Sunderland 1-1 Blackpool: Seasiders forced to settle for point on Simon Grayson's return to the Stadium of Light

Matty Virtue was the scorer of Blackpool's goal after just four minutes
Matty Virtue was the scorer of Blackpool's goal after just four minutes
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Simon Grayson was forced to settle for a point on his return to the Stadium of Light as Blackpool were unable to capitalise on Sunderland ending the game with 10 men.

READ MORE: Sunderland v Blackpool as it happened

Simon Grayson was forced to settle for a point on his return to the Stadium of Light as Blackpool were unable to capitalise on Sunderland ending the game with 10 men.

Matty Virtue gave the Seasiders the ideal start when he gave the Seasiders the lead after just four minutes with a sublime curling effort.

Sunderland drew themselves level shortly before the half-time break with Charlie Wyke converting high into the net from a corner.

The home side were then reduced to 10 men with 15 minutes when George Dobson was shown a second yellow card.

But Grayson’s men were unable to take advantage, leaving them disappointed at the final whistle only to come away with a point.

Blackpool were forced into making one change from the side that beat Fleetwood Town last week.

Curtis Tilt came in for the suspended Ben Heneghan, who picked up his fifth booking of the season in the 3-1 victory.

It was Tilt’s first league start since the centre back was shown a straight red card in the goalless draw at Burton Albion in October.

Given the current unrest on Wearside, an early goal was always going to worsen the nervousness and anxiety amongst the restless home faithful.

But Pool fans couldn’t have dreamt a better start, as Matty Virtue broke the deadlock after just four minutes with a sublime effort.

A nervy-looking Sunderland backline failed to clear its lines from a Liam Feeney cross, with the ball falling to Virtue on the edge of their box.

The midfielder took a touch to settle himself before curling a delicious effort into the top corner of Jon McLaughlin’s goal.

The home defence continued to show signs of nervousness as skipper Jay Spearing clipped a ball to the completely unmarked Armand Gnanduillet at the back post, but the striker’s header back into the six-yard box was claimed by McLaughlin.

Pool, having started the game with a flat back four, reverted to three centre backs early on with James Husband and Liam Feeney the two wing-backs.

Sunderland’s first chance of the game came shortly afterwards, Duncan Watmore heading over from Luke O’Nien’s centre.

Pool responded with a big opportunity of their own a minute later, Armand Gnanduillet seeing a low effort denied by McLaughlin after battling his way towards goal.

Pool’s assertiveness led to the away fans taunting the home faithful with a chant of “is this a library?” as the Black Cuts continued to struggle.

Sunderland did eventually begin to threaten in the final 10 minutes of the half, with Chris Maguire seeing a goalbound shot superbly charged down by Tilt.

The home side drew level from the resulting move of the game as they capitalised on Husband’s giving away of a cheap corner.

It was a goal out of nothing for the Black Cats, striker Charlie Wyke the man to turn home Maguire’s corner.

Pool ought to have restored their lead just three minutes later when Husband saw a first-time effort blocked on the goalline by his own teammate.

It came after McLaughlin flapped at a deep cross, the ball falling to Husband at the back post with the wing-back seeing his shot strike Gnanduillet on the goalline, with the ball subsequently bouncing wide.

Pool made a change at the start of the second half, Grayson making a like-for-like change by replacing Sullay Kaikai with Sean Scannell.

The visitors almost created an opening five minutes into the second period, as Gnanduillet won his header from Feeney’s corner.

The ball appeared to be heading for Nathan Delfouneso at the back post but the Sunderland defenders managed to scramble clear at the last moment.

A lull in proceedings ensued, the game lacking on quality with neither side willing to take the encounter by the scruff of its neck.

Pool did have penalty appeals ignored just after the hour-mark when Delfouneso appeared to be brought down inside the box.

The forward got straight back to his feet, rather than stay on the ground, which may have made the referee’s mind up for him.

Pool had to ride their luck a few moments later as Wyke came inches away from a second goal for the home side, hitting the crossbar with a header from a corner.

With 15 minutes remaining, Pool were given a big lift when the home side were reduced to 10 men.

George Dobson was the man to be sent his marching orders after being shown a second yellow for a late foul on Gnanduillet.

Pool almost capitalised on the one-man advantage immediately, Tilt hooking an ambitious overhead kick narrowly wide of goal.

Grayson decided to roll the dice with 10 minutes remaining, going two up top by replacing Delfouneso with Joe Nuttall.

Jak Alnwick did well to claim a dangerous low cross with just five minutes to go, keeping hold of the ball with Sunderland players ready to pounce inside the six-yard box.

With four minutes of stoppage time indicated, neither side were able to create any further goalscoring opportunities - leaving Pool disappointed to only leave with the one point.

TEAMS

Sunderland: McLaughlin, Ozturk, Flanagan, De Bock, Hume, Dobson, O’Nien, Power, Maguire (Leadbitter), Watmore (Gooch), Wyke

Subs not used: McLaughlin, Lynch, Burge, McNulty, Grigg

Blackpool: Alnwick, Turton, Edwards, Tilt, Husband, Spearing, Virtue (Thompson), Feeney, Kaikai (Scannell), Delfouneso (Nuttall), Gnanduillet

Subs not used: Sims, Bushiri, Macdonald, Guy

Referee: Ollie Yates

Attendance: 30,595