This is how it played out as Sunderland are held to frustrating draw by Lincoln City
Sunderland’s play-off hopes took a dent as they were held to a draw despite dominating their clash with Lincoln City on Saturday afternoon.
Corry Evans struck the post in a game where the Black Cats had all the significant chances, but poor finishing cost them dearly as they failed to capitalise on a number of good opportunities.
Patrick Roberts in particular was a constant threat from Alex Neil’s side, but his excellent service wasn’t matched in front of goal.
Lincoln barely flickered through the game, though Anthony Patterson did make make one good late stop to ensure an afternoon of frustration was no worse than that.
Manchester United ‘tipped’ to sign £20m Newcastle United star and striker sold by Rafa Benitez
What Lynden Gooch told Dan Neil following midfielder's red card in Sunderland’s defeat at Sheffield United
Phil Smith's Sunderland player ratings: who impressed for Alex Neil's side despite Sheffield United defeat
Ex-Sunderland youngster completes Scotland switch and divulges what Alex Neil told him prior to release
Sunderland AFC news: Neil Warnock reveals talks to Luke O'Nien failed because of wages and agents fees.
Lincoln’s powerful front two had convinced Neil to stick with the same shape from Sunderland’s two recent home win, but Dan Neil and Roberts both earned a call up to the starting XI off their back of their game-changing cameos a week previous.
The latter in particular was hugely influential as the Black Cats made all the running in the opening exchanges, Luke O’Nien headng a cross from Lynden Gooch just over the bar befoe the referee blew for a foul.
Roberts in particular was easily finding space as he drifted into the space behind Lincoln’s wing-back, and a good one-two with Lynden Gooch led to his effort from the edge of the box being deflected just over the bar.
Sunderland’s press was forcing Lincoln to cough up possession in dangerous areas, and Neil came close when meeting Roberts’ pass on the edge of the box, firing just over the bar. When Roberts was then inches way from connecting with an inswinging Jack Clarke cross just moments later, it looked like simply a matter of time before the visitors took the lead.
Gradually, though, Lincoln began to settle and enjoy more ball in Sunderland’s half, the influence of that lively red-and-white frontline beginning to fade.
It was still Sunderland making the best of the chances though, Clarke pouncing on a loose pass and firing inches wide of the far post mdiway through the half before then hitting a first-time effort from just inside the box even closer to the far corner.
For the most part the hosts had weathered that early storm, but could only forge their first meaningful chance a minute before the interval when Tom Hopper turned a low cross wide at the far post.
Sunderand had enjoyed much the better of the opening half, but went into the second needing to find an extra gear if they were to get over the line.
Clarke again had them within inches of taking the lead when they began brightly, collecting a neat backheel from Roberts before curling a shot/cross just wide of the far post with Wright comfortably beaten in the Lincoln goal.
Though shots on target were hard to come by it was again the visitors starting the half comfortably in the ascendancy, Stewart unable to connect with a Clarke free kick to the back post five minutes later.
Lincoln were offering little, and Sunderland struck the woodwork when Roberts again broke into a dangerous area down the right flank. His cutback to the penalty spot was good and though Evans showed good composure to turn it towards goal, it struck the foot of the post with Wright rooted to the spot.
Roberts then felt he should have been awaded a penalty when he broke part his marker to try and meet a through ball into the box, but the referee waved play on to the fury of the Sunderland frontline.
Lincoln were finding it impossible to contain the former Celtic winger, who again drove at the heart of the defence before releasing Clarke with an excellent through ball. The Spurs loanee looked certian to score, but pushed his effort agonisingly wide of the far post.
Sunderland had been almost totally dominant, but it was at risk of becoming an afternoon of immense frustration with less than half an hour to play.
Neil turned to his bench, and substitute Jermain Defoe went close to scoring his first goal since returning to the club when he gathered a pass from Roberts on the edge of the box and fired just wide of the far post.
Lincoln had twice gone close from corners, underlining the precarious position Sunderland found themselves in despite being utterly dominant through the first 80 minutes.
The hosts looked like they might be about to snatch it with five minutes left to play, but Patterson made an excellent stop from Cullen’s close-range header before Evans cleared well in front of him.
Sunderland would threaten once more as Evans drew a good stop from Wright with a volley fro long range, before a stunning save from the Lincoln goalkeeper denied what was a certain goal from Stewart’s header.
The hosts survived what little was remaining of injury time to take a point.
Lincoln City XI: Wright, Poole, Jackson, Hopper, Maguire, Bramall, Walsh (Whittaker, 65), McGrandles, Fiorini, Norton-Cuffy, Marquis (Cullen, 79)
Subs: Sanders, Scully, Bishop, House, Sorensen
Sunderland XI: Patterson; Winchester, Wright, Cirkin; Gooch (Doyle, 85), Evans, Neil (Defoe, 74), Clarke (Dajaku, 74); O’Nien, Roberts; Stewart
Subs: Hoffmann, Doyle, Hume, Matete, Embleton
Bookings: Evans, 39 Walsh, 50
Attendance: 10,346 (2,081 away)
A message from the Football Clubs Editor
Our aim is to provide you with the best, most up-to-date and most informative Sunderland AFC coverage 365 days a year.
This depth of coverage costs, so to help us maintain the high-quality reporting that you are used to, please consider taking out a subscription to our new sports-only package here.
Your support is much appreciated. Richard Mennear, Football Clubs Editor