Sunderland drew 1-1 this afternoon away at Hull City, disappointingly losing their lead in the second half having taken the initiative through a James Vaughan header inside the opening quarter of the game.
Vaughan’s first goal in Sunderland colours was cancelled out by former Mackem David Meyler, whose shot was deflected past Robbin Ruiter late in the game, securing a deserved point for the home side.
Deep down Simon Grayson will be disappointed with the end result as his side controlled the first forty-five minutes of the game and should have built upon their promising start, but unfortunately their capitulation was always coming and they’ll likely feel lucky having escaped undefeated.
Here’s how it went, and how the lads rated.
Sunderland XI: Robin Ruiter, Adam Matthews, Marc Wilson, Lamine Kone, Bryan Oviedo, Didier Ndong, Lee Cattermole, George Honeyman, Jonny Williams, Callum McManaman, James Vaughan.
Subs: Jason Steele, Billy Jones, Jack Rodwell, Ty Browning, Donald Love, Darron Gibson, Lynden Gooch.
Hull City XI: Allan McGregor, Michael Hector, Michael Dawson, Fikayo Tomori, Ola Aina, Seb Larsson, Markus Henriksen, Stephen Kingsley, Jarrod Bowen, Nouha Dicko, Kamil Grosicki.
Subs: Jackson Irvine, David Meyler, Jon Toral, David Marshall, Adama Diomande, Max Clark, Fraizer Campbell.
The opening ten minutes or so of the game were evenly contested, with neither side really threatening to take the initiative.
Backed by a rowdy away support, Sunderland worked hard to keep their shape and with able attackers flanking either side of Nouha Dicko, first and foremost Grayson's men had to ensure they stayed defensively solid.
In recent times Sunderland have struggled to put chances away, but on seventeen minutes James Vaughan ended his goalless hoodoo to give the Mackems the lead. An absolutely tremendous ball in to the box by Callum McManaman was put on a plate for the former Everton forward, and he effortlessly dispatched the header home to put the away side ahead.
Taking the lead put Sunderland in control and allowed Grayson's side to play in the way they wanted to - sitting off Hull, allowing them possession in non-dangerous areas of the pitch. Pressing from the front restricted Hull's ability to hurt Sunderland, and on 30 minutes this style of play lead to James Vaughan getting his second chance of the game.
Robbing Michael Hector of possession, Vaughan strode through on goal but his effort was saved by the legs of Scotland international McGregor - a chance that he probably should have put away.
For the rest of the half Sunderland looked comfortable and didn't look like a team short on confidence that had lost each of its last four league games.
Hull's reaction to their disappointing opening forty-five minutes was to make two changes at the break, with ex-Sunderland man David Meyler joining former Arsenal midfielder Jon Toral on the pitch for the second half. Our opponents switched to a back four in the hope it would help to steer the control away from Sunderland, who remained unchanged when they re-entered the field of play.
Hull were better as the half began and were clearly reacting having received a half-time roasting from Leonid Slutsky. The Russian was on edge in his technical area throughout and it was clear that the pressure of being behind was getting to him, nervously willing his team on as they attempted to carve open a chance against Sunderland's resilient defence.
And their first big opportunity of the half fell to Poland international Kamil Grosicki, who saw his on-target header well-saved by Robbin Ruiter.
Hull continued to try and force their way back in to the game but Sunderland rode through the opening fifteen minutes of the half unscathed, with City enjoying a decent spell of play.
Despite the home side enjoying a period on top it was Sunderland who had the next big chance of the game, with a superb save from Alan McGregor in the 63rd minute from a Callum McManaman strike keeping the score at 1-0. Fantastic work from Jonny Williams played in the former Wigan winger, who jinked around the eighteen yard box before unleashing a vicious shot which was well saved by the Hull City goalkeeper.
As the final throes of the game approached, Jack Rodwell was brought on in place of Williams in order to shore up Sunderland's midfield. Rodwell sat a little deeper than the Welshman, alongside Cattermole and Ndong - and within a matter of seconds he was given a yellow card by referee Darren England.
Hull kept up their pressure as the game went on and were eventually rewarded with a goal late in the game. David Meyler was played in and his shot was deflected past Robbin Ruiter off Lamine Kone and in to the net - 1-1, with the initiative firmly in their hands.
In truth, Sunderland hung on for much of the second period and a draw was probably a fair result on reflection, but losing their lead having enjoyed such a decent start will rankle with Simion Grayson and the players who have now not won any of their last six league games.
Full Time: Hull 1-1 Sunderland
Robbin Ruiter - 8/10: Much better today. Denied Grosicki an almost certain goal in the second half and couldn’t have done much about Hull’s goal. Probably deserved a clean sheet.
Bryan Oviedo - 7/10: Very solid again. With a proper left winger ahead of him he should flourish, so the sooner McGeady returns the better. He’ll be happy with his own performance.
Marc Wilson - 7/10: Looked sound enough. Probably the most sensible partner for Lamine Kone going forward.
Lamine Kone - 7/10: Was very unlucky to have diverted Meyler’s strike into the goal.
Adam Matthews - 7/10: Another decent showing from the Welshman. Had a tough afternoon up against the Hull wide-men but appeared to cope admirably. Should hold his place in the team.
Didier Ndong - 6/10: Typical Ndong performance - won the ball back well but his forward passing and overall contribution offensively leaves little to be desired.
Lee Cattermole - 5/10: Anonymous. Beginning to wonder whether Grayson should consider trying someone else in his place.
Jonny Williams - 7/10: His movement is unlike any other midfielder we have and I love the way he links up the play. Genuinely excited to see him play alongside Aiden McGeady and Duncan Watmore.
George Honeyman - 5/10: Did very little of note. Another whose place should probably be under threat.
Callum McManaman - 7/10: His ball in for Vaughan’s header in the first half was superb - and that’s what he brings us, a wicked delivery that can get you goals. Once he is fully fit we’ll see an even better player, hopefully.
James Vaughan - 7/10: Fair play - he was rewarded for his hard work with a goal, though in truth McManaman put it on a plate for him. He’ll be happy to finally be off the mark, especially with such tremendous pressure on him to get his first in Sunderland colours.
Jack Rodwell (SUB) - 3/10: Was booked within 20 seconds of arriving on the pitch and done absolutely nothing bar look on as we conceded the equaliser, before the game eventually fizzled out. He is dross.
Billy Jones (SUB) - 4/10: No idea why he was even on the pitch. Negative substitution.
Lynden Gooch (SUB) 5/10: Did nothing of note.