Sunderland AFC 1-1 Oxford United
Sunderland were forced to settle for a point on Saturday afternoon as Oxford United took a draw from a dominant Black Cats side at the Stadium of Light.
Leon Dajaku slotted the Lads in front early on in a terrific start, before Matty Taylor equalised later in the first half.
A number of second-half chances eluded the hosts as they pushed for a deciding goal, remaining fifth in the Sky Bet League One table.
Lee Johnson continued with the 3-5-2 formation which has featured in recent weeks, Lynden Gooch and Dajaku as the wing-backs with Nathan Broadhead supporting Ross Stewart up top.
With injuries taking their toll on the options the Head Coach has at his disposal, the substitutes’ bench included numerous Under-23 players, along with 16-year-old defender Zak Johnson.
The first half was one not blessed with a great deal of chances, but both sides took advantage of each of their spells on top before the break.
The opener arrived just six minutes in as the Lads burst into a flying start, Alex Pritchard showing tidy vision to play through Dajaku, who finished with aplomb with a left-foot strike.
Oxford grew more into the game and found themselves level 10 minutes from the interval – Herbie Kane feeding Taylor to score, despite appeals for a foul by Kane in the build-up being waved away by the referee.
The second half saw the regularity of goalscoring shouts increase, Ross Stewart receiving Dajaku’s short pass and seeing his shot come back off the crossbar, with Nathan Broadhead also hitting the woodwork with 10 minutes to play, a clever run seeing him reach Pritchard’s thread in behind and hit the post from a tight angle.
Simon Eastwood denied Lynden Gooch with a save not spotted by the officials, with Broadhead and substitute Elliot Embleton both firing off target as Sunderland chased a winner and moved firmly onto the front foot.
The frustration grew for the Lads as the minutes ebbed away, with the spoils shared on Wearside as Tuesday’s return to the Stadium of Light presents another opportunity against Morecambe.
SUNDERLAND AFC: Hoffmann; Wright, Flanagan, Doyle; Dajaku (Embleton 66’), Winchester, Neil, Pritchard (O’Brien 85’), Gooch; Broadhead, Stewart.
Subs not used: Patterson, Younger, Dyce, Kimpioka, Johnson.
Oxford United: Eastwood, Forde, Moore, McNally, Long, Henry (McGuane 74’), Kane, Brannagan, Whyte, Taylor (Agyei 74’), Holland (Sykes 82’).
Subs not used: Plumley, Bodin, Thorniley, Williams.