Sunderland had to settle for a point on the opening day of the league season after coming from behind to draw 1-1 with Bristol Rovers at the SOL on Saturday. The lads got off to a disastrous start when Lee Burge conceded a penalty after two minutes which Luke Leahy emphatically converted. It took till eight minutes before full time for Sunderland to equalise with Chris Maguire striking from the edge of the box, but we couldn’t find a winner despite late pressure.
Phil Parkinson stuck with the same side that was knocked out of the League Cup last weekend by Hull despite a few players doing well midweek in the EFL trophy. New signing Danny Graham was named on a strong looking bench as Sunderland looked to start the season well.
Bristol Rover’s won the referee’s toss and opted to switch ends and the lads got the game underway kicking towards the North Stand after taking the knee in support of Black Lives Matter. We immediately went direct with Willis launching the ball forwards towards Grigg but the ball went out for a goal kick to the visitors.
The visitors then won a free kick midway inside our half after a foul by George Dobson. The free kick was chipped dangerously into the Sunderland penalty area which caused a scramble after a shot by Hanlan before Lee Burge conceded a penalty wiping out Mitchell-Lawson. Luke Leahy made no mistake from the spot smashing a left footed shot past Burge into the roof of the net.
Sunderland were then awarded a free kick on the left wing after Denver Hume was fouled by Little who was booked for his challenge. Maguire floated the ball to the back post towards O’Nien but it was put behind for a corner. Maguire played a low cross for O’Nien who couldn’t connect well with his shot, but the ball stayed alive and was played back into the six-yard box towards Grigg who’s header was pushed away by the keeper. The loose ball then fell to O’Brien who saw a shot blocked before the defenders scrambled the ball clear.
Bailey Wright was having a tough time against Bristol Rover’s pacey frontman Hanlan and he picked up a yellow card for fouling him on the halfway line. After twenty-five minutes Chris Maguire did well to intercept a pass and break forward dangerously before trying to play Will Grigg in on goal first time. However, Maguire’s left footed pass was slightly overhit and forced Grigg wide and the chance was gone, and the visitors cleared.
The lads went close again after Grigg and O’Brien combined well from a throw in with the latter then teeing up Denver Hume with a sight of goal. Despite being on his weaker right foot Hume clipped a decent effort towards the top corner which the keeper had to tip over for a corner which came to nothing.
On the half hour Tom Flanagan did well with a run forward from defence before picking out O’Nien on the right-hand side of the box. O’Nien produced a couple of step overs before seeing his left footed shot deflected wide for a corner which again was poor and came to nothing.
There was two minutes injury time signalled by the fourth official and Sunderland did manage another effort of sorts on goal after Hume teed up Dobson from long range, but the midfielder’s low shot was deflected wide for a corner. Maguire put in a better corner on this occasion which forced the keeper to punch clear and set up a counter attack but the ref blew for half time.
Neither side made any changes at the break and Bristol Rovers restarted the game kicking towards the North Stand. Five minutes into the second half Sunderland were fortunate not to be reduced to ten men after Bailey Wright made another cynical foul having already being booked. Wright escaped with a talking too despite the ref initially appearing to go to his pocket and get his cards out.
Chris Maguire then forced the keeper into a good save low to his left after creating space for a shot from twenty-five yards. The winger drove a powerful low effort towards the bottom corner which the keeper had to turn round the post for a corner which Bristol again cleared. A couple of minutes later we forced another corner after O’Nien’s cross was turned behind but Maguire’s cross to the back post went out for a goal kick with Wright unable to get his head on it.
With half an hour remaining Max Power set Will Grigg clear down the left flank with a defence splitting pass but Grigg tried to play the ball infield to Maguire and his pass was cut out. We fashioned another half chance moments later when Maguire crossed to the back post for O’Brien but he could only glance the ball wide.
George Dobson was then guilty of missing a gilt-edge chance when he made a run into the box unmarked and got on the end of a Luke O’Nien cross from the right. Dobson’s header was poor and straight at the keeper where a downward header either side of the keeper would have drawn the lad’s level.
Phil Parkinson had seen enough after twenty-five minutes and made his first change of the afternoon with Danny Graham replacing Will Grigg. At the other end having been content to sit on their one goal lead Bristol Rovers went close to doubling their lead after Ayunga cut inside from the left after beating Willis for pace but his dipping shot was just over the bar.
With ten minutes remaining we made a double change with Lynden Gooch and Charlie Wyke replacing Bailey Wright and Aiden O’Brien. Parkinson changed the shape with Wright’s removal switching to a flat back four.
The change paid off as with eight minutes remaining Sunderland drew level thanks to a spectacular strike from Chris Maguire. In the build-up Lynden Gooch and Denver Hume had combined well on the left with Hume’s cross cleared only as far as Maguire on the edge of the box. Maguire took a touch before flashing a shot into the top right-hand corner giving the keeper no chance. We almost took the lead a couple of minutes later with another fantastic strike this time from new captain Max Power but the keeper tipped it onto the post.
As Bristol Rovers had attempted to kill time with numerous players going down feigning injury in the latter stages of the game it was no surprise the fourth official signalled eight minutes injury time. Just prior to this we had almost scored first Charlie Wyke saw his header parried by the keeper before Max Power a shot from the rebound cleared off the line.
Sunderland huffed and puffed in search of a winner but couldn’t muster one although the ref did send George Dobson off for a rash challenge on Mitchell-Lawson.
Final Score: Sunderland 1 Bristol Rovers 1
ALS Man of the Match: Denver Hume
RATINGS VS BRISTOL ROVERS
BY DANIEL MCCALLUM
Lee Burge (4/10): Made an awful error of judgement to give away the penalty and his confidence never recovered.
Luke O’Nien (5/10): Got up and down the right flank well but didn’t have any quality on the ball.
Jordan Willis (6/10): Helped apply pressure on the right side, particularly in the second half and put a few decent crosses in.
Bailey Wright (4/10): Struggled with the pace and physicality of Hanlan. Extremely lucky not to be sent off.
Tom Flanagan (5/10): Looked really nervous and unsure of himself in the first half but pushed us forward with some good passing in the second.
Denver Hume (7/10): Got into the right positions and saw a lot of the ball, but end product was inconsistent at best.
George Dobson (4/10): Gave away a clumsy foul that led to the penalty, too slow and gave the ball away too often. Squandered a golden opportunity to head the equaliser and was sent off
Max Power (6/10): Forced the goalkeeper into a terrific save but also lacked composure at times.
Chris Maguire (7/10): Ineffective corners aside, CM was our biggest influence creatively and capped it off with a terrific finish on the edge of the box.
Aiden O’Brien (5/10): Didn’t offer a whole lot, and probably taken off slightly too late.
Will Grigg (6/10): Showed glimpses of quality when running in behind but struggled against the physicality of the defence.
Danny Graham (5/10): Got into the right positions even if he didn’t see a lot of the ball.
Charlie Wyke (5/10): Had two good chances to score in his short cameo.
Lynden Gooch (6/10): Showed good movement to create space for Maguire’s equaliser. However still guilty of trying to do too much himself.