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Finlay’s Report: Were there any positives to take from Sunderland’s first match without Parky?

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Finlay Anderson, our junior reporter, delivers his verdict on our first game post-Parky.

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Life without Phil Parkinson began for the Black Cats with a 1-1 draw with Burton Albion at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday night.

Charles Vernam’s strike on the hour mark did give the Brewers an unexpected one-goal advantage, but an 85th minute header from Max Power made sure Sunderland didn’t suffer another defeat at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League One
Power heads home
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

The Team

Caretaker manager, Andrew Taylor, made two changes from the team that Phil Parkinson fielded in his final match in charge of Sunderland AFC. Parkinson began both Wyke and Graham up front against Fleetwood on Friday night, but Danny Graham was dropped to the bench for Tuesday night’s encounter. Elliot Embleton was given his first start of the season in League One after a spell on the sidelines. The captain, Max Power, was brought back into the starting XI, with Chris Maguire named among the subs.

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League One
Embleton made his first league start for Sunderland this season
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

First Half Action

Without Phil Parkinson in the dugout for the first time in over a year, Andrew Taylor’s Sunderland began the opening ten minutes as the more attacking side, with Max Power’s deflected, looping shot, which rose over the bar, setting an early tone.

Sunderland began to knock on the Burton door more frequently and Bailey Wright nearly headed the Black Cats into a one-goal lead, when his header from Max Power’s cross was drilled over the bar.

Taylor was forced into an early substitution when Charlie Wyke was unable to continue after a knock to the knee; Danny Graham his chosen replacement.

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League One
Wyke picked up an early injury
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Burton Albion did briefly threaten – Michael Bostwick’s header from a corner going straight into the gloves of Remi Matthews.

After two minutes of additional time a lacklustre first half ended goalless.

Half Time - Sunderland AFC 0-0 Burton Albion


Second Half Action

Within just under five minutes of the second half, Sunderland created the best chance of the game so far when Hume fizzed a low cross into the penalty area, and a flick from Embleton picked out Scowen at the back post. Scowen’s shot was fired into the gloves of a diving Kieran O’Hara.

Pressure on the Burton backline began to increase and it seemed cracks may appear – Power’s cross from the right was aimed at Embleton, who glanced the ball towards goal, but it was easily saved by O’Hara.

Despite Sunderland’s pressure, it was the opposition who took the lead when Joe Powell arrowed his shot from just outside of the area - aiming for the bottom right corner. Matthews spilled the ball and Vernam bundled home to give the Brewers an unexpected lead.

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League One
Goal: Vernam. Assist: Matthews.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Sunderland responded well, but failed to create any clear-cut chances. The closest they came was when Embleton’s left-footed shot from the edge of the penalty area was curved over the bar.

That proved to be Embleton’s final action of the game, as both him and Tom Flanagan were removed from play, with Taylor introducing Chris Maguire and Will Grigg in an attempt to claim at least a point for the Black Cats.

The Black Cats came even closer to a leveller when O’Nien’s first-time cross found Will Grigg, whose header was guided onto the right post.

Only a couple of minutes later, Graham tried his luck. His shot from just outside of the penalty area was straight at O’Hara, who punched it straight back to Graham who proceeded to drag his shot just wide of the right post.

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League One
Graham
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

With just over five minutes of the 90 remaining, the Black Cats did find a leveller when Hume’s whipping cross from the left wing was met by the on-rushing Power, who headed the ball into the bottom right corner.

Taylor was forced into a late substitution when Luke O’Nien had to be replaced with an arm injury, so Dion Sanderson came on for the final few minutes.

The score line stayed the same way, with Max Power’s 85th minute header sealing a point for the Black Cats, after Charles Vernam’s strike that had given the visitors the lead.

Full Time - Sunderland AFC 1-1 Burton Albion


Finlay’s Verdict....

Here we go again.

Tuesday night’s match with Burton marked the first game for the Black Cats without Phil Parkinson in the dugout.

On Sunday, Parkinson’s 410-day reign at the club was brought to an end, and Sunderland’s 14th caretaker manager was placed in charge of the team, with Andrew Taylor taking Tuesday night’s match with Burton.

The search for a new Sunderland manager is even more crucial now, as the new manager must contribute to help Sunderland propel themselves out of League One.

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Names of Gus Poyet and Paul Cook have already been thrown in the fray, with the takeover being heavily linked with the removal of Parkinson.

Over the past 48-72 hours, the focus was removed from Sunderland’s League One match against Burton, but it still remained a League One encounter and three points were up for grabs. No matter who was in charge and who played, a response was necessary, but what sort of response did the Black Cats give?

There was no doubt that both teams weren’t performing to the best of their ability, as the first half was played out in a very lacklustre fashion – no side really creating a chance that deserved to break the deadlock.

The second half upped the tempo slightly with an error from Remi Matthews providing Jake Buxton’s side something to hang on to. It seemed like a familiar story as the team that looked weaker to the Black Cats had something to defend for their lives.

In the latter stages of the match, a goal was looking like it was on the cards, but there was no certainty that the Black Cats were going to level the match.

The chances for Will Grigg may provide some optimism if Paul Cook is the man that takes control of the Black Cats, but the fact it took Max Power’s header to equalise was worrying for the strike force.

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League One
Is Paul Cook the man to unlock Will Grigg’s goals?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Next up, Sunderland take on struggling Wigan Athletic at the Stadium of Light, with it still unknown at this point whether Andrew Taylor will be in charge of the side. After Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against Burton, he will have a greater idea about how to tweak the side to get maximum points. Charlie Wyke may be unavailable for Wigan’s trip to the Stadium of Light, so either Danny Graham or Will Grigg is set to replace him if he can’t be fully fit.

Sunderland fans will be taking each day as it comes at present, but hopefully by the end of the week there will be more certainty over what will happen with the club in the coming weeks. months and years.