Sunderland 1 Northampton Town 1: Black Cats to face Lincoln City in play-off semi finals after season ends with dire draw
Sunderland will face Lincoln City in the play-off semi finals after a tepid 1-1 with draw with Northampton Town in the final game of their season.
A late goal from Carl Winchester rescued a point for the Black Cats, who had fallen behind with ten minutes to play after a free kick was deflected past Lee Burge
It was an underwhelming end to the season for Lee Johnson’s side, who created enough chances to win in the second half but for the most part fell short of the tempo and quality required against an opponent who had already been relegated.
Nevertheless, Lincoln City’s goalless draw with AFC Wimbledon meant that the point secured fourth place for the Black Cats.
Crucially, that means they will play the second leg at home and potentially in front of up to 10,000 supporters.
Johnson had by and large gone with the same template that delivered a timely win at Plymouth last weekend, and in the early moments there were encouraging signs.
Jordan Jones drew a save with an effort from range as he drove infield from the left, while both Lynden Gooch and Jack Diamond looked lively as they saw plenty of possession in advanced areas.
From there, though, the first half would pass almost entirely without incident. When Max Power curled an effort from the edge of the box just wide moments before the break, it was the first effort of note from either side in what was an insipid contest.
Sunderland saw plenty of possession, but lacked either the tempo or quality in the final third to turn that into concrete chances.
Though Marshall looked lively down Northampton’s right flank, they were for the most part happy to sit in and Lee Burge was a bystander in the home goal.
As he had trailed before the game, Johnson regularly made changes through the opening stages of the second and even if the general quality was by and large unchanged, there was at least a modest uptick in Sunderland’s output.
Lynden Gooch drew a good block from Mitchell as he gathered Wyke’s flick on in the box, before Jones hit the side netting with another effort from range.
With twenty minutes to play they forged their best opening when substitute Carl Winchester pressed well and teed up Aiden O’Brien, who sliced his effort well over the bar.
Burge was still to make a save, though the hosts were fortunate that Northampton had been unable to make the most of a couple of slack passes out from the back.
Jones ought to have opened the scoring after playing a clever 1-2 with O’Brien, but the winger could only blaze over from close range.
Northampton looked to have snatched the win when Burge was wrong-footed as a low Hoskins’ free kick took a deflection, but Winchester’s willingness to get forward was rewarded late on.
Jones, who had been nothing if not persistent, saw a wicked effort bounce off the inside of both posts, leaving his fellow Northern Irishman with the simplest of finishes.