Oxford United 1-1 Sunderland
Sunderland were forced to settle for a share of the spoils as Marcus Browne struck late on to earn Oxford a point at the Kassam Stadium.
Jimmy Dunne had given the lads the lead after 34 minutes when he met Grant Leadbitter’s corner from the left with his head and powered the ball into the net.
Jon McLaughlin was again in inspired form between the posts, making a number of top drawer saves throughout the match, but the Scotsman was powerless to preventing Browne’s leveller on 88 minutes as Jerome Sinclair squared the ball for the easiest of finishes.
Deadline Day signing Will Grigg has been the talk of Sunderland all week, and anticipation rose a notch when it was revealed he would be making his debut at the Kassam Stadium an hour before kick-off.
The Northern Ireland international, who joined the lads from Championship club Wigan Athletic, was full of running the opening stages, with his first involvement a clearing header from inside his own six-yard box.
At the other end, Sunderland looked bright in the opening stages. Scottish winger Lewis Morgan was a handful, spinning away from Josh Ruffels and speeding down the wing before freeing Adam Matthews who made the overlapping run.
Aiden McGeady was in a similar tricky mood as he played with the U’s backline before fizzing a right-footed effort at Simon Eastwood to register Sunderland’s first shot on target with 13 played.
Oxford responded well and should’ve gone in front, but Jon McLaughlin did well to deny Rob Dickie’s header from point-blank range before Cameron Brannagan curled his effort across goal and wide of the far post.
The hosts continued to pose a threat as the half wore on, but Sunderland gained control of the fixture with 34 played as Dunne headed home his first goal for the club.
Knocking in McGeady’s corner from the left, the Republic of Ireland defender, on his third appearance for the club, rose well and nodded the set-piece past Eastwood and into the net.
Grigg then went close to doubling the lead but his shot was off target as the lads went in at the break with just the one-goal advantage.
McLaughin continued to be in inspired form between the posts as he turned away a number of efforts early in the second period.
That forced Jack Ross to shake things up a little and he did so by introducing towering striker Charlie Wyke for Aiden McGeady as he switched for a flat 4-4-2 formation.
Lynden Gooch was then brought on for Morgan as Oxford added former Sunderland loanee Sinclair to the mix with 25 to play.
And the chances continue to fall the hosts’ way as Curtis Nelson got the ball stuck under his boot from the penalty spot before Brannagan let fly from 20 yards but saw his effort rise harmlessly over.
Oxford got their reward for persistence in the end, though. Browne rolled the ball home with the minutes left on the clock after Sinclair had rounded stopper McLaughlin and unselfishly squared to him.
Oxford United: Eastwood, Dickie, Nelson, Hanson, Brannagan, Ruffels (Carruthers, 87), Mousinho, Whyte, Henry (Browne, 73), Graham, Mackie (Sinclair, 63)
Subs: Stevens, Long, Sykes, Kashi
Sunderland: McLaughlin, Matthews, Baldwin, Dunne, James, Leadbitter, Power, McGeady (Wyke, 60), Morgan (Gooch, 68), Honeyman, Grigg (O’Nien, 79)
Subs: Ruiter, Flanagan, McGeouch, Watmore