Sunderland 1-1 Fleetwood Town
Jon McLaughlin’s second half penalty save secured a point for Sunderland who once again had to battle back after conceding early in League One action.
Josh Maja’s volley cancelled out an early Paddy Madden header to see the points shared at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland couldn’t put away Fleetwood despite a late onslaught on the visitors goal. Alex Cairns pulled off a stunning point blank save from Tom Flanagan five minutes from time to earn the visitors a point.
The draw keeps Sunderland in the playoff places four points behind league leaders Peterborough United.
Sunderland almost struck instantly when Lynden Gooch latched onto a half-cleared Denver Hume cross. The American’s close range strike raced beyond the far corner, spurning a golden opportunity inside the opening five minutes.
Fleetwood then wasted a glorious opportunity themselves when Ched Evans could only glance wide inside the six yard box. McLaughlin was committed after failing to stop the cross but Evans could only head across goal, a real let off.
The Cod Army became the latest team to punish Sunderland from set-pieces with Madden nodding the away side ahead. The Irishman glanced his header beyond Jon McLauglin from ten yards out.
A theme of the first half was Town testing Sunderland in the air getting several crosses into the Mackem’s area. They nearly doubled their lead from one of many testing deliveries. Once again Evans fluffed his lines from close-range, this time missing the ball completely on the volley, inside Sunderland’s six-yard-box. He had been teed-up by the goal-scorer Madden, as Sunderland’s defensive struggles continued.
Finally the Black Cats had a decent spell of possession towards the end of the first-half. First Josh Maja’s low strike across goal was palmed away, before moments later Lee Cattermole headed over, from an Adam Matthews cut-back.
Sunderland leveled five minutes before half-time. Maja bagged his fifth goal of the season hooking George Honeyman’s floated cross beyond a sprawling Cairns in the Fleetwood goal.
Sunderland survived a penalty shout just before half-time. Evans used a smart Cruyff-turn to deceive Hume and Jack Baldwin, the young fullback looked to have clipped the Welshman, whose penalty appeal went unnoticed.
Sunderland made a horrendous start to the second-half conceding a needless penalty. Matthews took out a Fleetwood forward from behind with an extremely late challenge. McLaughlin saved Sunderland, he guessed right diving down to his left to parry away Madden’s spot kick.
The Black Cats were caught sleeping from a Fleetwood free-kick 50 yards from goal. It took just one simple ball to get Evans through on goal, he lifted over McLaughlin just wide of the near-post.
Baldwin should have put Sunderland ahead early into the second-half. The centre-half somehow volleyed over six-yards out under no pressure. He was the recipient of Honeyman’s excellent whipped cross in behind Fleetwood’s defence.
Substitute Tom Flanagan was denied near the end by a remarkable point-blank save from Cairns. At full-stretch the Fleetwood stopper denied Flanagan whose downward header came from just three yards out.
With time elapsing Jerome Sinclair could have sealed the win but he failed to tap in from a yard out, stepping over the ball, after a Cairns save from a corner.
Jon McLaughlin, 6/10: His penalty saving heroics made up for an otherwise unimpressive performance.
Adam Matthews, 4/10: Well off the pace throughout.
Jack Baldwin, 6/10: His worst game in red and white, Jackenbauer struggled badly in the first half.
Glenn Loovens, 6/10: Made some crucial interceptions in the first-half to keep us in the game.
Denver Hume, 7/10: Impressive first league start, his smart passing and link-up with Honeyman lead directly to Maja’s goal.
Lee Cattermole, 6/10: His ridiculous early shot set the tone for another miserable start for the lads.
Dylan McGeouch, 5/10: Yet to convince as the main man in Sunderland’s midfield.
George Honeyman, 7/10: Sunderland’s most effective attacker, produced a great assist and continuously made smart runs in behind the Fleetwood defence.
Chris Maguire, 4/10: Anonymous for large spells of the game, showed no real quality when he was on the ball.
Lynden Gooch, 6/10: Showed flashes of his quality even on an off day. Had a good second half.
Josh Maja, 6/10: Quiet outside of his first-half equaliser.
(SUB) Jerome Sinclair, 6/10: Unable to provide the cutting edge he was brought on to supply.
(SUB) Charlie Wyke, 6/10: Couldn’t match last week’s game-changing impact.
(SUB) Tom Flanagan, 6/10: Could and perhaps should have been the hero, when he failed to score from close-range.
Man of the Match: Denver Hume.