Burton Albion 1-0 Sunderland AFC
Sunderland suffered defeat against Burton Albion despite a host of chances on Tuesday night, the team’s first dropped points in Sky Bet League One.
Jonny Smith struck the winning goal midway through the second half for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s Brewers, with 19 shots denied for the Lads at the Pirelli Stadium and Tom Flanagan’s last-gasp header ruled out by the assistant referee.
Lee Johnson made one change to the weekend’s win at MK Dons, with the returning Luke O’Nien making a like-for-like swap in place of injured skipper Corry Evans.
New recruits Frederik Alves and Nathan Broadhead began the match amongst the substitutes.
Despite the even and tentative start to the game, Sunderland were presented with a golden chance 12 minutes in as Burton’s defensive lapse in dealing with a clearance allowed Aiden McGeady to rush through on goal. The Irishman attempted to chip goalkeeper Ben Garratt, but the stopper got a hand to the effort to tip it past the post.
Lynden Gooch was next to take aim as he met Ross Stewart’s cross, but his shot deflected wide, before Stewart himself was then denied by Garratt as he marauded forward in on goal.
The chances were coming thick and fast – McGeady’s sensational piece of skill on the left took him past his marker before receiving an exchange and striking across the face of goal – with Albion really under the cosh within a few minutes.
Burton mustered a chance at the other end 21 minutes in, Omari Patrick striking a deflected shot just wide on the turn following good play from Smith. Callum Doyle’s strong headed block then denied Smith’s curling shot later in the half.
Whilst the hosts attempted to send regular service into the Sunderland area, the Lads absorbed the moments of pressure and broke dangerously against a high Burton defensive line, Gooch testing Garratt and Embleton bending a dipping shot just over the top.
The second half began in a lively manner which filtered through to two energetic fanbases, and the first break forward from Hasselbaink’s side saw Flanagan make a crucial interception to divert away Lucas Akins’ strike.
Ryan Leak was next to go close for the hosts, heading Joe Powell’s free-kick delivery over Lee Burge’s crossbar, before Carl Winchester’s powerful drive was kept out by Garratt.
Whilst the Lads dominated possession, Burton’s bravery on the break paid off and Smith found the net midway through the second half, curling a left-footed strike high into the far corner.
The Lads had no choice but to push for something from the contest and Johnson introduced Broadhead for his debut against his former club alongside Alex Pritchard – Stewart’s header diverted past the post just after Michael Mancienne had struck wide, and Broadhead was denied an instant impact by a low Garratt save.
The opportunities continued at both ends as the clock passed 80 minutes, Smith clattering the post before Broadhead’s square header was unable to be met by a red and white shirt.
Pritchard then forced Garratt into a smart save with an excellent shot from distance, before Luke O’Nien struck over from the resulting corner as time ebbed away.
The final moment of drama arrived just seconds from the final whistle, Flanagan heading home from point-blank range but the assistant flagged for offside to deny the visitors a point.
The Lads must now dust themselves off ahead of Saturday’s return to Wearside against AFC Wimbledon.
SUNDERLAND AFC: Burge; Winchester, Flanagan, Doyle, Cirkin (Pritchard 71’); O’Nien, Neil; Gooch, Embleton (Broadhead 71’), McGeady ©; Stewart.
Subs not used: Patterson, Alves, O’Brien, Diamond, Wright.
Burton Albion: Garratt, Brayford ©, Powell (Bostwick 85’), Akins, Smith, Patrick (Amadi-Holloway 90’), O’Connor, Shaughnessy, Leak, Hamer, Mancienne.
Subs not used: Balcombe, Borthwick-Jackson, Rowe, Blake-Tracy, Taylor.