Match report: Stalemate means replay in 10 days

Walsall 1-1 Sunderland 

Sunderland’s second round Emirates FA Cup tie with Walsall will go to a replay after a stalemate at the Bescot Stadium this afternoon.

In what was both sides first ever meeting in the most historic club cup competition in world football, there was nothing to separate the teams as Aiden McGeady’s first-half strike was cancelled out early in the second 45 by Andy Cook. 

A replay on Tuesday 11 December will now be played to determined who advances to the third round. 

Seven days on. Sunderland retuned to the Bescot Stadium this afternoon a week after their heroic comeback.

Max Power started after his five-game ban for a red card 22 minutes into last Saturday’s Sky Bet League One clash was overturned, while Bryan Oviedo featured on the right after replacing Chris Maguire minutes before kick-off as he pulled up in the warm-up.

McGeady skippered the side, with Luke O’Nien replacing the injured George Honeyman in the starting XI. And the tricky winger almost helped get the lads off to an ideal start when his in-swinging cross found Josh Maja.

Sunderland’s leading scorer controlled well before hooking his effort towards goal, but it was blocked away for a corner.

From there the Black Cats continued to press, but this time McGeady got caught in two minds as Oviedo’s cross dropped earlier than he anticipated, and, in the end, his tame swing sent the ball drifting wide. 

Oviedo’s quick-thinking on the right continued to cause issues for Walsall’s backline. This time he cut in from the right, drilled a low shot towards goal. Saddler’s stopper Liam Roberts appeared to have it covered but Maja got a late toe on it and forced Robert to readjust himself to turn it away.

The onslaught continued, though, as McGeady kept up his rich vein of form. With 37 minutes played, the Irishman fired Sunderland ahead when he turned home Oviedo’s cross from the right.

It was patient, clever and precise from the lads. Lynden Gooch fed the Costa Rican and Oviedo simply squared the ball towards Maja who did well to roll the defender. That teed-up McGeady coming in at the back stick and he finished off a sweeping move to bag his sixth goal in his last seven matches to hand Jack Ross’ side the advantage at the break.   

But the lead didn’t last long as Walsall raced out the traps at the start of the second 45, with Cook turning home his ninth of the season. The towering striker put his feet to good use as Nicky Devlin pulled back his cross back from the byline and Cook did the rest from 12 yards. 

Jerome Sinclair’s introduction for Oviedo shortly after the hour mark helped the lads get more of a grip on the tie, as his pace and physical prowess provided Jon Guthrie and Connor Johnson with something else to think about as Maja dropped slightly deeper.

McGeady fizzed a strike in from distance, forcing Roberts to bat the ball clear and from there Walsall almost, and probably should’ve gained the advantage, when Morgan Ferrier went through one-on-one.

Ferrier held off the challenge of Jack Baldwin but couldn’t steady himself in time as Jon McLaughlin made a vital stop.

Cook was then denied by the bar as his header, which looked to be heading for the roof of the net, dipped at the last and flicked down off the woodwork into a crowd of bodies. Fortunately, Sunderland had enough bodies back to hack the ball clear. 

But in the end, there was nothing to separate the sides and now a replay on Tuesday 11 December will now be played to determined who advances to the third round. 

Walsall: Roberts, Leahy, Dobson, Cuthrie, Devlin, Cook, Kinsella, Ferrier (Ginnelly, 88), Johnson, Gordon, Osbourne
Subs: Dunn, Edwards, Morris, Rouhyar, Parker, Ronan 

Sunderland: McLaughlin, Matthews, Baldwin, Flanagan, James, Power, O’Nien, Gooch (Mumba, 75), McGeady, Maja, Oviedo (Sinclair, 63)
Subs: Ruiter, Ozturk, Bainbridge, Hackett

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