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It’s hard to believe, but only six years ago, Sunderland almost went a year without winning a game at home and one week prior, a late Josh Maja goal gave us our first victory at the Stadium of Light for 364 days.
Seven days later, we faced a struggling Birmingham City team who were at the foot of the table at the time of this game. Steve Cotterill’s men were just as woeful as us, with this game unlikely to be one that would live long in the memory.
Chris Coleman had replaced Simon Grayson as Sunderland manager and although his positivity and charm were making him popular with the fans, results on the pitch had not drastically improved.
Languishing in twenty second place, a win here was crucial to back up the previous victory and to give the team some much-needed positivity and momentum.
In truth, it couldn’t have started any worse as after twelve minutes, the away side went ahead with striker Sam Gallagher finishing at the second attempt after Robbin Ruiter had stopped the initial chance.
Up until this point, Lewis Grabban appeared to be our only hope of staying up, with his eleven goals the only source of positivity. Six minutes after conceding, we were level as Grabban was picked out by Donald Love, whose wayward volley was crashed home by the club’s top scorer.
Birmingham responded and went close to a second as Ruiter denied Gallagher after Jota – their standout performer and main threat – breezed past Marc Wilson, but it remained level at the interval.
As the second half began, things were typically scrappy with neither side able to take a foothold in the game.
Half chances came and went for James Vaughan and George Honeyman but it was only when the away side went down to ten men that it looked as though a winner could be on the cards.
Birmingham tired as the game entered the final quarter and it showed in their challenges, with goalscorer Gallagher sent off after picking up a second yellow card following a late tackle on Vaughan.
Unfortunately, and although we piled on the pressure, we couldn’t find a winner.
However, we did spurn a fantastic chance to go ahead when Honeyman curled the ball wide with time on his side following a defensive-splitting reverse ball from Grabban.
Late on, Coleman wanted fresh legs and responded with a triple change as Didier Ndong, Joel Asoro and Maja took to the field with just over fifteen minutes to make a difference, but they were left frustrated as it ended all square.
It was another missed opportunity to get a hugely needed win and after the game, Coleman expressed his disappointment at not finding the second goal.
I’m disappointed. [It was] an opportunity missed. Overall we were a little nervous, lacked a bit of confidence.
I was pleased at 1-0 down to show conviction. We didn’t fold. We showed courage, but I expected us to go and win it.
In key moments we lost conviction and courage too after that. In all our performances since I have been here, this is the one we looked nervous.
Sunderland: Ruiter, Wilson, O’Shea; Browning, Love, Matthews; Gibson (Ndong ‘74), Honeyman, Gooch; Vaughan (Asoro ‘74), Grabban (Maja ‘74)
Substitutes: Steele, Oviedo, McGeady, McManaman
Birmingham City: Stockdale, Grounds, Colin; Kieftenbeld, Gardner, Dean; N’Doye, Gallagher, Boga (Davis ‘79), Jota (Maghoma ‘79); Morrison.
Subs Not Used: Trueman, NSue, Jutkiewicz, Bramall, Gleeson