Sunderland’s five-game winning run is over, as they were only able to claim a point against Lincoln in Saturday afternoon’s Sky Bet League One promotion six-pointer at the Stadium of Light.
Callum McFadzean’s 40th minute header was cancelled out by Callum Morton’s second-half strike, with both sides claiming a point, on a day where a draw wasn’t as harmful as Sunderland’s 12 other draws this season.
Two changes were made by Lee Johnson, who rotated the side for another match, as the competitive nature of each position hotted up. Callum McFadzean came back into the left-back role, ahead of Jake Vokins, who had no place within the squad. Jack Diamond was dropped to the bench, as a change in shape from Lee Johnson meant that the Black Cats returned to 4-2-3-1. Grant Leadbitter partnered Max Power and Carl Winchester in the centre of midfield, with there being no place in the starting 11 for Ross Stewart, who was to be utilised for the bench.
First Half Action
The referee’s bizarre decision making began from the first whistle, as the flow of the game was disrupted by constant stoppages from Carl Boyeson, with Lee Johnson being warned in the early stages about his conduct.
Max Power had the first opportunity of the game for the Black Cats, but set the tone for the first half as his long-range effort was fired miles wide of the right post.
It proved to be a half for the unlikely sources, as Grant Leadbitter came closer than Power to breaking the deadlock, as his right-footed drive was brushed narrowly around the left post by the Lincoln goalkeeper.
A very likely source to be the scorer of the first goal was Charlie Wyke, but he was unable to connect with a delivery from Conor McLaughlin; his teasing cross was angled just too high for the leap of Wyke.
Lincoln slowly grew into the proceedings, and sent warning signs to the Black Cats’ resolute defence, as Poole pounced on a Luke O’Nien error. He had Callum Morton for support, but his effort was driven against the gloves of Lee Burge.
Poole was at the centre of the Lincoln defence that almost allowed McGeady to give the home side the lead, as the Irishman wriggled his way past the Lincoln full-back, but his finish didn’t match the build-up play as McGeady’s effort drifted over the bar.
After both Power and Leadbitter tried their luck earlier in the half, it was a highly unlikely route to the first goal of the game. Power produced a moment of quality, and his lovely cross was met by the head of Callum McFadzean, who rose the highest to guid the ball into the bottom right corner.
Half Time - Sunderland AFC 1-0 Lincoln City FC
Second Half Action
Sunderland sought to add to their one-goal advantage within the opening stages of the second half, and McGeady’s free-kick was driven hard underneath the Lincoln City wall and was beaten away by the gloves of Alex Palmer.
The Black Cats’ one-goal lead was soon to be pegged back, with Michael Appleton’s side showing fighting spirit.
Regan Poole lifted the ball into the penalty area towards Callum Morton, who took the ball down, turned O’Nien and beat Lee Burge with a finish into the bottom right corner.
Lincoln almost turned their one-goal deficit into a one-goal advantage as Rogers cut the ball back to Cohen Bramall from the byline, before Bramall’s effort was rolled straight into the gloves of Lee Burge.
The introduction of Chris Maguire almost had an immediate effect when his deflected drive from just outside of the penalty area was bounced just wide of the left post.
Lincoln provided the Black Cats with a threat on the counter-attack with their pace in the final stages, and almost resulted in a winner, as Rogers’ volley from Poole’s cross was fired ferociously against the fists of Lee Burge.
Full Time - Sunderland AFC 1-1 Lincoln City FC
In the 90th minute, the Stadium of Light would have erupted.
Five minutes of added time gave the Black Cats an opportunity to claim three points on a day where they could have finished in the automatic promotion spots, and one point off the top.
The fact that there was no eruption or noise at the 90th minute mark is just a sign of the football industry at the moment without any supporters – something that every side is having to deal with.
News would have filtered through to the players on the pitch that all the teams within the top six were drawing - meaning that it could have been an extremely important day for the Black Cats.
Regardless, it was an important day for the home side, as it felt like their hectic spell over the past couple of weeks finally caught up with Lee Johnson’s side.
The home side weren’t helped by the disastrous performance of the referee, with the match being consistently being interrupted by Carl Boyeson, who produced arguably one of the worst performances that fans have witnessed from a League One referee (and even that takes some beating). The constant stoppages to the game halted the flow of the match and didn’t help the Black Cats.
Lincoln came to the Stadium of Light in a very poor spell of form, having only claimed one point from their last nine games and only won two of their last 11, and it’s these types of sides that Sunderland fans worry about the most.
Well, that was the way of ‘typical Sunderland’. Before the kick-off, fans were quite optimistic ahead of a massive clash against Lincoln, after a mesmerising period of form that has Lee Johnson’s side firmly in the promotion battle.
Lincoln were the first team to really pose a threat to the Black Cats in a couple of weeks, and it was one the Sunderland defence couldn’t withstand.
Saturday may have been a set-back, as only one point was claimed at 5pm, not three, but against a Lincoln side fourth-placed in the league table, it is a result that won’t harm the Black Cats, as the results on Saturday afternoon partially helped that, with no side within the top six picking up three points.
A week’s break will come as a welcome relief to Lee Johnson after the extremely hectic period that the Black Cats have faced in the past couple of weeks, and the absolutely significant Easter period approaching, during which Sunderland make a trip to Peterborough, and have home matches against Oxford United and Charlton Athletic.
Before that period, a trip to Bristol Rovers approaches, as Lee Johnson looks to sink the Pirates at the Memorial Stadium and break the Joey Barton hoodoo.