Rowell Report: Foiled by another set piece

Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist
Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist
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I SUPPOSE one point is better than nothing.

But when you are leading in a game for so long – as we did against Southampton – only to concede right at the end, then you’ve got to be gutted.

Southampton put immense pressure on Sunderland in the second half, with our back four defending resolutely, but we could not quite get over the line and had to settle for a draw.

When the team was announced with two changes, the inclusion of Modibo Diakite to make his debut took the eye and I thought he looked promising.

But the surprise was that the player to make way for Craig Gardner’s return was Cabral.

I said in last week’s column that Sunderland’s attacking players might get more space and freedom at St Mary’s than they did against Fulham, but I’m willing to bet Emanuele Giaccherini didn’t expect to be totally unmarked from a corner with no Southampton defender anywhere near him.

Sunderland were bright after the early goal and things were looking good, but Southampton were never out of it.

We couldn’t get the second goal to kill off the opposition, although there were chances – Altidore brought a good block out of Artur Boruc, while Ji Dong-won finished weakly with a better opportunity than he realised he had.

The ball from Johnson to set up that chance was superb; probably the pass of the match and Ji should have done much better.

When Southampton did equalise two minutes from time, the fact that it came from a set piece will not go down well.

For the second Premier League game running, a set piece has been our undoing – a corner against Fulham and a free-kick at Southampton.

Turning a negative into a positive, I suppose we could say, in the first two games, that at least we haven’t conceded a goal from open play. And despite the misery of conceding a late, late goal, I don’t think a draw at St Mary’s is a bad result.

Of course, one point from six is not a good start for Sunderland, but the damage for that was done in the home game against Fulham, not at St Mary’s last weekend.