Sunderland’s long run of scoring in every game this season came to an end as the spoils were shared in a crucial game at the top of League One.
Thiam had a great chance in the first half for the hosts who dominated for large parts in the first period. Sunderland made their way back into the game, however, failed to create many clear-cut chances in a game which would have been a huge win. It’s not a bad point against a team who haven’t lost at home although it was a big oppourntiy missed.
Going into the game it felt like the biggest game of the season and was Jack Ross must have been thinking it’s a promotion decider.
Unfortunately, injuries and suspension against Wycombe had taken their toll. Tom Flanagan, Duncan Watmore, Reece James and George Honeyman were all out of the squad.
Max Power, Adam Matthews, Jack Baldwin and Lynden Gooch came into the squad all looking to impress Ross and secure a regular place in the 11.
The hosts are second in the table and hadn’t lost in the league since early December where they lost 1-0 away to Wycombe. They are without star striker Kieffer Moore and midfielder Cameron McGeehan who are both out with injury.
The Sunderland defence will have had to look out for dangermen Cauley Woodrow and Mamadou Thiam who have 18 goals between them.
The opening stages of the game were played with a quick pace, and it was what you’d expect from two of the league’s best teams. It looked as if Woodrow was set to have a pop at goal from the edge of the box, thankfully, Jack Baldwin came flying in and made a great tackle to deny him.
Barnsley should have scored as Luke O’Nien’s header back to Jon McLaughlin wasn’t strong enough, it fell to Thiam who had a shot on goal, although it was too central and was brilliantly saved by the Scot in goal.
Sunderland’s first attempt came through Power, Gooch just managed to find the midfielder on the edge of the box, and he curled an effort brilliantly towards the far corner, but it was well saved by Adam Davies who got fingertips to it.
The opening half an hour was a close affair, and either side looked as if they could win the game, Barnsley had perhaps edged it with a bit more possession in the final third.
With not long left to go in the half Barnsley had the best chance so far, Thiam was proving to be a nightmare for the lads at the back, and he twisted and turned his way into the box, and his shot crashed against the bar.
Barnsley looked so threatening whenever they got forward, and Dimitri Cavare’s effort was well saved by McLaughlin who was certainly the busier of the keepers.
The half time whistle had come at a good time for the lads - the Tykes were starting to step up a gear and needed the break to stop the host's momentum.
Without testing Davies in the Barnsley goal, it was a good start to the second half, with the lads pressing well and putting the Tykes under a lot more pressure.
Sunderland had their best chance of the game and it was Power who raced through following a brilliant through ball by Baldwin but couldn’t manage to get his shot on target as it flashed wide. It was a chance which you want Will Grigg to be at the end of, someone with a bit more composure.
The lads looked so much of a threat in the second period - Gooch got to the by-line and crossed to Lee Cattermole who couldn’t quite get a shot on target. With the wind behind them, the lads were playing with more pace, and the 4,500 Mackem faithful were right behind them.
Barnsley had the ball in the back of the net as Alex Mowatt found Woodrow at the back post to head home, the whole of Sunderland breathed a sigh of relief as the celebrations were cut short thanks to the linesman’s flag.
The lads were seeing a lot of the ball especially down the left-hand side, but it was the final ball which was letting the team down.
Sunderland almost shot themselves in the foot as O’Nien’s back pass had McLaughlin scrambling to clear it before it crossed the line.
What Sunderland needed was some good service to Grigg, and sadly it never came, the likes of Gooch and McGeady’s final ball was poor throughout.
Full Time: Barnsley 0-0 Sunderland
ALS Man of the Match: Lee Cattermole