It is only when you have the opportunity to reflect that you realize how far this club has come in recent years. With only a few days left until our opening fixture of the 2023-24 Championship season, we can look back with pride to see how much the team has achieved in less than five years.
On this day in 2019, Jack Ross’ Sunderland drew 1-1 with an Oxford side who were probably unfortunate not to win the game.
After narrowly missing out in the Play-Off final in the 2018-19 season, Jack Ross entered the following season with considerable pressure on him. Ross’ inability to guide a talented team to victory left a bitter taste in the mouths of many fans and the Sunderland board.
It seemed that apathy towards him was growing within the club, and the infamous record of drawing many games 1-1 continued into the new season, resulting in a really bad start for him.
Sunderland underwent a summer reshuffle, resulting in Tom Flanagan being the only outfield player who survived from the team that started the play-off final against Charlton in May. However, Ross’ remodeled lineup faced challenges right from the beginning.
The attendance of 33,000, with many empty seats, suggested that the fans were uncertain about their feelings regarding the changes.
In truth, Sunderland performed poorly throughout the game. Oxford played with a higher tempo and pressed high, causing numerous problems for Sunderland.
Tarique Fosu had an early shot off target after a well-executed one-two with Cameron Brannagan, but he soon found the back of the net in the 14th minute when he broke into the box again.
Ben Woodburn capitalized on Conor McLaughlin’s mistake, taking possession from the Sunderland debutant, and his through ball allowed Fosu to chip in a neat finish.
Sunderland’s performance was sloppy, and their defense seemed completely disjointed and disorganized, likely due to the significant turnover of players.
The team improved at the start of the second half, with Lynden Gooch leading the charge. The US international won a penalty, which he confidently converted after taking on Josh Ruffels.
After creating next to no chances in the first half, the home side simply could not have been any worse in the second. Ross brought on Aiden McGeady, Chris Maguire and Duncan Watmore in an attempt to find a winner.
After the equaliser, clear-cut chances were few and far between and Sunderland had to strike a balance between pushing for a winner while not leaving themselves vulnerable on the counter-attack.
In the end, with Oxford breaking the game up by conceding a string of free-kicks and wasting time at every opportunity, the game fizzled out into a draw.
It was a completely underwhelming start from the home side which did very little to help Ross try to keep the fans onside.
SUNDERLAND: J McLaughlin, C McLaughlin, Willis, Flanagan, Gooch (Maguire 82), Dobson, McGeouch, Hume, Embleton (Watmore 60), Grigg (McGeady 71), McNulty. Subs not used: Burge, Ozturk, O’Nien, Leadbitter
OXFORD UNITED: Eastwood, Cadden, Dickie, Mousinho, Ruffles, Henry, Gorrin, Brannagan (Moore 90+4), Mackie, Woodburn (Hanson 75), Fosu (Hall 82). Subs not used: Stevens, Long, Sykes, Napa