After Saturday’s gutty and gritty 2-0 victory over Ipswich, for me, it felt as though Sunderland may have turned a corner after their three-match league losing streak, in which their campaign hit new lows.
It wasn’t a complete performance against the Tractor Boys, but one that yielded three points, and after two embarrassing, heavy defeats, it was that which mattered most.
Yet, after last night’s draw, it’s clear that we haven’t quite turned that corner just yet.
Over recent seasons Shrewsbury have often tested Sunderland’s promotion metal, and Tuesday proved to be no different.
It was still a test that Sunderland failed to pass, and fans have been left asking even more questions about the level of performance, and ultimately, how they failed to claim the three points.
It was the decisive second half that proved costly as Sunderland were second-best, and used the red card to David Davis to their disadvantage, with Shrewsbury simply playing like they wanted it more.
Lee Johnson’s lack of available specialist full-backs meant that he opted to move Lynden Gooch to right-back, with Carl Winchester shifting into the middle of the park.
Alex Pritchard and Aiden O’Brien were given starts in attack, with Corry Evans and Elliot Embleton dropping to the bench.
And the beginning of the first half was cagey - though Shrewsbury came closest to scoring during the early stages.
Nathanael Ogbeta’s effort rolled wide of the left post, whilst Ryan Bowman’s shot was deflected wide after Sunderland were caught napping in the centre of the park.
Despite their attacking flare, Steve Cotterill’s side showed signs of worry and nerves in defence as Ross Stewart dispossessed a loose back pass, but could only steer the ball wide of the left post.
The hosts enjoyed plenty of the ball in their own half, but Alex Pritchard’s superb right-footed curling finish into the top right corner gave Sunderland a building block in their attacking approach - running unchallenged towards the edge of the box before letting loose of a shot that the keeper couldn’t get near.
Lynden Gooch then almost scored a similar goal, as his left-footed curling effort from the other side of the box was tipped narrowly around the post by Marko Marosi.
Then, just before half time the course of the game was altered significantly, as a controversial red card was brandished to Shrewsbury midfielder David Davis after his late tackle on Nathan Broadhead, leaving Steve Cotterill’s side a man down.
Typically, this actually gave the home side a lift, and they began the second half in a spirited fashion. Sunderland, however, were sloppy in possession but had the better of the opportunities as the half kicked on.
Alex Pritchard’s low shot was dragged narrowly wide of the right post, whilst Luke O’Nien’s free header drifted wide of the left post.
Then, Ryan Bowman was millimetres from prodding an equaliser home from Nathanael Ogbeta’s teasing delivery into the penalty area, but the Shrews’ didn’t have to wait too much longer to get their equaliser - and for Sunderland, there could be no complaints.
Johnson’s side were unable to clear a dangerous Shrewsbury cross into the penalty area, and Daniel Udoh thumped the ball past Thorben Hoffmann to give Shrewsbury a deserved leveller.
After the goal, Sunderland simply lacked ideas; the introduction of Aiden McGeady and Leon Dajaku sought to add an attacking spark, but both failed to produce anything of note as the rest of the game fell out of our reach.
Ultimately, it’s a tough result to take, and one that asks huge questions of Sunderland and their head coach heading into the hectic Christmas period.
If there ever was a time in the season where The Lads need to produce a sensational winning streak, it’s now.
Despite having games in hand we’re falling further away, on points, from the league leaders, who seem to have momentum behind them - and Sunderland don’t.
And yet again, it’s going to be another tough couple of days for the Black Cats, as they need to rest and respond ahead of another huge League One clash - simply put, they cannot afford to not win the next game.