The half-time tensions on the touchline and a Sunderland boost: Behind the scenes of the Oxford United draw
Thousands of Sunderland fans will have watched the win over Oxford United via live streams – but there are those few moments that the cameras don’t capture.
We take a look at some of the moments you might have missed from the League One win – from the touchline tensions to a Sunderland boost.
DENVER HUME’S RETURN
While much of the focus pre-match was on Jordan Jones’ return (and rightly so, given the major impact he had on the Black Cats in an attacking sense), Hume’s imminent return is of equal importance.
The youngster may not have made the bench for this game, but he was part of the first-team squad for the clash and took part in the pre-match warm-up alongside his teammates.
And he looked sharp too, which is perhaps no surprise given Hume has been involved in two games in the last fortnight as he steps-up his return.
A first-team return may now be just around the corner, handing Lee Johnson a considerable boost ahead of the final weeks of the campaign.
The Sunderland head coach may not be in any hurry to throw Hume back into the squad given Callum McFadzean’s improved form of late, but there is no hiding from the fact that Hume could aid the Black Cats in their push for automatic promotion.
INTEREST IN SUNDERLAND IS RISING
It’s been noticeable since the turn of the year that interest in Sunderland is growing.
Much of that is, of course, due to the takeover of the club by Kyril Louis-Dreyfus – but so too has the teams improved form seen media interest in the club rise.
And it was therefore no surprise that the press box was again packed for the visit of Oxford United.
There were reporters from outlets from as far as Thailand present on Wearside, as well as a host of national broadcasters and newspaper.
Surely a sign that things are going well for Sunderland!
SWITCHING UP THE SET PIECES
Lee Johnson had explained in the build-up to the game how some extra work on the training ground had seen his side improve their output from set-pieces.
Aiden O’Brien netted from a corner in the win at Bristol Rovers last weekend and while there were no further set-play goals to speak off against Oxford United, the evidence of the additional work at the Academy of Light was clear to see.
In the first-half, Sunderland mixed things up regularly from their corners.
One was played low by Aiden McGeady to Jordan Jones, whose shot lacked conviction and was cleared – but had the connection been cleaner, then it would have surely tested the goalkeeper.
Then moments later, Sunderland’s players congregated outside the area before looking to attack the corner.
It was an interesting approach and we will no doubt see further innovation from set-pieces in the coming weeks.
LYNDEN GOOCH’S CAST
It was scarcely noticeable in the first half, until the American peeled away to celebrate his goal.
But Gooch was wearing a cast on his right arm during the win over Oxford – something he wasn’t sporting in Sunderland’s last fixture at Bristol Rovers.
The winger looked to have two fingers wrapped with a cast them covering a large part of his lower arm.
Here’s hoping it’s nothing too serious!
OXFORD UNITED’S UNWANTED RECORD
Sunderland fans may well have been confident of securing a result despite falling behind against Oxford, and with good reason.
For in each of their visits to the Stadium of Light since the Black Cats’ drop into League One, it has been the U’s who have taken the lead. But in each of those games, victory has eluded Oxford.
In the 2018/19 campaign, Ricky Holmes netted an early goal before Charlie Wyke ensured the spoils would be shared.
It was a similar tale last season, with Tarique Fosu’s opener cancelled out by Lynden Gooch.
And there was no case of third time lucky for Oxford who again left the Stadium of Light without a win despite taking the lead.
THE TOUCHLINE TENSIONS
Much of the talk post-match was of the allegations of a half-time incident, with both Karl Robinson and Lee Johnson speaking about that very subject following the game.
The alleged incident took place inside the Stadium of Light tunnel, with tensions having risen on the touchline as the half wore on.
Indeed, there was plenty of noise to be heard from the tunnel after referee Trevor Kettle blew his whistle for half-time – with the official himself standing close to the tunnel for a number of minutes before heading back to the changing rooms.
Then after the break, Kettle and the fourth official had to speak with both sets of staff prior to the resumption of the game as some words were shared.
At that point, the official clearly indicated that any further touchline tensions would lead to to him asking individuals to head to the stand – and as it was, Oxford boss Robinson was shown a red card after voicing his displeasure at Sunderland’s second goal when a quick free-kick was taken despite calls from the visitors for play to be stopped with Cameron Brannagan down.
As the man himself explained: "I got sent off for saying 'that was a bleeping disgrace and you need to do your bleeping job'."
He spent the final minutes of the game sat in the rows behind the dugouts as his side sought what ultimately proved to be an elusive leveller.