After going a goal down as well as a man down in the first half, Sunderland battled back to secure a point against a tenacious Oxford side at the Stadium of Light.
Ricky Holmes’ free kick was cancelled out by a second-half Charlie Wyke goal, who managed to notch one on his debut game in a Sunderland shirt.
Max Power let his teammates down receiving a straight red card midway through the first-half for an out-of-control lunge. The Black Cats battled back and with the help of shrewd half-time changes from Jack Ross to earned a point to stay in the play-off places in League One.
Sunderland’s dreadful start to the game was duly punished in the 16th minute when Holmes placed a superb free-kick over the Black Cats wall into the far corner. Holmes’s precise free-kick came from a sloppy spell of play from the home side. Lee Cattermole was forced to trip Shandon Baptiste before he reached the penalty area after Sunderland conceded possession cheaply in midfield.
The lads’ passing and all-round lethargy lead to the free-kick, and an arrogant, lazy start was rightfully punished by United.
Jon McLaughlin kept the score at one-nil saving excellently from close range. Marcus Browne was inside the 6 six-yard box when he latched onto a loose ball from a corner after Sunderland failed to clear, but McLaughlin launched himself onto the ball to keep Sunderland in the game, holding onto the strike at point blank range.
Just minutes later Sunderland were reduced to ten men. Power was rightfully binned for his horrific lunge on Browne.
Sunderland finally had an effort of note on 25 minutes when Alim Ozturk’s looping header was comfortably a foot over the U’s bar.
The Wearsiders made it to half-time just one goal down and one man down, but with no control in a chaotic, wild game where they were comfortably out-played by a bottom-half League One side.
Sunderland leveled with their first attack of the second half, however. Lynden Gooch’s powerful drive across goal took the faintest of touches off our debutant striker, Wyke, for his first goal in red and white. Sunderland were back in it.
The Lads nearly conceded instantly after their equaliser, though, as Oxford’s skipper, Curtis Nelson, headed over from 8 yards after he was left unmarked at a corner - McLaughlin well-beaten by the powerful header.
The momentum was now fully with home side and Josh Maja squandered a great chance to put The Lads ahead. Oviedo cut back to the in-form marksman, who shot over trying to place into the top corner.
Oxford dominated the final 20 minutes as Sunderland legs began to tire, but showing greater resilience and tenacity, the lads held on for a valuable point.
Jon McLaughlin, 5/10: Made one phenomenal save in the first half, but was partially at fault for the goal and looked somewhat shaky from crosses.
Donald Love, 4/10: Just not good enough for this football club.
Alim Ozturk, 5/10: Yet to convince in red and white.
Jack Baldwin, 7/10: Another who took time to get up to speed, but when he did, he was excellent producing some momentum shifting tackles.
Brian Oviedo, 6/10: Utterly pathetic in the first half, helped take the game to Oxford after half-time.
Lee Cattermole, 6/10: Ineffective after picking up a cheap booking early on, but later in the second half showed some worth.
Max Power, 2/10: Started the game poorly before being rightfully dismissed for a moronic tackle.
George Honeyman, 7/10: One of the only Sunderland players to turn up today throughout.
Lynden Gooch, 7/10: His moment of quality saved Sunderland.
Chris Maguire, 4/10: Poor. Lucky not to be sent off, contributed nothing going forward.
Josh Maja, 5/10: Had a quiet game, did contribute to Sunderland’s equaliser.
(SUB) Charlie Wyke, 6/10: Was barely in the game outside of his debut goal.
(SUB) Dylan McGeouch 7/10: Defended tenaciously as those around him tired late on.
(SUB) Reece James 5/10: Was a late substitution for the god-awful, Love.
Man of the Match: Jack Baldwin.