Sunderland drew 3-3 away at Brentford in a game where we failed to protect a 3-1 half-time lead. Two from Lewis Grabban and a bizarre goal direct from the corner by Oviedo seemed to be enough to kill the game off, but Brentford fought back in the second period. By the end we were lucky to take anything from the game at all. It’s still a point away from home, but it should have been three.
After a brief respite period, making most of the International break for players to return from injury, Sunderland couldn’t pick up three points at home to QPR last week. While our winless run at home continues, however, many are happy simply to pick up points wherever we can. A game at Brentford is one we’d have expected to win before the season began, but given the long journey down and our poor form, things are no longer as conclusive.
The starting XI was named with a welcomed return for a key player.
Jones, Kone, O’Shea, Oviedo,
Watmore, Honeyman, Mcgeady,
It only took Brentford 8 minutes to break the deadlock — consistent with other performances this season where we have conceded early. Cattermole lost the ball in the centre of the park, and appealed for the foul after it looked like there was contact. The ref played on and Brentford advanced at speed, their initial attempt cannoning off the post, but Yennaris was there to turn in the rebound. 1-0.
The home side’s lead would not last for long, however, with the returning Lewis Grabban getting his name on the score sheet to make it 1-1. After working hard to retain possession, a well-spotted, well-executed long ball over the top saw Grabban played in one-on-one. He coolly slotted it past the keeper to convert his third of the season.
Sunderland definitely carried the momentum going forward in the game, and Brentford resembled something closer to an away side — sitting back, absorbing pressure, and trying to break when they could. It was clear they feared our pace on the counter attack, with Watmore always looking to run with the ball, and so were happy to play a deep line to prevent us from getting in behind.
Sunderland made it 2-1 in the unlikeliest of ways. Oviedo bent a corner in from the keeper’s left, and whether it was caught by the wind or just had enough whip on it to catch the keeper off guard, it ended up in the back of the net. The goalie got a hand to it, but did nothing more than help it past the line. Bad news for Brentford; great news for us.
Sunderland fans were then left rubbing their eyes in disbelief after seeing their side go 3-1 up before half-time. A blistering run from Duncan Watmore down the right-hand side was reminiscent of Maradona’s v England (and Peter Reid) back in the day. The player tasked with tracking Watmore did well to keep up with him for as long as he could, but as Duncan entered the box and got sight of goal, the player was forced to pull him down for the penalty. Grabban took the spot kick and converted it with authority.
It isn’t often Sunderland find themselves winning at half-time, let alone 2 goals to the good, and so the travelling fans made the most of the occasion. Sadly the joy was not to last for too long, as Brentford emerged for the second half reinvigorated. Just two minutes after the restart they were awarded a kick 20 yards out, and Josh Clarke beat Jason Steele with a lovely curled effort. 3-2.
While the quick goal did offer Brentford a lifeline, they were still experiencing the same problems as in the first half. Their lack of ingenuity going forward actually flattered Sunderland, making us look more organised than we have been for the majority of the season, and we found it very easy to break down attacks by doubling up on the ball carrier.
Duncan Watmore has been affectionately nicknamed ‘roadrunner’, and it could be the most fitting moniker we’ve seen for some time. The boy is very interesting to watch — give him the ball and he will run with it, whether there’s a pass on or whether there isn’t; whether he should run with it or whether he shouldn’t. While it often doesn’t work, it never gets any easier for defenders to deal with, as he is physically too quick to keep up with. It’s a fantastic weapon to have in the arsenal. He eventually went off for McManaman after 66 minutes.
Brentford definitely grew into the game as the second half went on, and made a double substitution in the 76th minute that set the game up for an intense last quarter of an hour. Taking off Watmore changed the game completely, as he was our first port of call for any attacks, but we couldn’t have really kept him on any longer; he would only have faded further out of the game. Fortunately, McManaman is also a player who takes responsibility and enjoys the ball at his feet, so that element of our game was still present if not slightly different.
Predictably — a little too predictably for my liking — Sunderland would concede a third. Brentford’s Jozefzoon took a shot from outside the box that deflected heavily off a Sunderland player. Jason Steele had already committed and so was powerless when the ball rolled past him into the net. Vintage Sunderland. 3-3.
The rest of the game was spent weathering the storm, with Brentford firmly in control. Steele was forced to make several stops to prevent the home side from walking away with three points. James Vaughan came on for Grabban, but barely got a sniff of the ball given how passive we were in the game by this point.
When the full-time whistle finally blew I was overcome with feelings of relief, to replace the disappointment I’d been harbouring throughout the second half. It’s a point away from home, but it should have been three.
Final score: Brentford 3-3 Sunderland
ALS MotM: Lewis Grabban
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