Sunderland came back from being 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Walsall this afternoon, all with just ten men after Max Power picked up yet ANOTHER red card in the first half - his third of the season.
Goals later in the game from Aiden McGeady and Lynden Gooch got the lads a point, keeping them well in the race at the top end of League One following a frustrating start to the game.
Walsall: Liam Roberts, Luke Leahy, George Dobson (c), Jon Guthrie, Nicky Devlin, Andy Cook, Zeli Ismail, Josh Ginnelly, Liam Kinsella, Josh Gordon, Russell Martin
Subs: Chris Dunn, Kieron Morris, Morgan Ferrier, Jack Fitzwater, Kane Wilson, Isaiah Osbourne, Connor Ronan
Sunderland: Jon McLaughlin, Adam Matthews, Jack Baldwin, Tom Flanagan, Reece James, Max Power, George Honeyman (c), Lynden Gooch, Bryan Oviedo, Aiden McGeady, Josh Maja
Subs: Anthony Patterson, Bali Mumba, Glenn Loovens, Luke O’Nien, Chris Maguire, Alim Ozturk, Jerome Sinclair
Tom Flanagan might’ve been an unlikely first name on the scoresheet when he chose to remain in the box following a corner in order to meet a cross from Max Power. The centre-back ultimately wasn’t rewarded for his opportunism, however, as he glanced his header just wide of the mark.
Bryan Oviedo then had himself an early chance of his own when he feinted his way across the outskirts of the box before eventually letting loose a shot which landed in the palms of Saddlers’ keeper Liam Roberts.
Then came Power, marauding onto a throw-in’s downward trajectory and thundering a volley towards goal - an effort which Roberts had a much harder time dealing with, as he had to be at full stretch to parry the effort skyward.
Needless to say, it was all Sunderland in the opening exchanges; the Lads had taken eight corners in fifteen minutes and an opener looked imminent.
But all that changed thanks to a challenge from Power. A great save from Jon McLaughlin was rapidly eclipsed by Power’s third red card of the season which was brandished when the midfielder charged two-footed into a fifty-fifty challenge.
While ten man Sunderland certainly didn’t crumble following the loss of one of this afternoon’s more industrious midfielders, it certainly dulled the edges of the Black Cats’ claws.
Walsall, on the other hand, were now able to use their newfound advantage to impose themselves onto the game more. The peak of their first half resurgence came when Flanagan did poorly to let George Dobson in behind him with mere yards separating the Saddlers’ captain and the back of the net.
Inexplicably, however, Dobson managed to finesse his effort tamely off the post, allowing Flanagan to get himself out of jail by hoofing the... erm... ‘rebound’ away.
With the home side looking more and more dangerous with every elapsing minute, Jack Ross was probably grateful to hear the referee’s whistle.
HT: Walsall 0-0 Sunderland
It didn’t take Walsall any longer than thirty-seconds to take the lead following the restart. Josh Gordon gave the Saddlers the advantage when the home side orchestrated an annoyingly routine looking offensive which ended with Gordon putting the ball well beyond McLaughlin.
Six minutes later, the deficit was doubled. Josh Ginnelly sauntered into the box before firing into the top right corner, leading the 3,279 travelling Mackems to the general consensus that the game was effectively over.
But, with the beauty of hindsight, that couldn’t be further from the truth. After a lengthy second half spell of looking well and truly second best, Sunderland found their way back into the fray thanks to Aiden McGeady.
Our infamously sporadic pearler vendor delivered the goods again when he took a stab at an effort threaded in by Lynden Gooch from substitute Luke O’Nien and got enough on it to find the back of the net - cutting the goal chasm in half.
Now the momentum - and the result - was Sunderland’s to gain and Walsall’s to lose; naturally the Lads had to battle hard being a man down, but battle on they did, eventually being rewarded...
Not through Adam Matthews, who was agnosingly unlucky to have his header cleared off the line, but through Gooch, who bore fangs at our second bite at the cherry and got us that desperately coveted equaliser on the eighty-ninth minute!
The game ended with both sides netting two-goals apiece, and Sunderland extending their unbeaten run when it looked to have surely ended.
FT: Walsall 2-2 Sunderland (Gordon 46’, Ginnelly 52’, McGeady 62’, Gooch 89’)
Jon McLaughlin, 7/10: Made a couple of crucial saves; there was little he could’ve done about Walsall’s two goals.
Adam Matthews, 6/10: Alright. Unlucky not to score.
Jack Baldwin, 7/10: More solid than he has been in recent weeks.
Tom Flanagan, 6/10: Also reasonably solid but almost dropped a clanger at the back end of the first half.
Reece James, 5/10: Not a brilliant game from him; his distribution was often found wanting.
Max Power, 2/10: *sigh*
George Honeyman, 7/10: Was lively, industrious and a good passer of the ball in a midfield that lost what should’ve been one of it’s key components.
Lynden Gooch, 8/10: Excellent. Assisted McGeady for the opener and got the goal which continues our formidable unbeaten streak. An invaluable presence today.
Bryan Oviedo, 6/10: Decent. Had a good effort early on and his distribution always looked promising.
Aiden McGeady, 8/10: One of those games where all of his skilful moves just seem to come off. He was a joy to watch and, of course, he got us back into the game.
Josh Maja, 4/10: Largely ineffective.
(SUB) Luke O’Nien: 7/10: Had a hand in both the goals. A great impact sub.
(SUB) Chris Maguire: 7/10: Looked lively and used his trademark sh*thousing to stop Walsall timewasting.
Man of the Match: Aiden McGeady.
Attendance: 7,868 (3,279 Sunderland fans)