Sunderland slide to 15th in League One after labouring to 0-0 draw with Bolton
Phil Parkinson faced more calls for his departure as the Black Cats laboured to a 0-0 draw against struggling Bolton Wanderers.
The result saw Sunderlnd drop to 15th in the League One table, six points adrift of the play-off positions.
A number of supporters sang ‘we want Parky out’ as a woeful game drew to its conclusion, while there were some calls for club legend Kevin Phillips.
The Black Ctas were left frustrated with some controversial refereeing calls in the first half but they produced next to nothing in the seond and were fortunate that the visitors spurned some big opportunities in front of goal.
Not in action last weekend, Sunderland came into the game acutely aware of the need not just to close the gap on the teams at the top of the league, but also to lift the club from their lowest-ever league position.
Parkinson had stuck with the same shape that he had used in the 1-1 draw with Blackpool, relying on Denver Hume and Luke O’Nien to provide thrust and energy from the wing-back positions.
Hume started brightly with a number of trademark surging runs forward, his early cross turned wide by Charlie Wyke as Sunderland started on the front foot.
They enjoyed the vast majority of possession in the opening exchanges, but their defensive vulnerabilities were nevertheless clear and they were immensely fortunate that Ronan Darcy volleyed over 11 minutes, left entirely unmarked in the box as Joe Dodoo got past his man and crossed from the byline.
Wyke forced a decent stop from Remi Matthews as he rose to head a corner towards goal, and shortly after a controversial passage of play left both sides frustrated.
Sunderland were adamant they should have had a penalty when Josh Earl tried to shepherd a corner out of his box, appearing to use his arm to control the ball. The referee waved play on and the home side’s defending was abject, Earl allowed to make it to the halfway line unopposed before playing the pass infield where two Bolton forwards had not been tracked. Darcy looked to set to score as he burst through but Jon McLaughlin did well, standing tall to block his effort.
An end-to-end contest was lacking quality and composure in possession but both sides were sensing opportunities.
Duncan Watmore should have done better when Lynden Gooch spun into space and played him in, but his touch on his weaker foot was poor and allowed the defence to recover, his shot well blocked.
Parkinson was left enraged again on the half hour mark as Tom Flanagan turned a corner into the back of the net, the referee blowing for a foul on the goalkeeper in the process.
The Black Cats looked to be in the ascendancy but it was Keith Hill’s side who passed up the best openings to take the lead before the break.
Alim Ozturk looked to be under little pressure as he chased a ball back towards goal, but his backpass was underhit and allowed former Sunderland striker Daryl Murphy to get free.
McLaughlin did superbly to narrow the angle and halt his progress, forcing him into play the pass backwards and when Luke Murphy gathered, the home defence were better poised. The midfielder overran the ball and with the angle tight, fired at McLaughlin who made a smart stop.
It was another crucial intervention from the Scot, but he himself was guilty of a slack pass just minutes later. It went straight to Daryl Murphy, but his effort from distance was well over the bar.
The second half began with little in the way of quality or tempo, but rhe Black Cats spurned a good opening as Watmore played a low cross across the box.
It missed its primary targets but found its way to O’Nien on the edge of the box, who fired wide.
Bolton had offered little threat since the interval but they carved open the best opening by far just over 20 minutes from the end, Josh Emmanuel easily escaping a challenge from Denver Hume. His cross was precise, and it required outstanding reflexes from McLaughlin to deny Daryl Murphy’s header from close range.
Sunderland were labouring, the Roker End singing for greats of years gone by as their side on the pith struggled to create any real openings.
Parkinson drew the ire of supporters when Tom Flanagan pulled up injured, opting to bring on Laurens De Bock rather than another forward.
They looked short of confidence and quality, though substitute Chris Maguire drew a superb stop from Matthews when he arrowed a free kick towards the far corner with ten minutes to play.
He went close again moments later, a tiring Bolton side forced to concede fouls that were bringing the home side into the game.
Bolton were unable to get forward but the Black Cats still struggled to create, the fans calling for change their club’s woes worsened even further.
Matthews had to do superbly to deny Marc McNulty in the dying embers but it was too little, too late as the away side held on for a point.
Sunderland AFC XI: McLaughlin; O’Nien, Willis, Ozturk, Flanagan (De Bock, 72), Hume; Leadbitter, Power; Watmore (Maguire, 64), Gooch (McNulty, 79), Wyke
Subs: Burge, McLaughlin, Grigg, Sammut
Bolton Wanderers XI: Matthews; Emmanuel, Bridcutt, Wright, Earl; Verlinden (O’Grady, 64), Lowe, Murphy (L), Dodoo; Darcy (Chicksen, 87); Murphy (D)
Subs: Alexander, Politic, Zouma, Senior, Graham
Attendance: 33, 821
Bookings: Emmanuel, 19 Lowe, 20 Flanagan, 43 Bridcutt, 80