On a day when Sunderland could have got a ninth win in a row and went top of the league, they went and fluffed their lines.
Gareth Ainsworth’s Wycombe Wanderers arrived at the Stadium of Light on this day, only a mere four years ago, with a plan - and a good one at that.
This was the beginning of an awkward relationship with Wycombe who were certainly a thorn in the side of many managers and Sunderland squads throughout our four years in the third tier.
For the game itself, Sunderland appeared paralyzed by the heightened hype that was surrounding the team in what was being dubbed the “Rossolution” under new manager Jack Ross.
This was Wycombe’s first visit to the Stadium of Light, but it didn’t seem to hamper Ainsworth’s men, if anything, it gave them a lift. His players quickly showed they had zero intention of playing the part of awestruck tourists.
Indeed, a side freshly promoted from League Two held their own throughout a largely uninspiring first half, low on clear-cut chances and quality.
If they enjoyed slightly the better of that opening period – during which Sunderland’s Jack Baldwin made a couple of important defensive blocks – Aiden McGeady should really have given Ross’s side the lead shortly before the interval, but instead dragged his shot wide from an inviting position.
The Irishman was the best player on the day for the home side with his consistent probing being the main source of opportunity for the home side - especially in the absence of ten goal man Maja - who was on the bench.
The home side was still less than cohesive, but the second half began with four corners won in pretty quick succession.
This early pressure relented almost as quickly as it appeared and it resulted in Jack Ross changing the system and personnel with the aforementioned Maja and Max Power coming on for Jerome Sinclair and Dylan McGeouch.
Whilst Maja’s impact was almost immediate with a threatening shot being deflected for a corner, it was Wycombe who struck first. When the defence failed to deal with Joe Jacobson’s free kick, Fred Onyedinma pounced on the loose ball and lashed a brilliant half-volley into the roof of the net from 12 yards.
Not for the first time, it was the concession of a goal which appeared to spark the home side into life. Captain, George Honeyman led by example driving his team forward - and it was his driving run into the box and the cross where the goal came from.
The captain’s cross flew across the face of the Wycombe goal where striker Maja trapped the ball exquisitely and rifled it into the net to relieve the tension that was building within the stadium,
Whilst Jack expressed his displeasure with the performance and draw, there was sure to be relief that he and his team didn’t lose - and he expressed his gratitude for having a striker like Maja in his team afterwards:
Given that we could have gone top, there’s frustration, but Josh Maja is as good a finisher as I’ve worked with.