Sunderland gave another lacklustre performance this afternoon, this time at Oxford, where they lost a lead late in the game having struggled to dominate their opponents for much of the ninety minutes.
A header from Jimmy Dunne in the first half from a corner gave the Lads the lead, but having tested Jon McLaughlin on several occasions the U’s eventually fired back through Marcus Browne, with the assist coming from former Sunderland striker Jerome Sinclair.
Oxford: Simon Eastwood, Rob Dickie, Curtis Nelson, Jamie Hanson, Cameron Brannagan, Josh Ruffels, John Mousinho, Gavin Whyte, James Henry, Jordan Graham, Jamie Mackie
Subs: Jack Stevens, Jerome Sinclair, Marcus Browne, Samir Carruthers, Sam Long, Mark Sykes, Ahmed Kashi
Sunderland: Jon McLaughlin, Reece James, Jack Baldwin, Jimmy Dunne, Adam Matthews, Grant Leadbitter, Max Power, George Honeyman, Lewis Morgan, Aiden McGeady, Will Grigg
Subs: Robbin Ruiter, Tom Flanagan, Dylan McGeouch, Luke O’Nien, Lynden Gooch, Duncan Watmore, Charlie Wyke
Today’s encounter at the Kassam got off to a relatively slow start with neither side really threatening for the first ten minutes.
Sunderland did have the ball in the net from their first chance with quarter of an hour played, but it was ruled for a blatant offside. A goal kick from Jon McLaughlin became a route one through ball which ignited Will Grigg and sent him blazing towards goal, but the referee blew his whistle just as Grigg was lining up his strike.
Down at the other end, Oxford were denied an opener due to a brilliant save from McLaughlin. A bullet header from Ruffels at point-blanc range would have sent a violent ripple through the back of the net were it not for the superb reflexes of the Scottish ‘stopper, as he got down low to deflect the effort with an outstretched leg.
But if that save was good, then it was nothing compared to the next. An Oxford cross found the head of veteran striker Jamie Mackie who looked to glance the ball into the far corner, but McLaughlin was at full stretch to palm the chance away in a spectacularly rapid and photogenic fashion.
Sunderland’s outfield players ensured that their ‘keepers heroics were rewarded, doing so by bringing about the most bizarre occurrence of the afternoon so far - a goal from a corner!
Grant Leadbitter’s delivery into the mixer found the Lads’ biggest target in loanee Jimmy Dunne, who made certain that - this time - a goalkeeper wouldn’t be saving a header.
HT: Oxford 0-1 Sunderland (Dunne 34’)
The home side dominated procedures in the opening stages of the second half. McLaughlin called into desperate action once again when he had to deny James Henry with mere yards separating the ball and the goal line once again.
What became an unrelenting sequence of offensives from Oxford died off somewhat as the second half progressed, but still the U’s looked the more likely of the two sides to score. In truth, however, both sides were far from clinical.
While Sunderland might have been able to banish the curse of the corners, they still weren’t able to find a second goal - and were once again punished for their inaction.
On eighty-seven minutes - and after a very plausible foul on Dunne in the build-up - former Sunderland loanee Jerome Sinclair dribbled into the box, evaded McLaughlin and squared the ball to Marcus Browne, who tapped the equaliser into an empty net.
With little time or apparent creativity to muster a reply, the game ended one-all, rounding off an overall disappointing outing for Jack Ross’ men.
FT: Oxford 1-1 Sunderland (Dunne 34’, Browne 87’)
Jon McLaughlin, 9/10: Absolutely excellent once again.
Reece James, 6/10: Seemed to play more negatively in the second half and didn’t threaten as much, but was generally alright regardless.
Jimmy Dunne, 8/10: Scored our goal and swept up long balls whenever they came forward. A great all-round performance.
Jack Baldwin, 6/10: Fundamental defensive duties were good but he seemed to try a bit too hard to be a ball-playing defender at times, which often resulted him giving away possession rather poorly.
Adam Matthews, 4/10: Struggled massively in the opening exchanges of the first half and didn’t contribute an awful lot to our attacking motions,
Max Power, 5/10: Alright, I guess?
Grant Leadbitter, 6/10: Swung in our first decent corner since the Stone Age but many of his other deliveries weren’t great.
Aiden McGeady, 6/10: Didn’t do an awful lot wrong during our attacking motions, but ultimately he didn’t come up with much today.
George Honeyman, 6/10: One of those games where he’s a very steady, unremarkable 6.
Lewis Morgan, 7/10: Replicated his solid debut last week. Made all the right decisions going forward
Will Grigg, 6/10: Put the keeper under pressure when he could but ultimately the service to him was non-existent.
Charlie Wyke, 6/10: Hold up play was canny.
Lynden Gooch, 6/10: Would’ve liked us to have been more positive so we could’ve seen more from him.
Luke O’Nien, 5/10: Bit daft.
Man of the Match: Jon McLaughlin
Attendance: 10,383 (1,808 Sunderland fans)