Frustration and pride in equal measure as Sunderland show they are a united club

SAFC 1-1 OUFC 01-09-2018 EFL League1. Picture by FRANK REID
SAFC 1-1 OUFC 01-09-2018 EFL League1. Picture by FRANK REID
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This was a strange game in which frustration, disappointment and pride were all fair emotions.

Sunderland’s goalkeeping coach, Jimmy Walker, perhaps put it best on twitter.

“Tough game yesterday and a decent point in the end. A reminder we won’t have everything all our own way in the coming months but if everyone sticks together like that it gives us a right chance.

“After the red the lads dug in and the fans evened up the numbers massively.”

There was frustration with the refereeing, a maddeningly inconsistent performance from Mark Heywood.

When both managers agree on that front, you know something has gone awry.

There was frustration, too, with Sunderland’s performance.

In truth, there was not one prolonged spell in the game when the Black Cats were able to do what they do best. Retain the ball for a spell, move it quickly, open up gaps in the Stadium of Light pitch and exploit them with their attacking quality.

The precision and tempo which picked apart Scunthorpe United was missing in an opening spell that left Sunderland chasing the game.

They seemed taken aback by the pace and intensity that Oxford United attacked with, caught cold and the visitors were more than worthy of their lead.

While the red card shown to Max Power was harsh, the number of cards picked up by the Black Cats in the opening stages showed they had been rattled.

As Jack Ross himself said, it was a poor start and one he will reflect on.

In that sense, this game felt like an opportunity missed.

Yet there is every reason for Sunderland to feel a sense of pride.

When Power saw red it looked the game could spin wildly out of control for the Black Cats. In previous seasons, you suspect it would have done.

They were on the ropes but the response inside the ground was phenomenal, supporters not only staying with their team but powering them on.

The response from the ten men in the second half was excellent.

The substitution from Jack Ross, brinigng Charlie Wyke on and moving Josh Maja out wide, meant that Sunderland were able to retain an attacking threat despite their numerical disadvantage and they actually carved out or three of four good openings.

Ross’s changes were supplemented by a superb of display of energy and hard-running from his players, led by homegrown duo George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch.

In the last ten minutes Sunderland looked understandably leggy, but the improving Alim Ozturk and the quite oustanding Jack Baldwin helped to keep Sunderland level.

It was a point that at one stage looked certain to evade them.

The unbeaten run continues and the unity in the Stadium of Light is something worth celebrating.

Sunderland have the individual quality to succeed this season but more importantly, they seem to have the togertheness and the resilience.

That will be vital in a division where the games are frenetic and the opposition robust.

For Jack Ross, the work this week will be in ensuring that his team are better able to demonstrate their quality than they were in this draw.

Controlling games in this league is a tough challnge where possession is rarely prioritised.

It feels as if Dylan McGeouch’s time is drawing ever closer.

On this pitch and in this superb atmosphere, he should thrive.