Fleetwood Town 2 Sunderland 2: This is how it played out as two late goals cost Cats vital win
A last gasp-penalty saw Sunderland drop two points from a seemingly dominant position at Fleetwood Town.
The Black Cats looked to have secured the points through a Ross Stewart header and an AIden McGeady penalty, but Callum Morton reduced the deficit with just ten minutes to play.
Sunderland looked as if they had seen out the danger when the referee pointed to the spot, Luke O’Nien adjuded to have committed a foul.
Ged Garner stepped up to conert and secure a draw for Simon Grayson’s side.
After a relatively sluggish start Sunderland began to control possession, and forged the first opening of the game when Lynden Gooch found space on the right. His cross to the middle of the box was excellent, and Stewart was left disappointed that he could only head straight into the arms of ALex Cairns in the Fleetwood goal.
McGeady fired over from 25 yards just minutes later, the Black Cats playing out confidently from the back and pushing Fleetwood’s back five deep into their own half.
In that opening quarter the home side’s attacking threat was limited largely to long throws, Stewart making a number of crucial contributions as he rose to clear from his own box.
Sunderland looked the better side, but had to avoid a major scare when Callum Morton was able to break in behind Callum Doyle down the left.
Thorben Hoffmann did superbly to claw his low effort clear, the German then racing to clear the danger with an excellent sliding challenge
It was a superb piece of goalkeeping, and proved to be all the more crucial when Stewart was given another opportunity at the other end just two minutes later.
The left-footed free kick from Elliot Embleton was inch perfect, whipped into the heart of the area. This time the Scot was able to delicately turn hs header into the bottom corner, with Cairns rooted to the spot.
Growing in confidence, it looked briefly as Sunderland could move into a significant lead.
McGeady went close when he drove towards the byline, firing an ambitious effort just over the crossbar. When Luke O’Nien then found the winger in space, another good move saw Dan Neil drive an effort just over from the edge of the box.
In possession the Black Cats looked confident and composed, but Simon Grayson’s side maintained a counterattacking threat throughout.
They went close when James Hill rose to meet a corner at the back post, his header briefly worrying Hoffmann as it went over the bar.
The visiting side also had another let off when Morton pounced on a poor attempt at a clearance from the previously impressive Bailey Wright, only to lose his footing just as he prepared to shoot on goal.
Grayson made a significant change at the break, bringing on Joe Garner and moving to a more attacking 4-3-3 shape.
It allowed them dominate possesion in the early stages of the half, as Sunderland struggled to get on the ball for any significant period. They were fortunate that when Doyle was caught in a dangerous possession, Ged Garner dwelled too long on the opening and allowed the young centre-back to recover.
The Black Cats were just able to ride out that spell of pressure, and went close themselves when Gooch drove a fine counter attack. After doing well to keep the move alive Embleton teed up McGeady, who forced a decent stop from Cairns as he cut inside and fired towards the top corner.
That counter was beginning to present opportunities, and only a heavy first touch prevent Embleton a meaningful effort on goal when they drove into space again moments later.
Fleetwood were nevertheless seeing more and more of the ball in the opposition half, concerning Johnson sufficiently to turn to Corry Evans from the bench.
With the Northern Irishman waiting, the hosts had their best chance yet.
A brilliant first-time pass caught Winchester out, and released Morton through on goal. The striker looked certain to level, but the full back recovered just in time to get a touch on the effort and divert it wide of the near post.
The visitors responded well to that lapse, enjoying a good spell as McGeady again fired just over as he cut inside.
They went even close when Cirkin, who excelled throughout the game, drove forward from deep after spotting the opportunity to make an interception. He played the ball inside and it found its way to Gooch on the right-hand edge of the box, and the winger saw his firm low drive turned just wide of the post by Cairns.
From the following corner O’Nien headed just wide of the far post, but the referee judged that he was being held by his Fleetwood marker and pointed to the spot.
Cairns was able to get a strong palm to McGeady’s effort, but the Irishman had been able to generate just enough power and the ball bounced into the roof of the net.
It had looked as if it would then be a comfortable end for the Black Cats, but they were pegged back within minutes.
Morton was again released by a clever through ball, and this time he made no mistake in turning it pust Hoffmann as the German rushed off his line.
Sunderland looked uncertain, fortunate that Ged Garner could only flick wide of the far post when the visitors were opened up down the left flank.
It looked as if the points would be heading for Wearside when Hoffmann made a stunning late save from Garner, but in dying moments O’Nien was penalised in the box and Garner was able to convert from the spot.