Pressure is mounting on Jack Ross after Sunderland drew 1-1 with Bolton Wanderers at the University of Bolton Stadium on Saturday afternoon as chants of “You’re getting sacked in the morning” rained down from the Bolton supporters - and a minority of the travelling Black Cats fans.
Despite only having scored one goal in the league all season, Bolton looked like the most likely to break the deadlock and pressed for the opener, which eventually came with 50 minutes on the clock.
Then, in the 90+1st minute of stoppage time, Sunderland won a penalty when the ball hit the arm of Yoan Zouma inside the penalty area. Having missed a penalty in mid-week, Aiden McGeady stepped up and atoned for his error by equalising.
Jack Ross made four changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Rotherham United on Tuesday night. Alim Ozturk was dropped to the bench, after what Jack Ross revealed post-Bolton was a “hamstring problem”, so Tom Flanagan made his second league appearance of the season.
After playing in a more attacking position on Tuesday, Luke O’Nien switched back into his right back position, with Chris Maguire slotting in the role O’Nien was playing midweek. The captain, Grant Leadbitter, returned to the side, replacing Dylan McGeouch in the centre of midfield.
Bolton, on the other hand, had two former Sunderland players in their ranks, with Liam Bridcutt - who played 30 times for the Black Cats between the years of 2014 and 2016 - captaining the new-look Bolton side, and Will Buckley, who joined Bolton after his three-year spell with the Black Cats, leading the line for the Trotters.
First Half Action
Bolton started the match in a positive way and hit the woodwork when Dennis Politic switched the ball onto his left foot inside of the penalty area, his shot rattling the inside of the left post and bouncing away from danger.
Despite being on the back foot for majority of the first half, Sunderland had their moments, but when given an opportunity on a plate, Will Grigg couldn’t open his tally in League One for the season. Maguire aimed his cross from the right to the back post and Grigg was gifted with a free header. All the former Wigan striker had to do was nod the ball past Remi Matthews, but he directed his header wide of the left post.
After providing for Grigg, Maguire had a chance for himself not long after when Gooch slipped the ball to the former Bury attacker. He was on the right side of the penalty area and fired his ball on target, but it was ushered away by the Bolton goalkeeper.
Ten minutes before the half time interval, Bolton weren’t far away from taking the lead in spectacular style when Thibaud Verlinden’s cross into the penalty area was cleared by Tom Flanagan, but only to Jason Lowe, whose half-volley drifted just over the bar.
Boos rang around the University of Bolton Stadium from the travelling Sunderland fans at half time, as both teams went into the interval goalless.
Second Half Action
Jack Ross decided to make a half time substitution when he brought off Denver Hume, who was struggling against the Bolton winger, and brought on Conor McLaughlin.
Five minutes after the restart, Bolton broke the deadlock when Ali Crawford produced a cross into the penalty area from a free kick on the right. It found Will Buckley, and with Jon McLaughlin departing off his line, he nodded the ball down to Jack Hobbs, who was able to lash it into the roof of an empty Sunderland net.
Only a few seconds after that, the Black Cats almost made an instant response when Conor McLaughlin’s cross picked out O’Nien, whose volley smashed off the inside of the right post and then bounced off Remi Matthews and fell for McGeady, who was rushing in, but he slipped at the all important moment.
After this, Jack Ross decided to make his second switch when he brought off Chris Maguire, who still can’t face 90 minutes of football, with Charlie Wyke replacing him.
Tom Flanagan then hit the frame of the goal when Grant Leadbitter’s free-kick was floated to the back post, where the central-defender was waiting. He was given a free header, but it shaved off the top of the crossbar.
Shortly after Max Power came on for the captain, Grant Leadbitter, Remi Matthews pulled off an outstanding stop when Power lay the ball off for the Irishman, whose curling shot was pushed away by the 25-year-old goalkeeper.
As five minutes of added time was shown by fourth official, Ollie Yates - the referee - pointed to the spot. Grigg chested O’Nien’s long ball down to Dobson, who flicked the ball into the area where it struck the arm of Yoan Zouma - the referee took a second to think about the incident and gave the visitors a penalty.
McGeady missed a penalty on Tuesday night at a vital point in the game against Rotherham, but had the confidence to step up and take this one and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way as he fired it into the bottom left corner.
After one final push from both sides, no team were able to find a winner, so the match ended Bolton Wanderers 1-1 Sunderland AFC.
On Tuesday night after the 1-1 draw to Rotherham, I stated that we should follow suit of Rotherham, Ipswich and Tranmere by netting multiple goals against Bolton.
Going to the match, I thought we would - as did many Sunderland fans. But, there was a flicker in my mind, just knowing that something wouldn’t click and that is exactly what happened. Nothing that the team tried paid off.
Now, with two consecutive 1-1 draws, the pressure mounts on Jack Ross. There were calls for him to be sacked after the match at the University of Bolton Stadium, but would this be good for the club?
The inconsistencies with managers held us back in the Premier League days, and another manager at a crucial time for the club wouldn’t work for me. I know he has been given time at the club, and after last season’s Wembley heartbreak, I thought that we would have learnt from our mistakes, yet we haven’t.
I am now hoping that Saturday’s events might act as a wake-up call for the Jack Ross and the Black Cats. That being said, there should also be some credit given to Bolton who were arguably the better side and probably should have won. Luckily for us, though, we were able to grab a point from a match where it wasn’t looking as if we would.
Now, we move to Wednesday’s night third round Carabao Cup tie against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. What team Jack Ross will start with is for anyone to guess, but if I was the boss, I would use a weakened side and prioritise Saturday’s home match against MK Dons.
That being said, would fans take another Premier League upset? Everyone likes to beat the Premier League sides in the cup and it was nice to defeat Burnley in the second round, but if we do lose, it won’t be the end of the world. Saturday’s game at home to MK Dons is far more important.