Sunderland failed once again to hold their nerve having led the game, conceding late on to eventually draw away at Scunthorpe United this afternoon.
Despite taking the lead through a Josh Maja header, the lads were off the pace for much of the game and, in truth, were probably lucky to escape with a point - an utterly disappointing result, particularly when you consider that Portsmouth lost yet we failed to take advantage of that fact.
Sunderland are now three points behind second-place Luton Town and, having won themselves, dark horses Charlton Athletic have drawn level with us having won their own game with Accrington Stanley.
Scunthorpe: Jak Alnwick, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Tony McMahon, Funso Ojo, James Perch, Lee Novak, George Thomas, Cameron Burgess, Levi Sutton, Rory McArdle (c), Kyle Wooton
Subs: Jonathan Flatt, Byron Webster, Matthew Lund, Kevin van Veen, Clayton Lewis, Harrison McGahey, Adam Hammill
Sunderland: Jon McLaughlin, Reece James, Jimmy Dunne, Tom Flanagan, Luke O’Nien, Max Power, Lee Cattermole (c), Lynden Gooch, Aiden McGeady, Josh Maja, Chris Maguire
Subs: Robbin Ruiter, Adam Matthews, Bryan Oviedo, Dylan McGeouch, Duncan Watmore, Charlie Wyke, Jack Baldwin
The Lads forewent a very decent goalscoring opportunity very early on. Now-fully-fledged Sunderland midfielder Max Power would’ve had a great chance to tap in from point-blanc range if Josh Maja’s searching pass from Chris Maguire had found him - but his marker managed to cut it out, allowing keeper Jak Alnwick to comfortably collect.
The home side then had their first chance when deadly string of Scunthrope passes threaded the ball to George Thomas with only Jon McLaughlin between him and an empty net, but the Scottish stopper was quick off his line to ensure he won the one-on-one.
Sunderland looked composed and confident on the ball but, as has often been the case this season, their set-pieces and final balls were consistently found wanting. All the more substantial efforts to score had so far come from Scunthorpe.
For all of McLaughlin’s recent heroics, he was found to be the culprit of a nervy moment when he came to collect a cross only for the ball to drift through his open palms and into the wake of the goalmouth. Mercifully, Reece James was on hand to clear the danger.
Neither side was able to find the opener in the first forty-five - with Sunderland some way off the clinical side which had put three past Scunthorpe by this time in the reverse fixture.
HT: Scunthorpe 0-0 Sunderland
The Black Cats were swiping away with plenty of crosses from the flanks in the opening exchanges of the second half. Evidently, there were ever-so-slight improvements in the delivery, as Jak Alnwick was now denied the luxury of catching the ball and had to punch it out instead.
Thankfully, Sunderland ensured on the fifty-ninth minute that I’d be denied the flurry of further sarcastic comments I was lining up. Reece James did well to run onto an escaping loose ball and scooped it into the box before it could trundle out of play - with Maja ensuring that the full-back’s efforts were rewarded by glancing the ball down and into the back of the net.
Sunderland effectively frustrated their opposition for large portions of the second half, which was reflected by the mounting frustration from the home crowd, but their first goal didn’t do much to inspire a second.
Another goal might have transpired when Charlie Wyke and new lad Jimmy Dunne both used their physicality to exchange passes while shouldering their markers off the ball, all before they paved the way for Duncan Watmore to bound towards goal from the halfway line. However, a heavy touch on the edge of the box meant that he never managed to get his shot away.
The Irons started to test their mettle more as the game wore on. McLaughlin was at full stretch once again to produce a great save from a free-kick, but caused another nervy moment as he fumbled the ball and was forced to kick it behind for a corner.
Unfortunately, there was no stopping the shot which got Scunthorpe their equaliser. On eighty-seven minutes, Adam Hammill picked up the ball on the edge of the box and curled it into the top right corner, to equalise with what was admittedly a very impressive finish.
The sides would share the spoils from their encounter at Glanford Park - once again, Sunderland will rue their inability to attain three points via a second goal.
FT: Scunthorpe 1-1 Sunderland (Maja 59’, Hammill 87’)
Jon McLaughlin, 7/10: Had a couple of shaky moments with luckily proved to be harmless enough and made some good saves regardless. Absolutely nothing that he could do about the equaliser.
Reece James, 7/10: Provided offensive and defensive contributions all afternoon, as well as our only genuinely clinical delivery.
Jimmy Dunne, 7/10: A steady, physical presence throughout. Not a bad debut at all.
Tom Flanagan, 6/10: As solid as his centre-back partner without the capacity to use as much strength.
Luke O’Nien, 7/10: Used his pace and stamina to consistently get back behind his man when Scunthorpe broke and played some decent balls forward. I now firmly believe this is his strongest position.
Max Power, 6/10: Alright, I reckon? He just seems a bit more quiet these days.
Lee Cattermole, 4/10: Couldn’t catch a single runner and consequently let Scunthorpe saunter through midfield whenever they broke. McGeouch didn’t deserve to lose his place to him.
Lynden Gooch, 6/10: Thrived on the space he was allowed to run into.
Aiden McGeady, 6/10: Tricky as per and played a few good passes, but he still opted to shoot on occasions where there was a man directly in front of him.
Josh Maja, 7/10: He scored - which is all we need him to do.
Chris Maguire, 5/10: Didn’t do an awful lot of anything substantial and was rightly hooked for Wyke.
(SUB) Charlie Wyke, 6/10: Dropped back and used his physicality well to regain possession and bring the ball back up the field.
(SUB) Duncan Watmore, 5/10: His touch let him down with the only chance he had.
Man of the Match: Reece James or Josh Maja - but I don’t think anyone was particularly outstanding.