Sunderland start campaign with frustrating draw against Oxford after Lynden Gooch penalty
Sunderland started the season with a frustrating draw at home to Oxford United.
Lynden Gooch had got the home side back on level terms in the opening moments of the second half after Tariqe Fosu’s early goal.
They pushed for a winner but ultimately failed to threaten the away goal in a disappointing start to the campaign.
Ross had gone with an attacking XI, sticking with three centre-backs but pushing debutant Mac McNulty right up alongside Will Grigg.
It made for an open start to the game and though Sunderland looked lively, it was Oxford who came closest.
Tarique Fosu showed his pace and threat right from the start, given the freedom to roam across the pitch and drive into dangerous areas. He ought to have done better when he picked the ball up just inside the box, flashing an effort wide of the far post.
Sunderand responded quickly.
Ross had shown much faith in Elliot Embleton by giving him the number ten role, and the youngster played a clever one-two with Marc McNulty that almost produced a goal. McNulty’s effort from the edge of the box looked to be heading for the top corner but Simon Eastwood did superbly to push it just wide.
The hosts looked lively but were caught out trying to play out from the back, Conor McLaughlin taking one touch too many and giving Ben Woodburn the opportunity to pounce. He teed up Fosu and though Jordan Willis showed impressive pace to narrow the angle, the winger had just enough time to force an effort past McLaughlin.
Sunderland played with intent and with Dylan McGeouch showing good composure, they did open some promising chances to get the ball wide and try and feed the strikers. The composure in the final third was desperately lacking, though, with a number of crosses overhit or firing into the first defender.
Oxford’s attacking threat was diminishing, with the referee speaking with captain John Mousinho about timewasting as early as the 20th minute, though they had the ball in the net soona fter when when Rob Dickie met a corner. The referee blew for a foul on Jon McLaughlin, who was blocked off as he came to gather.
The home side pressed for an equaliser but chances before the break were few and far between, Embleton firing a free-kick on the edge of the box straight into the wall just before the interval.
Ross resisted the temptation to tinker at the break and was rewarded within minutes. The home side built an overlap on the right and George Dobson did well to find Gooch, who drove past Josh Ruffles and drew the foul.
Oxford protested fiercely, but Gooch got straight up and thumped his effort into the top corner, sending Eastwood the wrong way.
The Black Cats were beginning to exert serious pressure on the visiting side, again just lacking the killer touch as McNulty got free down the left but overhit a cross for the onrushing Grigg.
Ross threw on Watmore, who brought an almost immediate yellow card from Gorrin as he raced free. Tom Flanagan came close when he thumped a loose ball from a corner towareds goal, but Oxford were able to block and clear.
Oxford threatened little, though Woodburn fired just over the bar after McLaughlin punched a cross from Jamie Mackie to the edge of the area.
Ross continued to throw on his attacking problems in search of a winner, with both Aiden McGeady and Chris Maguire introduced.
It was the away side who had the best chance as stoppage time neared, with Sunderland caught in possession. Oxford broke down the left and it took an excellent last-ditch block from Dylan McGeouch to deny substitute Rob Hall’s low effort.
The Black Cats finished the game camped in Oxford’s half, but were unable to create any clear cut openings, McGeady firing a free-kick straight into the wall at the beginning of stoppage time.
Sunderland XI: McLaughlin; McLaughlin, Willis, Flanagan; Gooch (Maguire, 81), McGeouch, Dobson, Hume; Embleton (Watmore, 59), McNulty, Grigg (McGeady, 70)
Subs: Burge, Ozturk, O’Nien, Leadbitter
Oxford United XI: Eastwood, Cadden, Ruffles, Dickie, Mousinho, Gorrin, Rodriguez, Henry, Brannagan (Moore, 90), Woodburn (Hanson, 75), Fosu (Hall, 81) , Mackie
Subs: Hall, Long, Stevens, Sykes, Hanson, Napa, Moore
Bookings: Mousinho, 55 Gorrin, 65 Gooch, 69 Henry, 90 Brannagan, 90