Ah, the 1-1 draw. I’d love to say I’ve missed you, but I had grown quite fond of our winning streak interspersed with the more glamorous, jeopardy-infused 2-2 draws of late.
But while we’d have previously greeted our seemingly archetypal result with a mixture of world-weary rolls of the eyes, or worse still, an apathetic shrug, this most recent of 1-1 draws felt, well, all right really, considering.
The results elsewhere were kind, it’s on the back of an almost constant block of midweek games, and we’re still very much in with a shout for promotion. Here’s four talking points on our draw with Lincoln City.
Not A Vintage Performance
While we’ve been poor in various games this season, we’ve had that little bit of magic dust there to get the three points over the line, but on Saturday, that spark wasn’t there. Too many players put in average performances.
Before Sunderland opened the scoring, a couple of chances had been created but in truth we seemed to be missing the injured Aiden O’Brien more than ever. Charlie Wyke was isolated and was feeding on scraps – there was a huge gap between midfield and striker.
O’Brien is a valuable link between the two areas of the pitch, dropping deep, holding the ball up and bringing others into play. He’s also a useful out ball, and without him on the pitch we were all too often hitting hopeful balls up the pitch to nobody. One such ball from Conor McLaughlin led to the move from which Lincoln scored their equaliser.
Lincoln were a decent side, dangerous on the break, with a few decent threats in their XI. On another day they really could have punished us.
The Referee Was Atrocious
Carl Boyeson had the air of a League One version of Mike Dean, with his constant whistling, pointless explanations of his decisions in a patronising manner, and taking it upon himself to enforce the need for the match ball to be inside the quadrant from a corner kick by marching up and adjusting the position himself.
Co-commentator Danny Collins called it early in the game that this referee enjoys being the centre of attention. Collins had previous with Boyeson, the Hull whistler having sent off the defender while at Grimsby Town, and the ref has a not-so-glittering reputation among clubs in the EFL.
While Boyeson appeared to be as equally rubbish for both sides, his failure to penalise a clear pull on Carl Winchester in the first five minutes, his refusal to award a penalty for a push on Wyke in the area in the first half and a terrible decision to pull Aiden McGeady back for a handball when a) it wasn’t and b) he wouldn’t have been able to see it anyway, Sunderland can reasonably argue that Boyeson was a big reason for not having three points on the board.
Our Substitutions Didn’t Work
Lee Johnson’s appointment shortly after the maximum substitutions was upped from three to five ensured a complete sea change from what we had become used to under Phil Parkinson. In many ways a relic, Parkinson harked back to a time where substitutions were viewed as some kind of witchcraft and only made changes if he really, really needed to.
Johnson has made key changes at key times in order for us to get results, such as the introduction of Jordan Jones and Chris Maguire at Crewe to cancel out the 2-0 deficit and earn a draw.
But on Saturday, his substitutions fell flat. Josh Scowen’s introduction immediately after Lincoln’s equaliser just didn’t pay off, and the midfielder had little impact on proceedings.
Ross Stewart, who scored on his debut at Accrington in midweek, could not find a way into the game after coming on in the second half, while Chris Maguire’s ten minutes on the pitch wasn’t enough this time to swing proceedings back in our favour.
A Break Comes At A Good Time
We have had midweek fixtures for what feels like forever, and it’s a relief that we have a seven-day gap between League One games to recharge the batteries. There were times on Saturday where we just looked a bit knackered, and we need time to get our injured players back into contention.
Bailey Wright, Tom Flanagan, O’Brien and Jones are all players that would be in and around the matchday 18 and although we do have that strength in depth that has got us through the last couple of months, there are signs that the gruelling regularity of games is taking its toll on the players that have stayed fit.
Promotion is still very much in our grasp. Our recent form has given us a bit of headroom so that results like Saturday’s don’t hurt too much. There’s 11 games left of the season, we’re in great form and there’s no reason why this can’t continue next week at Bristol Rovers.