Sunderland tossed away perhaps their last chance to survive this evening at the Stadium of Light, throwing away a one goal lead with just a minute of normal time remaining to draw with Norwich in what was a thoroughly entertaining affair.
George Honeyman’s strike was cancelled out by Ivo Pinto - yet another poor goal from a set piece.
The failure to win means Sunderland probably need to win all of their remaining games to stand even half a chance of staying up, and their fate now looks all but sealed.
Sunderland: Lee Camp, Adam Matthews, John O’Shea, Lamine Kone, Donald Love, Lee Cattermole, Ovie Ejaria, George Honeyman, Aiden McGeady, Lynden Gooch, Ashley Fletcher
Subs: Jason Steele, Bryan Oviedo, Jake Clarke-Salter, Kazenga LuaLua, Ethan Robson, Callum McManaman, Joel Asoro
Norwich: Angus Gunn, Ivo Pinto, Christoph Zimmermann, Grant Hanley, James Husband, Harrison Reed, Mario Vrancic, Josh Murphy, James Maddison, Wes Hoolahan, Nelson Oliveira
Subs: Michael McGovern, Moritz Leitner, Timm Klose, Sean Raggett, Jamal Lewis, Alexander Tettey, Dennis Srbeny
Chris Coleman was required to make two changed ahead of tonight’s encounter, swapping out the injured Paddy McNair and Marc Wilson for Ovie Ejaria and Adam Matthews respectively.
Norwich City’s current form reflects their mid-table mediocrity - the Canaries have picked up two wins, two losses and a draw over their previous five games. Tonight’s opposition have realistically nothing to play for, let’s hope that works to our advantage...
Sunderland started well, and their first chance came just ten seconds in after Ashley Fletcher’s shot was well saved by Angus Gunn, who turned it round for a corner.
After that point both teams tried to attack with purpose but were restricted to shots from range which never really caused any trouble.
Lynden Gooch’s confidence shone once again as he consistently took on his man and beat him - a real thorn in the side of the Norwich full backs.
Sunderland’s high press against Norwich’s back line was effective, and on numerous occasions they nearly forced an error which might have led to a goalscoring opportunity.
Norwich’s first clear-cut chance came from a dubious free kick given away by Donald Love on the edge of the box - with the ball whipped across the area, a slight bobble prevented the ball from going goalward and Lee Camp pounced on it.
This caused Norwich to press forward in attack, and they had two chances cleared off the line, sparing Sunderland’s blushes.
Then it was Sunderland’s turn to miss a guilt-edged opportunity - after breaking forward with pace, Aiden McGeady put a ball on a plate to Lynden Gooch, but his first time shot wasn’t on target and it went wide when he really should have scored.
It was an incredibly open game, and quite how neither team managed a goal in the opening half an hour was remarkable.
Then, a breakthrough - with Ashley Fletcher through on goal he was brought down, and a clear penalty was awarded.
Unfortunately though it came to nothing - Aiden McGeady stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way, but his effort hit the post and the scores remained the same. It was Sunderland’s first missed penalty since Sebastian Larsson against Wolves in 2011 - a fantastic, remarkable record that must surely be one of the longest in English footballing history.
Moments later Sunderland had yet another chance on a plate and missed - having been put through one-on-one with Angus Gunn by Lynden Gooch, Ovie Ejaria managed to unexplicably fluff his lines and waste the opportunity.
The non-stop nature of the game continued, and Lynden Gooch - who had James Husband’s life throughout the opening 45 minutes - drew the defender into yet another foul which he was booked for.
Quite how Sunderland went in at the break having not scored was a mystery, and whilst Norwich had their own chances they will have felt incredibly lucky not to have been 3 or 4 goals down.
HT: Sunderland 0-0 Norwich
A first half full of chances for both sides but #safc will be wondering how they’re not leading, after a final five minutes which saw them miss a penalty and go through one on one— Roker Report (@RokerReport) April 10, 2018
When the players returned to the field for the second period they were met by thick fog - and the conditions played their part in how the half started, with Sunderland struggling to meet crosses when the ball went wide down at the North end of the stadium.
Bryan Oviedo came on at the break and made an immediate impact, instantly causing Norwich problems after linking up well with Aiden McGeady down the left.
McGeady almost turned into the villain though after needlessly costing Sunderland possession thirty yards out from goal - luckily for him, Nelson Oliviera’s strike was poor and went wide of the post.
And just minutes later they got lucky again, as with the goal open in front of him James Maddison somehow managed to hit the post.
Eventually Sunderland found a breakthrough, and again it was through a slice of good fortune.
With the space opening up in front of him Aiden McGeady blasted a shot at goal, but it thumped the post and fell into the path of George Honeyman, who got his seventh goal of the season with a well placed finish.
With twenty minutes left to play Chris Coleman made his second change of the game, bringing on Jake Clarke-Salter for John O’Shea for his first appearance since being sent off against Preston last month.
Norwich had a decent spell of pressure where they probably could have scored but Sunderland rode through it courtesy of some solid defending from Donald Love and Lamine Kone in particular.
But then, typically, they folded.
Another set piece, another easy goal - right back Ivo Pinto stabbed home a relatively simple chance to put the scores level in the last minute of normal time, meaning Sunderland threw away a great chance of closing the gap as all the struggling teams above them lost.
It may well be game over, and with four games remaining it appears that an almost impossible task faces Chris Coleman and his side if they’re going to avoid the drop.
FT: Sunderland 1-1 Norwich
Lee Camp, 6/10: Didn’t have a great deal to do but dealt with what he did have to do fairly well.
Adam Matthews, 5/10: Wasteful in possession before coming off at half time.
John O’Shea, 7/10: Much better suited in a back four. Dealt with Oliviera well.
Lamine Kone, 7/10: Strong and dominant performance from the Ivorian.
Donald Love, 8/10: Absolutely brilliant performance, gets better and better the more he grows in confidence.
Lee Cattermole, 6/10: Slow and ponderous on the ball but kept his head for the most part.
Ovie Ejaria, 3/10: Gets extra marks for effort but he was so bad in possession today and fluffed his lines more than once in front of goal.
George Honeyman, 7/10: He’s learning so much. Leadership shone through, always wanted the ball and took his goal well.
Aiden McGeady, 7/10: Not the best defensively but he was at his most potent when running at the Norwich defence, and whilst he missed the penalty he took the shot on from nothing that led to Honeyman’s goal.
Lynden Gooch, 8/10: Tore Husband to shreds in the first half to the point he was taken off by the Norwich manager at half time! Excellent again.
Ashley Fletcher, 6/10: Put himself about and worked hard. Canny showing from the Boro loanee.
(SUB) Bryan Oviedo, 7/10: Gave Norwich something else to think about when he came on. Did well.
(SUB) Jake Clarke-Salter, 6/10: Bit shaky at times but didn’t do much wrong.
(SUB) Kazenga LuaLua, 5/10: Wasn’t on long enough to do anything.
Roker Report’s Man of the Match: Donald Love.