Sunderland 1-1 Oxford United
Charlie Wyke scored on his debut to earn 10-man Sunderland a point this afternoon against Oxford United.
In a high-octane opening 20 minutes, Ricky Holmes dispatched a free-kick from 20 yards to give the visitors the lead before Max Power saw red for a rash challenge on Marcus Browne.
Despite producing an off-paced performance for much of the afternoon, the introduction of Wyke at the break gave the Stadium of Light a boost, and within minutes of coming on the big striker found the net to level.
Both sides continued to trade blows ‘til the final whistle, but in the end neither could muster a winner.
The Black Cats returned to the Stadium of Light in the hope they could kick start September like they did August. Having secured successive wins on the road in the last week, Jack Ross’ Sunderland returned home looking to build on their bright start to the season which had seen them collect 13 points from a possible 15.
However, Ross was forced into making two changes before kick-off as Bryan Oviedo and Alim Ozturk came in for Reece James and the injured Glenn Loovens. Wyke and Tom Flanagan were also named on the bench for the first time this season after recovering from injuries.
But, like they did at Gillingham and AFC Wimbledon, Sunderland went behind early on for a third straight match. For the visitors, though, it was nothing more than they deserved following their bright, attacking and forceful start at the Stadium of Light.
Jon McLaughlin spared Josh Maja’s blushes as he caught the striker’s attempted clearance as it looped towards goal. The stopper then pulled off a fine save away to his left, turning away Holmes’ right-footed effort.
But the Scotsman was powerless to preventing Holmes’ next effort, a free-kick from 20 yards. This time Holmes opted for the opposite side and did well to get just enough bend on it to beat McLaughlin and find the inside of the post.
Sunderland’s lack lustre start was punished further just 19 minutes as Power saw red for a rash challenge on Browne as Oxford’s No.10 galloped over the halfway line.
It was a tackled fuelled with frustration and that frustration spilled over further as Power clashed with Shaun Derry on the Oxford bench, he too was sent off.
From there, the atmosphere cranked up a notch as Sunderland sought for a route back into the match. Unfortunately, nothing materialised in the final third as Oxford continued to pose all the questions before the break.
Ross made a bold switch at the break, taking off former Oxford man Chris Maguire for Wyke who hadn’t played any football since July.
But just seven minutes into his debut, Wyke opened his goalscoring account for Sunderland as he got the faintest of faint touches on Lynden Gooch’s drilled effort from distance. All square.
Suddenly, Sunderland looked a completely different proposition as Wyke’s physicality up top allowed Josh Maja to drop deeper and play alongside George Honeyman and Gooch. And the Lads were unfortunate not to take the lead when Gooch pulled his free-kick back for Donald Love to hit. Love caught the ball sweetly and drove it towards Jonathan Mitchell’s near post, but Lee Cattermole’s got a touch on it and nudged it a fraction wide.
Dylan McGeouch was later introduced to the fray for Maja, moments after the youngster missed the next guilt-edge chance for Sunderland. Bryan Oviedo fired in a sumptuous cross from the left, it fell to Maja with time and space to think about it, but he got his angles wrong and put it wide.
Another point on the board.
Sunderland: McLaughlin, Oviedo, Ozturk, Baldwin, Love (James, 79), Cattermole, Maguire (Wyke, 46), Honeyman, Gooch, Power (Sent off, 19), Maja (McGeouch, 73)
Subs: Ruiter, Flanagan, O’Nien, Robson
Oxford United: Mitchell, Norman, Nelson, Brannagan, Ruffels, Mousinho, Henry, Brown, Baptiste, Holmes (Whyte, 64), Mackie (Obika, 84)
Subs: McMahon, Smith, Shearer, Dickie, Garbutt