Lee Johnson delivers this verdict on Sunderland's draw at Wycombe Wanderers

Lee Johnson insisted he couldn't be too upset with his Sunderland players after a last-gasp equaliser denied them what would have been a crucial win in the battle for League One promotion.

Saturday, 8th January 2022, 9:15 pm

Despite having a list of injuries and COVID-19 absentees that ran well into double figures, the Black Cats fought back from a goal down to take a 3-2 lead two minutes into stoppage time at Wycombe Wanderers.

They looked to have all but secured the points when Joe Jacobson scored in the 98th minute, a cruel blow for a side who had created a glut of chances throughout the second half.

Johnson was left to rue the fact that Sunderland twice conceded from set plays, though there were suspicions of a foul on Anthony Patterson in the build up to Sam Vokes header that put the hosts ahead.

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Ross Stewart celebrates at Wycombe Wanderers

The head coach was particularly disappointed with the lapse that led to Wycombe's late corner, from which he said there is always the prospect of a sucker punch.

He insisted however that there was a lot of pride in the attacking football his side had been able to produce, particularly given the issues they had experienced in the build up to the game.

"I never take a point, because I always want to win games," Johnson said.

"I just feel like we've played well.

"I can't be too upset with the lads, I can't. They've given everything, they've played brilliantly, put on a spectacle.

"Both teams have had a right go and there's a respect in that, isn't there?

"I'm really chuffed with the performance.

"Obviously I'm gutted to concede so late, and to concede three goals throughout the game.

"But if you play like that, continue to play like that, and we have played like that, then it's wonderful to watch.

"Their goalkeeper has made some great saves, Jacobson has made a brilliant clearance off the line.

"We felt we should have had a penalty for a foul on Lynden Gooch, Elliot Embleton has hit the bar.

"It's two contrasting styles and it made for an interesting game. You were always on the edge of your seat, because you always felt either side could score in their particular way, with their particular strengths.

"We had to come and deal with it, which we have done for the majority of the game, apart from two set plays and that's the sucker punch.

"We probably haven't conceded any more or less than most from set plays generally, goals are scored from set plays.

"Late on you can throw caution to the wind, they can go gung-ho with it. What disappointed me with it to be honest was that we didn't have the extra player (in the build up), we should have dropped in.

"If you freeze frame in the build up to the corner, they have five on the line and so do we, and we should have an extra one in that scenario with 90 seconds left.

"It's happened to us with direct teams, and it's a lesson we have to learn.

"Listen, you have to give them credit. Both sides implemented their style in the game, it was a good advert in League One.

"Our fans were superb and stuck with us right to the end, and we know how disappointed they'll be.

"A Gareth Ainsworth side is always going to have that battling spirit, and when they bring Bayo on they peg you back. It's impossible to stop that, other than to not give the ball away.

"I'm pleased we've played them twice.

"I'm pretty proud of the philosophy that was on show today. We caused each other problems."

Sunderland could have requested a postponement of the game from the EFL, particularly given that Thorben Hoffmann and Lee Burge had both tested positive for COVID-19 in the build up to the game.

The Black Cats instead opted to recall Patterson, Jack Diamond and Josh Hawkes from their respective loan spells to take them above the 14 players required to fulfil the fixture.

Johnson said the decision to play was a sign of the trust he has in those young players.

"We could have easily called it off," he said.

"Both goalkeepers had COVID for starters. But we didn't want to. We wanted to play, to compete.

"It's good that the likes of Jack Diamond, Hawkes, Anthony Patterson, who I thought was outstanding today, they've come back and look like they've been here for a long time.

"That means the loans are good, they understand the way they play and they can come in and affect a top of the table League One clash.

"We trust these players.

"Part of the reason that they go out on loan is that it is better for all parties. We are looking after number one first and foremost.

"If they hadn't played [elsewhere] then they wouldn't have been as sharp as they were today."Wycombe Wanderers boss Gareth Ainsworth had paid tribute to Sunderland before the game for their desire to get the game on.

"Massive respect to Sunderland," he told Sky Sports.

"They could’ve called the game off with the positive cases they’ve had, but they wanted to play and it’s a real boost to the home & away fans who’ve travelled to be here.

"Lee’s a great guy."Whether Sunderland are able to fulfil their fixture with Lincoln City on Tuesday night will depend on how their COVID-19 situation develops over the coming days.