Sunderland Analysis: Southampton draw felt more gutting than the 8-0 drubbing

Sunderland players after Southampton's equaliser
Sunderland players after Southampton's equaliser
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Amidst the many low points for Sunderland this season, there perhaps hasn't been such a sense of despair at the sound of the final whistle.

When former Sunderland transfer target Virgil van Dijk finally beat Vito Mannone by sweeping the ball inside the near post... well, a mixture of nausea, anger and dejection consumed everyone of a red and white persuasion inside St Mary's.

It felt worse than the 8-0 drubbing on the same ground last season.

Sunderland were just 90 seconds away from THE perfect afternoon - Newcastle and Norwich both suffering costly defeats and the Black Cats snatching an oh-so-precious victory.

It would have been the perfect manner of victory for Sam Allardyce too.

In a tightly-poised encounter when Lamine Kone and Younes Kaboul had been utterly dogged in the heart of the Sunderland defence, and the rest of the side had worked diligently to provide a protective barrier, the Black Cats had kept Southampton at bay.

Even when the Saints had found a way through, Vito Mannone repeatedly came to the rescue.

When Jermain Defoe tucked away his 11th goal of the campaign, Sunderland were heading for that 1-0 win which Allardyce has been craving.

A first clean sheet since November would have arrived, and Allardyce's players would have proved their capabilities of converting one point into three.

But as has been the frustrating case in so many games over recent weeks, Sunderland couldn't see the game out.

Sunderland sat far too deep to protect that one-goal lead and invited pressure from the 10-man Saints and eventually, at the death, the cruel equaliser arrived.

Perhaps it's beneficial that Sunderland now have a two-week break to recover because it might take several days to come to terms at two squandered points.

Perhaps, they need a game straightaway to get this one out of their system.

Eventually, the Sunderland camp will come to terms with the draw, examine the positives and prepare themselves for a gigantic encounter against an imploding Newcastle side in a fortnight.

But at the moment, little will comfort the raw pain of what might have been.