Sunderland miss opportunity to put pressure on the top two after Shrewsbury draw

Sunderland came from behind again to maintain their unbeaten home record, but dropped two important points in their push for promotion.

Saturday, 29th December 2018, 5:56 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 1:52 am
Sunderland fell behind to Luke Waterfall's header

A Josh Maja header late in the first half got Sunderland back on level terms after Luke Waterfall put the visitors ahead.

With Luton Town only able to draw against Walsall, Sunderland missed the chance to go within striking distance of the top two.

They improved significantly in the second half after a poor opening but couldn't find the crucial second goal.

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It had been a difficult start for the Black Cats, who looked sluggish after the high of playing in front of 46,000 fans on Boxing Day.

They were given an early warning sign in the opening minutes when a corner fell for Luke Waterfall, whose effort was cleared near the line by Josh Maja.

Shrewsbury, not unlike Bradford just days ago, were happy to stay in shape, trying to keep the pitch narrow and break when the ball fell for them.

They were also slowing the game down at every opportunity.

Combined with Sunderland's lack of poise in possession and it made for a frustrating opening at the Stadium of Light.

The Black Cats went a goal down on the half-hour mark, though there general play had actually begun to improve by that point.

Greg Docherty sent in a flat but powerful free-kick from deep, and Waterfall did well to get up and head back across goal into the far corner.

That did kick Sunderland into life, and Tom Flanagan came close to an equaliser when he dragged a low drive at the near post just wide.

Shortly before the break, they got their goal after a superb, quick break on the left side.

Lee Cattermole played a brilliant dummy to release Bryan Oviedo, who fired an excellent cross towards the far post. Josh Maja was once again the most composed man in the stadium as he nodded into the net.

Sunderland struggled to find that momentum after the break, Oviedo suffering an injury after an awkward fall.

Jack Ross also replaced Chris Maguire with Charlie Wyke in search of a crucial second goal.

It was Shrewsbury who had the best chance to take the lead, Lenell John-Lewis running onto a cut-back but losing his composure and blazing over the bar.

Sunderland, though, began to get a real grip on the game even if they couldn't quite find the killer touch.

The visitors were increasingly panicked on the ball, often handing possession straight back to the hosts were beginning to camp inside the opposition half.

The arrival of Duncan Watmore added yet more urgency to Sunderland's ranks.

They came close with ten minutes left to play when Reece James stood up a good cross to the back post, where the rising Wyke could only loop his header over the bar.

Sunderland looked the more likely at the stage but Shewsbury regained their composure and held on for a point, with both sides going close to a late winner.

Jack Baldwin nearly turned a free-kick into his own goal, but Jon McLaughlin blocked and as the Black Cats broke, Mat Sadler had to turn a Watmore effort just over the bar.

Sunderland are now seven points behind leaders Portsmouth, but still have two games in hand.

Sunderland XI: McLaughlin; O'Nien, Flanagan, Baldwin, Oviedo (James, 50); Cattermole, Power; McGeady, Maguire (Wyke, 54), Gooch (Watmore, 67); Maja

Subs: Ruiter, Ozturk, McGeouch, Sinclair

Shrewsbury XI: Arnold, Bolton, Sadler, Waterfall, Haynes (Beckles, 87); Norburn, Grant, Docherty, Laurent (Angol, 76); John-Lewis, Gilliead (Okenabirhie, 67)

Subs: Coleman, Emmanuel, Beckles, Eisa, Sears

Bookings: Norburn, 35 Grant, 37 Docherty, 43 Cattermole, 59 Baldwin, 82 Haynes, 87

Attendance: 33,288 (697 away)