From late heartbreak to shambolic defending: The 11 games that proved costly for Sunderland in the 2020/21 season

Sunderland's 2020/21 season was one which delivered plenty of highs - but also several lows.

Sunday, 23rd May 2021, 3:31 pm
From late heartbreak to shambolic defending: The 11 games that proved costly for Sunderland in the 2020/21 season

From a win at Wembley to more play-off heartbreak, the Black Cats are now left to reflect on another season in which they failed to escape from League One.

While yesterday's result against Lincoln City guaranteed that the club would be spending a fourth season in the third tier, there were a whole host of games before that proved costly.

From late goals conceded to dropped points at crucial moments, there will be a number of matches which Sunderland will no doubt reflect upon and wonder 'what if...'.

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The first game of the League One season brought with it plenty of optimism - much of which had vanished when the Black Cats fell behind to a penalty just three minutes in. Chris Maguire levelled late on, but this was two dropped points against a side who were eventually relegated.

The club’s home record in particular proved a concern, while the side also struggled against teams at the wrong end of the table throughout the campaign.

Here, we pick out 11 of the games which ultimately proved costly for the Black Cats across the course of a long season:

This was perhaps a good point given the fact Sunderland played the latter stages of the game with ten men, but they could have been out of sight at half-time. Danny Graham, Charlie Wyke and Aiden O'Brien all missed big chances in London.
This game was perhaps the beginning of the end for Phil Parkinson. Having controlled the game and spurned numerous opportunities to kill off the clash, Sunderland conceded a 93rd minute leveller. More dropped points when the Wearsiders could have been home and dry.
Lee Johnson's first game in charge produced a disappointing result, with a struggling Wigan clinching a vital three points. It was a poor showing from Sunderland.
This game was one which proved costly, but arguably for reasons out of Sunderland's control - given a COVID outbreak left the side without a number of key players and a cobbled together line-up.
The first game back after the COVID-enforced lay-off was a poor display, but Sunderland again dropped points against a side who would ultimately be relegated come the end of the season.
Heavy rain meant this game was never going to be a great spectacle, but Plymouth adapted far better to the conditions than Sunderland - who were below par on the night.
Amid a concerning run of form, Sunderland needed a win. It was within their grasp too, until Jordan Graham netted a 90th minute leveller for the Gills.
With their lengthy unbeaten run having ended days before, Sunderland wanted to bounce back at the DW Stadium. They didn't, and fell to a poor defeat after some shambolic defending from set pieces.
A game of fine margins. Sunderland hit the post at one end, Blackpool score moments later via a deflection at the other. How different could the final table have been if the scores were reversed in this one?
Sunderland have a great chance to build-up some momentum ahead of the play-offs as they hosted a side already consigned to relegation, but failed to take that opportunity - and then began the play-offs poorly at Sincil Bank.