Sunderland launch stunning fightback to salvage draw and maintain their unbeaten run

Rarely will you see a point celebrated like this one.

Saturday, 24th November 2018, 3:56 pm
Updated Saturday, 24th November 2018, 4:00 pm
Lynden Gooch rescues an unlikely point for Sunderland

Sunderland were down and out.

Their early momentum had been checked by yet another red card and when Josh Ginnelly scored a wonerful goal early in the second half, the inquest looked set to begin.

The Black Cats, led by Aiden McGeady, had other ideas.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

They forced a litany of errors from Walsall and salvaged a draw from the most challenging of positions.

In the bigger picture it will look like two points dropped due to more disciplinary issues, but it was another game which showed the character of Jack Ross's side.

Ross had sprung a surprise with his starting XI, matching Wrexham's 4-4-2 and installing Bryan Oviedo in an unfamiliar right-wing berth.

Lynden Gooch moved infield to partner Josh Maja and for the opening period Sunderland played some of their best football of the season.

The tempo was high and the movement superb, the visitors forcing a succession of corners.

Their first opening came four minutes in, when an excellent cross from Power was headed wide by Tom Flanagan.

Oviedo served notice of his threat soon after, cutting inside and forcing a save from Liam Roberts.

Power then hit a firm volley from the edge of the area, Roberts tuning over the bar. From the following corner Jack Baldwin struck a loose ball firmly, unfortunate to see his effort blocked by a Walsall defender.

The Black Cats looked completely dominant until the crucial flashpoint that turned the ride of the game.

Power looked to be in little danger when the ball fell to him in the middle of the park, but his touch was poor and has he looked to make amends, he crashed into a 50-50 challenge with Liam Kinsella.

The referee showed no hesitation in reaching for his red card.

Sunderland's initial response was good but Walsall began to make their numerical advantage count and they were immensely fortunate to still be level at the break.

A goal was disallowed for offside before George Dobson inexplicably hit the post, capitalising on a misunderstanding between Tom Flanagan and Jon McLaughlin but then hitting the post from a matter of yards.

Within ten minutes of the second half, however, Sunderland's resistance was emphatically broken.

The first goal came within 40 seconds, full-back Nicky Devlin getting to the byline before crossing, Josh Gordon applying the finishing touch.

Winger Josh Ginnelly made it two shortly after, cutting in from the left and beating McLaughlin with a stunning drive.

Sunderland looked to be wilting but were given an unlikely lifeline when Aiden McGeady struck Lynden Gooch's speculative cross goalward, finding the bottom corner with a good finish.

Walsall suddenly looked panicked, gifting possession away and dropping deeper.

The Black Cats had a good chance to level when Adam Matthews ran on to an excellent cross, but his touch was heavy and the danger passed.

A host of contentious decisions continued to rile Sunderland, with assistant James Fowler shown a yellow card for dissent.

After surviving the storm that followed McGeady's goal, Walsall began to find space on the counter and substitute Morgan Ferrier ought to have done better when he headed a cross from Devlin over the bar.

They looked to be back in control but Sunderland maintained their unbeaten run by salvaging the most unlikely of points.

They came within inces when the outstanding McGeady spun into space on the left, finding Matthews whose header was somehow cleared.

But they found the net when Lynden Gooch turned from his marker and fired a low drive into the far corner, sparking utter delirium in the two stands completely dominated by the travelling support.

The forward almost won it, firing just over from range before the final whistle was blown on a remarkable game.

Sunderland XI: McLaughlin; Matthews, Flanagan, Baldwin, James; Power, Honeyman; Oviedo (O'Nien, 49), McGeady, Gooch; Maja (Maguire, 61)

Subs: Patterson, Loovens, Ozturk, Sinclair, Mumba

Walsall XI: Roberts; Devlin, Martin, Guthrie, Leahy; Ismail (Morris, 37), Kinsella, Dobson, Ginnelly; Cook, Gordon (Ferrier, 79)

Subs: Dunn, Fitzwater, Wilson, Osbourne, Ronan

Bookings: Gordon, 42 Honeyman, 53 Gooch, 74 Fowler, 83

Red Card: Power, 23

Attendance: 7,868 (3,279 away)