Sunderland shared the spoils with hosts Coventry this afternoon at the Ricoh Arena, after taking the lead through Lee Cattermole before Jonson Clarke-Harris drew level.
A scrappy and fragmented first half gave way to an action-packed, end-to-end second in which Coventry ‘keeper Lee Burge made a plethora of solid saves and our lad Jon McLaughlin pulled off some simply spectacular ones.
The draw means Sunderland stay in and around the play-off places and are yet to contend with Portsmouth and Peterborough for a place in the top two.
Coventry: Lee Burge, Jordan Willis, Michael Doyle (c), Conor Chaplin, Junior Brown, Dominic Hyam, Dujon Sterling, Jonson Clarke-Harris, Tom Bayliss, Luke Thomas, Jordan Shipley
Subs: Liam O’Brien, Tom Davies, Liam Kelly, Jodi Jones, Abu Ogogo, Amadou Bakayoko, Tony Andreu
Sunderland: Jon McLaughlin, Tom Flanagan, Glenn Loovens, Jack Baldwin, Denver Hume, Lee Cattermole, Dylan McGeouch, Lynden Gooch, George Honeyman (c), Chris Maguire, Josh Maja
Subs: Robbin Ruiter, Alim Ozturk, Max Power, Adam Matthews, Bryan Oviedo, Aiden McGeady, Jerome Sinclair
Jack Ross endured an early setback with just three minutes played as Glenn Loovens felt his hamstring go following an upfield clearance. The big Dutchman’s game came to a very premature end as he limped gingerly off the pitch to be replaced by Adam Matthews.
Sunderland had their first sight on goal when Lynden Gooch’s through ball found Chris Maguire, only for the former Coventry man to be brought down for a free-kick as he marauded toward goal.
The subsequent set-piece from Maguire ricocheted violently off the left post and bounded out into the path of an unsuspecting George Honeyman, whose reflexes could only knock the ball high and wide of the mark.
The home side then endured two injuries of their own as two of the Sky Blues’ players clashed heads while defending a corner and had to come off.
Coventry had their first chance when Jonson Clarke-Harris barged past Honeyman and took aim from outside the box, but Jon McLaughlin gathered the effort comfortably.
Sunderland ran the show for the first half hour. Lynden Gooch might’ve set up Maguire for the opener when the former raced down the wing and through the box before squaring the ball to the letter, but a would-be goalbound shot deflected off a blue shirt and bounced back up the field.
The Lads endured their second injury of the first half as Denver Hume’s twisted ankle brought an end to his game - Bryan Oviedo was brought on to replace him as Sunderland demonstrated the rare novelty of having two left-backs simultaneously contracted to the club.
A scrappy and fragmented first half was concluded with a whopping eight minutes of added time, but Sunderland couldn’t use this generous helping of extra football to break the stalemate - the closest the Lads came was through a header from Tom Flanagan which was dealt with easily by Coventry ‘keeper Lee Burge.
HT: Coventry 0-0 Sunderland
Sunderland wasted no time looking for the opener once the second half got underway. Maguire sent Bryan Oviedo down the wing who crossed the ball into what was initially intended to be the path of Josh Maja, but the striker stumbled and instead the ball found the advancing and unmarked Lee Cattermole, who finessed his effort into the back of the net.
Coventry might’ve found their way stright back into the game when the very same Oviedo who set up the goal switched off and allowed Luke Thomas to thump a bullet header toward goal from only a half dozen yards out - luckily the effort was straight into the palms of McLaughlin.
The home side decided to do a Sunderland by only ramping up the pressure once they were behind. Clarke-Harris rifled another dangerous effort from outside the box but McLaughlin produced a good save to parry it away, and was called into action only moments later to halt Luke Thomas in a one-on-one.
Eventually Coventry did manage to find something. Dujon Sterling found Clarke-Harris who admittedly did well to find the far corner with his first time effort.
Oviedo was very unlucky not to reclaim the lead for his side. Gooch burst down the right flank before floating a cross into the box which was met on the Costa Rican’s incisive volley, but Burge just managed to get down in time to prevent a second concession for his side.
But Gooch then pulled up with what looked like a hamstring injury, which was particularly worrying given the fact that Jack Ross had already made all three of his substitutions.
As the game entered it’s final quarter, the pendulum of momentum swung back in Sunderland’s favour. Max Power swung a dangerous ball into the mixer but the now gingerly moving Gooch couldn’t quite get the tap-in his teammate provided him. Honeyman then had a great chance inside the box as the ball broke for him, but Burge made an annoyingly good save to tip it behind.
The drama was unrelenting. Tom Flanagan air-kicked his clearance and let his marker run through, clear on goal, as the home crowd roared in anticipation of their late winner - but McLaughlin did well in the one-on-one to take the pace off the shot, and then Jack Baldwin was quickest to sweep away the ball which, at this point, was literal inches from crossing the line.
Ultimately, despite the flurry of chances which arose as the game neared its conclusion, neither side could find the final ball to separate the two sides, and so it ended one apiece.
FT: Coventry 1-1 Sunderland (Cattermole 49’, Clarke-Harris 66’)
Jon McLaughlin, 9/10: Great. Really great. He made some absolutely superb saves to keep us in the game.
Tom Flanagan, 6/10: Was alright but could’ve cost us the match in the dying moments.
Glenn Loovens, N/A: Went off injured after three minutes.
Jack Baldwin, 8/10: His solid and assured self as always - gets a bonus point for his last ditch clearance to conserve the pint.
Denver Hume, 6/10: Looked lively, unlucky to also leave the pitch early.
Lee Cattermole, 8/10: Industrious, incisive in the pass and took his goal well.
Dylan McGeouch, 6/10: Neat and tidy but quite quiet.
Lynden Gooch, 7/10: Caused Coventry all kinds of problems down his flank and showed great character to solider on after picking up that injury.
George Honeyman, 6/10: Decent. Very unlucky to not nab a late winner.
Chris Maguire, 7/10: Industrious throughout.
Josh Maja, 4/10: Not good. His hold-up play was poor and he missed his best chance when he stumbled out of the way of Oviedo’s cross.
(SUB) Adam Matthews, 6/10: Decent. Didn’t do much wrong.
(SUB) Bryan Oviedo, 7/10: Floated in some dangerous crosses and the full-backs struggled constantly to keep up with him.
(SUB) Max Power, 6/10: Always looked capable of threatening but it didn’t quite come off for him on his return.
Man of the Match: Jon McLaughlin
Attendance: 16,407 (approx 5,000 Sunderland fans)