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Finlay’s Report: Fleetwood point makes Tuesday’s Sunderland v Burton game a must-win

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RR’s junior reporter Finlay Anderson reviews the action from last night’s game in which Sunderland threw away another lead and dropped another two crucial points.

Fleetwood Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Sunderland’s winless run continued as they were unable to beat Fleetwood Town yet again – a 1-1 draw against the Cod Army making it five games without victory for Phil Parkinson’s men.

Charlie Wyke had gave Sunderland the lead in the second half, but Callum Connolly’s strike made sure the points were shared.


The Team...

Phil Parkinson was forced into one change from the side that conceded a late equaliser against Doncaster Rovers last Saturday. Lynden Gooch was ruled out for around two to four weeks with an ankle injury, with Danny Graham being installed into the starting 11 to partner Charlie Wyke up front.

Josh Scowen and Grant Leadbitter were named in the centre of midfield – Leadbitter’s thunderous strike against Darren Moore’s side was Sunderland’s only goal of the game last week. Also, Remi Matthews continued his spell in between the sticks for the Black Cats, with Lee Burge on the bench.

Sunderland v Milton Keynes Dons - Sky Bet League One
Remi Matthews kept his place in the team
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

First Half Action

Both sides began the match with intent – a Fleetwood corner from the right dropped for Danny Andrew, but his bullet shot was saved at the left post by Remi Matthews, while Denver Hume’s right-footed shot from just outside of the penalty area whipped just around the right post.

Bailey Wright provided Sunderland with brief cause for concern when a dangerous free-kick from the right was crossed into the penalty area. To stop any Fleetwood heads from nodding the ball goal wards, Bailey Wright stepped in – heading it narrowly wide of the right post.

Fleetwood Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Hume’s early shot drifted wide
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

The Black Cats had a fairly strong penalty shout when Maguire played the ball into the penalty area where Scowen was looking to run onto it. A collision between the Sunderland midfielder and a Fleetwood defender resulted in Scowen dropping to the ground, but experienced referee Bobby Madley waved away Sunderland’s appeals.

After one minute of additional time, neither side was able to claim the advantage, and the first half ended goalless.

Half Time - Fleetwood Town 0-0 Sunderland AFC


Second Half Action

Fleetwood almost gave themselves the lead moments into the second half, when Callum Camps’ long-range volley was tipped onto the bar by Remi Matthews, with the keeper doing well to save Madden’s rebound.

But it was Sunderland that looked much more threatening in the following stages, and were inches away from taking the lead when Conor McLaughlin’s right-footed cross picked out Wyke, who glanced the ball goal wards, however his header was narrowly wide of the left post.

Sunderland’s pressure finally told, and Phil Parkinson’s side did actually take the lead.

Flanagan flung his body at a loose ball, which allowed it to loop over the Fleetwood defensive line. Charlie Wyke latched onto the ball and was able to nod it over the on-rushing Jayson Leutwiler, and bounce into the back of the Fleetwood net.

Fleetwood Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Wyke nods it over the keeper to open the scoring
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

With just over 20 minutes left, Sunderland made their first substitution of the game – Will Grigg replacing Danny Graham.

Fleetwood Town began looking for the equaliser, and an increased spell of pressure in the Sunderland penalty area resulted in the ball dropping to Wes Burns, who fired wide of the right post.

Only moments later, the Cod Army did make the game level when Callum Camps dinked a low cross into the penalty area. Bailey Wright was unable to clear their lines, and the ball eventually dropped for defender Callum Connolly, who arrowed it into the bottom right corner.

Sunderland looked to regain the advantage when Scowen’s teasing delivery from the right was met by the head of Will Grigg, but the striker mis-timed his jump and his header went over the bar.

Phil Parkinson made his second and third substitutions with around two minutes of the 90 remaining, as Max Power and Callum McFadzean replaced Chris Maguire and Denver Hume.

Neither side were able to find the winning goal, with both settling for a point.

Full Time - Fleetwood Town 1-1 Sunderland AFC


Finlay’s Verdict....

Over Sunderland’s three seasons in League One, Fleetwood Town have been metaphorical for the issues that have halted the Black Cats from progressing into the Championship.

The inability to beat Fleetwood at both the Stadium of Light and Highbury have resulted in the downfall of the Black Cats’ automatic promotion pushes.

With Joey Barton at the helm, there is always an extra piece of motivation to beat the Cod Army, but it never seems to happen.

Fleetwood Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Sunderland and Fleetwood have contested some good matches across recent years from the 2-2 draw at the end of the February 2020 to the 2-1 defeat at Highbury that stopped Sunderland’s automatic promotion dream at the end of the first season in League One.

Friday night’s encounter played out exactly the same as the other matches, and resulted in more frustration from Sunderland fans, directed at both the players and the manager.

Throughout the 90 minutes, the Black Cats lacked a finishing touch but created a number of opportunities in the first half, mostly through the left wing.

After the opening 20-25 minutes, the match seemed to drift into boredom and equilibrium, with both sides seeming to cancel each other out at both ends of the pitch.

In the second half, the early goal from a mistake from the Fleetwood backline gave Sunderland something to play for and hang onto, but that lead only lasted 14 minutes, as the Cod Army levelled.

Over recent weeks, Phil Parkinson’s lack of substitutions had been criticised by some sections of supporters, and his lack of changes were sharply contrasted with Joey Barton’s use of five substitutions.

Yet again, Parkinson used his changes at the latter stages of the contest, and they didn’t really make an impact on the course of the final minutes of the match, as the score was already really decided.

Sunderland return to League One action on Tuesday night as third-bottom Burton Albion travel to the Stadium of Light –and a win will be the only thing good enough to get the Black Cats back on track. After claiming a victory against Charlton Athletic, the Brewers will be up for the occasion – and they beat us at home last season.

I would expect changes to be made, as we look to begin the final month of a tough year with three points.