Yet again, Sunderland couldn’t hold on for three points and they couldn’t score more than one as they drew 1-1 against Scunthorpe United at Glanford Park.
Arguably, Scunthorpe were the best side in the first half, creating the best chances but were kept at bay by Sunderland keeper, Jon McLaughlin. In the second half, Josh Maja scored his 16th goal of the season before Adam Hammill scored an unstoppable effort four minutes from time.
With a win, Sunderland would have closed the gap at the top of League One to two points after league leaders, Portsmouth, lost 2-1 against Oxford United at the Kassam Stadium. The Black Cats are now level on points with third-placed Charlton Athletic, but Sunderland have a better goal difference.
The gaffer made three changes to the side that drew 1-1 against Luton Town last Saturday at the Stadium of Light. Jimmy Dunne started his first game since joining the club in the January transfer window, to the expense of Jack Baldwin, who dropped to the bench. Lee Cattermole was back from his two-game suspension with Dylan McGeouch coming out of the side.
Also, Josh Maja was back from the illness which left him out of last week’s big clash. Charlie Wyke dropped to the bench, but I thought pre-match that he would at least get some minutes, whatever the score was.
In the opening 45, Scunthorpe did well to control our attacking threats and looked like the better side with the best chances. Lee Novak had the first big chance when his volley from around five yards out was directly into the mid-drift of Jon McLaughlin.
Then, the Irons created some space inside the penalty area for George Thomas, whose shot was swept away by the legs of McLaughlin. We weren’t allowed to get into attacking areas, but the odd time that we did, we struggled to create anything from it.
Despite having over half of the first half possession, Sunderland were unable to convert that into goal scoring chances. After no immediate impact after half time, Jack Ross looked to his bench and decided to bring on an additional threat, with Charlie Wyke coming on in place of Chris Maguire.
Although Scunthorpe arguably looked like the better side in the first half, it was the visitors who took the lead in the 59th minute. Reece James produced the cross from the left and at the front post, Maja stood. He nodded the ball past Jak Alnwick and into the bottom left corner.
With the Black Cats only having scored one goal in their past six games, if they were going to do it again in this match, they would have to keep a clean sheet if they were going to take all three points.
As always, we were going to need a second goal for a cushion and some breathing space.
Around 10 minutes after that Jack Ross made another attacking substitution as he brought on Duncan Watmore in the place of goal scorer, Josh Maja. Will this be the last time the Sunderland fans will see Josh Maja in league action this season? All will be revealed before the end of the January transfer window.
James Perch had a magnificent chance to level the match when his shot from outside of the penalty area was superbly kept out by Jon McLaughlin and then kicked away by the feet of the Sunderland goalkeeper.
Yet again, Sunderland couldn’t hold a one-goal lead as in the 86th minute, Adam Hammill’s brilliant effort curled into the top right corner and finally beat the Sunderland goalkeeper, Jon McLaughlin. After all of the saves that McLaughlin made in the match, Hammill’s strike was unstoppable.
No team was able to score a winner in the four minutes of injury time, so the match ended Scunthorpe United 1-1 Sunderland AFC.
Next up, we face Manchester City’s U21s on Tuesday night in the quarter-finals of the Checkatrade Trophy at the Stadium of Light. I expect that Jack Ross will play the players that are on the fringes of the first team - Charlie Wyke and Duncan Watmore may gain extra minutes in their recovery from injuries. Hopefully, we can defeat the talented City youngsters and be within one game of a Wembley final.