Fleetwood Town 1-1 Sunderland AFC
It was a tale of penalty drama at Highbury on New Year’s Day, as Sunderland opened 2020 with a draw at Fleetwood Town.
The Cod Army edged in front when Ched Evans notched from the spot, but the Lads responded and Chris Maguire went closest to levelling before the break.
After the restart, Charlie Wyke headed against the post and chances continued to fall at both ends, but parity was eventually restored when Maguire’s penalty found the top corner late on.
The Lads could have been awarded a second spot kick in stoppage time, but a push on Luke O’Nien went unpunished and it ended 1-1.
Phil Parkinson named an unchanged side for the club’s first game of 2020, as Tom Flanagan’s return in place of Laurens De Bock signalled the only switch to the Lads’ 18-man squad.
Fleetwood mustered the first opportunity of the contest – and they should have led – but with three minutes on the clock, Paddy Madden sent a looping finish over Jon McLaughlin and wide.
After Maguire volleyed wide shortly after, the Cod Army continued to turn the screw and multiple corners put the Black Cats backline under pressure.
In the end, it told.
The Lads failed to adequately clear multiple balls into the mix and two goalline clearances were rendered void, as Wyke clattered into josh Morris and the referee pointed to the spot.
Evans stepped up and made no mistake, sending McLaughlin the wrong way.
Sunderland enjoyed the better of the play before the break, coming closest when Maguire weaved through several onrushing defenders before testing Alex Cairns.
The Fleetwood stopper just about did enough, though, and the Scot’s effort bobbled inches wide before he could convert the rebound.
Wyke also tested the Cod Army ‘keeper, but Joey Barton’s side remained 1-0 up at the interval.
Parkinson’s side rushed out of the blocks following the restart, but the deficit remained when a bullet header from Wyke shook the inside of the post.
After making a cracking one-on-one save to deny Madden, albeit after an offside flag, McLaughlin continued to impress, flying to his right to thwart Danny Andrew when the defender hammered a Paul Coutts’ corner at goal.
And the Scotland international continued to frustrate the home side, sticking out an arm to push another Andrew piledriver to safety.
A surging run and pinpoint cross from Gooch should have led to an equaliser after the hour mark, but O’Nien was unable to supply the finish from eight yards.
Defensive heroics from Lynch followed, as the towering centre back tracked back to deny Evans’ a clear run at goal.
Andrews’ next long-range effort looped into the sky, but the danger wasn’t over and McLaughlin was required to claw Wes Burns’ inventive header over the top.
An offside flag stopped Madden in his tracks soon after, while Marc McNulty was called on with 13 minutes to go.
Duncan Watmore was also dispatched behind enemy lines – and the decision paid off, as the winger was sent tumbling and the Lads were awarded a penalty of their own.
With just four minutes remaining, Maguire stepped up and picked out the top corner.
Controversy followed, as a push in the back of O’Nien went unpunished, and it ended all square.
Fleetwood Town: Cairns, Coyle, Andrew, Eastham, Souttar, Burns, Dempsey, Evans (Saunders 80), Morris (Sowerby 45), Coutts (Biggins 83), Madden.
Subs not used: Crellin, McAleny, Hill, Garner.
Sunderland: J McLaughlin, Lynch, Willis (Watmore 67), Ozturk, Power, Maguire, Wyke, Gooch, O’Nien, Dobson (McNulty 78), Hume.
Subs not used: Burge, C McLaughlin, Grigg, Leadbitter, Flanagan.