Brentford 3-3 Sunderland: Promising first half gives way to frustration as Black Cats continue to struggle

Grabban looked to have sealed the game just before half-time
Grabban looked to have sealed the game just before half-time
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Penned in by a resurgent Brentford and the winds of Storm Brian, Sunderland could only hold onto a point and were perhaps fortunate to escape with even that.

It had looked like a dream away day, 3-1 up at half-time having followed the template that saw them take Norwich apart in the heady days of the early season.

They played to their strengths, defending better in the deeper areas and utilising their threatening players on the counter.

Duncan Watmore and Lewis Grabban were at their menacing and composed best, turning around an early deficit by running into the acres of space left behind the Brentford defensive line.

It was an impressive response to an all too familiar opening goal, a press from the opposition causing Lee Cattermole to lose the ball and the defence to part.

Didier Ndong was back to his best at the base of midfield, winning challenges and intercepting; Lamine Kone powerful and impressive behind him.

It would have been three points to relieve the pressure on Simon Grayson, to buy valuable breathing space and confidence ahead of two crucial home games in the next ten days.

Instead, it was a point that does little to alleviate the team’s lowly position and will leave frustration smouldering.

The Black Cats were unfortunate that the second goal came from a free-kick given against Ndong who had seemingly done everything right to win the ball, and that the equaliser saw a significant deflection off substitute Yoann Barbet.

Nevertheless, Brentford, with the wind on their backs, were utterly dominant in the second half and more than worthy of a point.

Sunderland lost their composure, unable to keep the ball and break the pressure from their opponents. The substitutes were unable to make a significant difference, Callum McManaman not able to threaten and keep the ball as Watmore had done for much of the first half, and in truth there looked to have been only winner.

For all the positives of three goals and some excellent counter-attacking in the first half, bad habits continue to hamper Grayson's side, drifting for spells in the game and defensively unconvincing in the extreme.

That will reinforce question marks many have over the manager, who knows the pressure will be significant to break Sunderland's long spell without a win.