Sunderland held to FA Cup draw at Walsall despite Aiden McGeady opener
Sunderland will have to play Walsall for the third time in a matter of weeks after the second round FA Cup tie finished in a 1-1 draw.
Aiden McGeady, with his sixth goal in seven games, put Sunderland ahead seven minutes before half-time but a much-improved Walsall display second half pegged the Black Cats back.
Newcastle United fan Andy Cook scoring the equaliser, a deserved one for the hosts at the Banks's Stadium.
It was another competitive encounter between the two sides, who had drawn 2-2 in League One here the week before.
And they will now face each other again a week on Tuesday at the Stadium of Light with a place in the third round of the FA Cup at stake.
Max Power was named in the starting line-up, a speedy return for him to the Banks's Stadium after his red card here last weekend was overturned on Monday.
With George Honeyman missing after picking up a knock in training on Friday, Ross opted to go with the experienced Aiden McGeady as skipper for the FA Cup clash.
With Honeyman missing, Sunderland made just one change with Luke O'Nien starting.
It was only his fifth start of the campaign but certainly a deserved one after a recent run of impressive performances from the bench, O'Nien scoring in the 4-2 win over Barnsley.
There was a late change before kick-off with Chris Maguire withdrawn after looking uncomfortable during the warm-up, following a chat with Jack Ross Bryan Oviedo started instead.
McGeady was heavily involved in the early stages, he got on the end of a delicious Adam Matthews cross with the outside of his boot but McGeady’s effort was weak.
There were few clear chances in the opening 15 minutes, Andy Cook couldn’t quite get on the end of a diving header from a Luke Leahy cross, that was the closest the home side came.
Oviedo looked a threat cutting in from the right wing, with 20 minutes on the clock he fired a low effort at goal, Maja getting a toe on the end of it and Liam Roberts forced into an excellent stop, pushing the ball away for a corner.
Morgan Ferrier attempted to spark some life into the hosts, with an ambitious attempt on the half volley 25 minutes in, the ball always rising as it sailed over McLaughlin’s crossbar.
It was a comfortable opening half hour for Sunderland, Walsall threatening on the break on occasion but in the main it was the visitors that dominated.
And the breakthrough came seven minutes before the break. Gooch played the ball out wide to Oviedo, he played a first-time pass across the face of goal but Maja was unable to capitalise, the ball breaking to McGeady who fired Sunderland in front.
A deserved lead.
In the 45th minute there was a minute’s applause for Sunderland fan Keith Charlton, who sadly passed away this week.
The Sunderland fanatic followed the Black Cats home and away and it was a nice tribute from the travelling supporters at Walsall.
HT: Walsall 0 Sunderland 1
Matthews was booked four minutes into the second half for a handball, stretching out while he was on the floor to touch the ball away.
Neither side had made any changes at the break, with the travelling 948-strong Sunderland support in fine voice behind the goal.
With 51 minutes on the clock, Walsall threatened, a deep ball to the back post headed back across the face of goal by Nicky Devlin. Sunderland cleared but it was a warning sign.
Two minutes later they were level, Newcastle United fan Cook with the well-struck finish past McLaughlin following a Devlin cross.
Walsall were almost in again a minute later but an offside decision let them off the hook after some sloppy play.
Whatever Dean Keates said at half-time had worked, Walsall much improved, Osbourne’s cross from the right flank flying across the face of goal on the hourmark, with Sunderland rattled.
It was end to end with Roberts diving low to save McGeady’s long-range effort, Walsall then broke, McLaughlin with a big save to deny the onrushing Ferrier.
Jerome Sinclair entered the action for Oviedo on the hour mark, moments later Cook hit the woodwork for Walsall with a firm header, Sunderland living dangerously.
With 15 minutes to go, Ross made his second sub, Bali Mumba replacing Gooch, the winger worked hard as ever but wasn’t as effective in the final third as he usually is.
It was a disappointing second half from a Sunderland perspective, chances limited with Walsall a threat throughout.
There was late Sunderland pressure, Mumba finding O’Nien but his effort blocked. Baldwin then shot wide with a volley.
FT: Walsall 1 Sunderland 1
Walsall (4-3-3): Roberts, Leahy, Dobson (C), Guthrie, Devlin, Kinsella, Ferrier (Ginnelly, 88), Johnson, Osbourne, Gordon, Cook.
Subs Not Used: Dunn, Edwards, Morris, Kouhyar, Parker, Ronan.
Goals: Cook (53) Booked: Cook (34, foul),
Sunderland AFC (4-4-2): McLaughlin, Matthews, James, Baldwin, Flanagan, Power, O'Nien, Gooch (Mumba, 75), Oviedo (Sinclair, 63), McGeady (C), Maja.
Subs Not Used: Ruiter, Ozturk, Hackett, Bainbridge
Goals: McGeady (38) Booked: Matthews (49, handball)
Referee: Carl Boyeson.
Attendance: 3,140 (SAFC 948)