out, he had to stretch to make contact but just managed to hit well enough into the right corner just past Matthews on the line.

Sunderland came so close to levelling through Chris Maguire. After some neat work from Maja down the left, he found Bryan Oviedo whose cross fell to Maguire who spun and shot but, his effort came back off the bar. Sunderland were inches away from getting back into the lead and almost created the perfect response.

With 15 minutes to play, the game was becoming more and more open. Hylton had a great chance to flip the game on its head. The Luton forward was free six yards out and completely fluffed his header which went comfortably wide.

With five minutes of time left Sunderland were starting to lack that final bit of quality to gain a winner and, the fact that Ross could only send on midfielder, Luke O’Nien for Josh Maja told the story. What he needed was a McGeady or Wyke to get a winner.

Final Score: 1-1

ALS Man of the Match: Chris Maguire

Alex Miller