Peterborough United 1 Sunderland 1: Stunning Aiden McGeady free-kick rescues what could prove crucial point
A stunning Aiden McGeady free kick rescued a point for Sunderland to keep their hopes of winning automatic promotion from League One firmly alive.
The Black Cats looked to be heading for a damaging defeat when Siriki Dembele gave Peterborough a second-half lead, leaving Lee Johnson's side facing the prospect of dropping five points off the top two.
Darren Ferguson's side were doing all the running when McGeady stepped up to restore parity and keep his team's promotion fate firmly in their own hands.
It had been a challenging contest in tough conditions for the visitors, who extended their unbeaten run to twelve league games.
Johnson had spoken of the unique demands that come with playing at Peterborough this season, a quick and bobbly pitch making intricate possession football a challenge.
So while his attacking line up may have come as something of a surprise, that his side were willing to be pragmatic and play direct when required was not.
It made for a confident start, the Black Cats enjoying good territory in the opening stages and building some pressure.
Ross Stewart’s first start looked to be well timed, combining well with Wyke for the first real opening as the latter saw a volley from distance deflected just wide. The best chance of the opening quarter came when Sunderland built a good move down the right, Power's good cross finding McGeady in space at the far post. He cut inside and fired at the far corner, denied only by an excellent headed clearance.
Peterborough looked surprisingly timid, seemingly content to sit off and play on the break.
If there had been concerns initially about a midfield two for the visitors, then the composure of Grant Leadbitter and Carl Winchester meant that to begin with this was unfounded.
Jordan Jones threatened intermittently, his shot on 22 minutes deflected away from goal by his own team-mate as Sunderland threatened.
Perhaps inevitably Peterborough began to show their teeth as the half developed, their growing threat on the break coninciding with one or two moments of slackness from Johnson’s side.
The Black Cats were indebted to Luke O’Nien when Sammie Szmodics was left free on the box with half an hour to play, his vicious shot superbly blocked.
There was another nervous moment for Sunderland just before the break when the hosts broke free down the left, Burge doing very well to clear off the line after O’Nien had blocked a strong low cross.
The break came with little between the sides in what was proving to be a tense contest, unsurprising given the stakes at play.
Peterborough picked up where they left off at the start of the second half, Szmodics volleying over the bar after Sanderson’s clearing header dropped for him on the edge of the area. Sunderland went close themselves seconds later when Butler failed to deal with Burge’s long goal kick forward, Wyke drawing a decent save from Pym with a half volley from range.
The Black Cats were stepping up the tempo, McGeady going close with a free-kick into the side netting from the corner of the box.
The contest was starting to become increasingly stretched and Sunderland had a big let off just after the hour mark when Ward was able to get clear down Sunderland’s left. His through ball was weighted superbly and a dinked effort from Szmodics drifted just inches wide of the far post.
Though Burge was still largely untested in the Sunderland goal, the momentum of the game did seem to be swinging slightly in the direction of the home side.
The breakthrough came as Peterborough again found joy down their right side, Nathan Thompson bursting into the box. Sunderland felt McFadzean had been fouled but the referee let play run and substitute Dembele found himself in space at the far post. Burge was left with no chance as he found the bottom corner.
Peterborough almost extended their lead as Clarke-Harris capitalised on a rare error from O’Nien to burst clear, but the centre-half did superbly to race back and make the block.
The home side were enjoying all the dangerous moments in the contest, a quadruple substitution from Johnson initially doing little to reverse the flow of the game.
Burge had to be at his sharpest when Szmodics sprung the offside trap, the Sunderland goalkeeper saving strongly down to his right.
The Black Cats were on the ropes, but were level with ten to play thanks to a moment of individual brilliance from the winger so often their talisman.
Substitute Josh Scowen did well initially to draw a foul as he won a second ball; McGeady stepping up to curl a quite stunning effort into the top corner.
The game swung from end to end in a lively conclusion, and the visitors came close to snatching the most unlikely of winners at the start of stoppage time. Max Power’s cross looked to pose little threat but a deflection from Kent dropped onto the foot of the post before drifting wide.
Peteborough pushed for a winner at the other end but Sunderland came through to seal what could ultimately prove to be a valuable point.
Sunderland XI: Burge; Power, Sanderson, O’Nien, McFadzean (Hume, 71); Jones (Gooch, 70), Leadbitter (McLaughlin, 70), Winchester (Scowen, 78), McGeady; Stewart (O’Brien, 70), Wyke
Subs: Matthews, Diamond, Scowen
Peterborough United XI: Pym; Thompson, Kent, Beevers, Butler (Mason, 62); Ward, Reed (Brown, 55), Taylor; Szmodics (Eisa, 85), Burrows (Dembele, 55), Clarke-Harris
Subs: Gyollai, Jade-Jones, Hamilton
Bookings: Reed, 18 Butler, 37