Sunderland held on for a 1-1 draw against Sheffield Wednesday down at Hillsborough. After scoring early, courtesy of George Honeyman, a stunning David Jones strike levelled it for the home side. It was a great test for SAFC, who could have crumpled when the momentum shifted, but instead we saw resilience and tact that ultimately earned us a solid point away from home.
A renewed sense of optimism and positivity has swept Wearside following our early-season performances. While many had predicted that The Championship would come as a culture shock, and a change that SAFC weren’t prepared for, early signs would suggest we are coping well with the relegation, and our squad isn’t anywhere near as poor as last season suggested.
It was no surprise to see Simon Grayson name an unchanged side from the one that beat Norwich at the weekend.
Jones, Browning, Kone, Galloway
Honeyman, Cattermole, NDong, McGeady
McGeady’s heroic performance against Norwich was immortalised by a goal and an assist, with his strengths perfectly complementing those of Lewis Grabban, who bagged a brace against the Norfolk side. However, the last thing we need to do — as fans or as a club — is to become complacent now we have found a way to win games. Our transfer business so far has been shrewd and selective, a rarity at Sunderland, but we are still several men short of a great side.
Sunderland would face Sheffield Wednesday with the Owls making a poor start to the season, and while Hillsborough is usually a difficult place to travel to, confidence couldn’t be higher in the Sunderland camp. This was demonstrated within the first five minutes of the match…
GOAL – Sunderland – Honeyman – 4 mins
After a fantastic showing against Bury in the Cup, Honeyman doubled his account for Sunderland after just 4 minutes against Wednesday on Wednesday. After breaching the defence, McGeady slid a beautiful pass across the box to Honeyman, who controlled the ball by flicking it up and taking a bounce on his knee before striking it. There were about four ‘Wednesday players on the goal line but they could do nothing about the accurate shot, which sailed past them into the back of the net.
The first half was generally quite stop-starty. The slick surface looked like it was causing some problems, with a couple of ‘Wednesday players going down injured in the first 20 minutes. The home side generally saw more of the ball, which is to be expected, but Jason Steele was equal to whatever entered his box, stopping a Sam Winnall shot after 20 minutes.
Lewis Grabban was again the danger man for Sunderland, first having a shot blocked after being picked out by McGeady, and then seeing his header sail wide of the post after being found again by the Irishman. A familiar pattern was beginning to emerge, with McGeady the primary playmaker and Honeyman taking a more advanced central role. We were very lopsided, but it was working well.
‘Wednesday were winning a fair few corners, but we managed to deal with all of them throughout the first half. They also made over 100 passes more than us in the first 45 minutes, but again it was to no avail. Sunderland weren’t as cool or calculated with the ball at our feet, but we at least looked threatening each time we advanced.
Sunderland would be grateful for the 1-0 lead away from home at half-time, particularly as the goal was the only clear-cut chance of the game. Steven Fletcher emerged for the second half, which would either be good or bad news for Sunderland depending on which Fletcher turned up. Would it be the Fletcher who posts pictures of his flash car on social media, or the Fletcher who scored 3 goals in his first four shots for SAFC?
The first real chance of the second half came after McGeady looped a cross in that was brought down and controlled by Grabban. After finding his sight of goal obstructed, Grabban turned the defender and sent the ball back over the top towards Vaughan. With the keeper Westwood racing out to collect, Vaughan appeared to hesitate with the header and missed the ball. The two players collided and the ball bounced out for a goal kick.
Vaughan came close again soon after, driving his shot high and wide after finding himself with room to take a crack inside the box. Vaughan is a player who is already dividing opinions, with the striker unfortunately not having found the target thus far in his Sunderland career. His movement clearly generates space around him, and his work-rate is tireless, but a striker will always be measured on the amount of goals he scores, meaning Vaughan must net soon if he wishes to keep his place when we bring in reinforcements/Watmore returns.
GOAL – Sheffield Wednesday – Jones – 70 mins
Out of nowhere David Jones let one go from 30 yards and Jason Steele was certainly not equal to this one. An absolute thunderbolt. It’s discouraging to concede an equaliser, but I’m not sure much finger pointing can be done with a goal like that. I didn’t realise Davey Jones had that in his locker…
‘Wednesday were now looking very threatening with Fletcher and Gary Hooper in the centre, and when Jordan Rhodes came on for Winnall, it was clear that Sunderland were set for a hugely testing 20 minutes ahead of them. Billy Jones had been poor down the right hand side and ‘Wednesday were exploiting this with every attack. NDong hacked a player down to pick up a yellow card, indicating that frustration and desperation was beginning to drift in.
A goalmouth scramble prompted half of the home fans to begin celebrating a goal, it was that close to going in, but Sunderland managed to claw the ball out to prevent a 2-goal turnaround from ‘Wednesday. Khazri came on for McGeady, which was an interesting substitution given we were clinging on to the game at the time.
Gary Hooper nearly won the game in spectacular fashion after being laid off by Steven Fletcher. Hooper flicked the ball up and volleyed it from outside the box, only to see it cannon off the crossbar and out for a goal kick. Gooch was introduced in place of Grabban, certainly the defensive substitution we needed, whole Gibson came on in place of Cattermole a minute or two later.
Fortunately for Sunderland these substitutions were enough to sap the energy out of ‘Wednesday, who were firmly on top after equalising. Gooch served to frustrate the opposition by shielding the ball out for a goal kick, while Khazri was fresh and agile enough to take the ball from Galloway when necessary.
This was a real test for Sunderland against a team with match-winning players. Going up early on gave us the opportunity to protect a shallow lead, and when we couldn’t do that, we were asked to cling on to the game when momentum was against us. It’s not the result we want ideally, but far better experience than a comfortable 2-0 win would have been. Wow, rare positivity from this writer. It’s amazing what a good string of results does…
Final Score: Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Sunderland
ALS MOTM: Aiden McGeady (but he needs to use the short pass more often)
By Chris Thompson
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