Fleetwood Town picked up a battling point on New Year's Day after drawing 1-1 with Sunderland at Highbury Stadium.
Ched Evans was the man to get the Cod Army up and running in 2020 with his eighth goal of the season, after Josh Morris was fouled inside the Black Cats’ penalty area.
The away side had their fair share of chances throughout the match, and equalised in the last ten minutes from the spot through Chris Maguire.
Despite Sunderland dominating the ball, it was a fair contest between the two sides with both sharing the points on the Fylde Coast.
Paddy Madden had a chance to open the scoring inside the first two minutes. After a delicious ball through from Lewie Coyle, the forward’s effort went narrowly over the crossbar.
Sunderland didn’t take long either to register their first shot of the match, and shortly after, Maguire’s fierce shot flew low and again just wide of Alex Cairns’ far post.
After a bright opening to the game, the home side took the lead from the penalty spot! Morris was fouled inside the 18 yard box, with the referee Mr. Backhouse having no option but to point to the spot.
Evans stepped up and placed the ball in the bottom left corner, after he sent Jon McLaughlin the wrong way.
Moments after the opener, the visitors could have been level. Denver Hume cut the ball back in space for Lynden Gooch, whose effort went wide of the initial target.
From the following goal-kick, the hosts had a chance to double their lead. Madden showed incredible trickery to beat his mana before he set up Evans, but the striker’s effort was blocked by Alim Ozturk.
After an unusual quiet spell for both sides, it was the away side who picked up the tempo. Wyke collected the ball on the edge of the area and sent a looping effort goal bound, but Cairns did well to tip it over his bar for a corner!
Sunderland had another chance not long after to be level, but Cairns pulled off a fantastic save down low to his left hand side. Somehow Town’s number one diverted Maguire’s powerful low shot wide of the post, which was the last main focal point of an end to end first half.
Sunderland came out in the second half with more fighting spirit, and should have levelled the deficit only three minutes into the restart.
Luke O’Nein floated in a cross from the right, before Wyke’s effort crashed against the inside of the post. A glorious chance for Phil Parkinson’s side.
After Town weathered a storm from Sunderland, two chances in quick succession arrived for the hosts.
Firstly, a good counter attacking move led from midfield allowed Madden in - who forced a smart stop from McLaughlin, but the move was cancelled out due to the assistant’s flag for offside. Then, from a corner, Andrew’s back post volley was saved well by the goalkeeper to keep the deficit to one.
Andrew again was involved in Town’s attacking plays, and when the former Doncaster man found an inch of space to shoot, his powerful strike was palmed away by McLaughlin.
In what had been an even game, the visitors again should have scored. O’Nein managed to send the ball over the bar from close range after Gooch had put the ball on a plate. Were Sunderland to rue missing their opportunities?
As the contest approached the final hurdle, Fleetwood had another chance to double their lead. Evans pulled the trigger, and with his shot arrowing goal-wards, Joel Lynch made a great block to deny the Welshman.
Soon after, the biggest chance yet for the away side came after substitute Duncan Watmore was bundled over in the area, and a penalty was given.
The spot kick was calmly converted by Maguire into the top left corner, despite Cairns getting a hand to the effort.
At the death, there was a golden opportunity for Fleetwood to steal the points. After a scramble in the Sunderland penalty area, Madden Harry Souttar’s flick-on wide of goal. That would have been the winner with seconds left on the clock.
The referee did blow for full-time after four additional minutes were played, meaning both sides begin the year with a point a piece.
The Cod Army now turn their attention to FA Cup action on Saturday, as fellow Sky Bet League One side Portsmouth are the visitors to Highbury in the Third Round of the competition.
Town XI: Cairns (GK), Coyle, Andrew, Eastham, Souttar, Burns, Dempsey, Evans (Saunders 79’), Morris (Sowerby 46’), Coutts © (Biggins 82’), Madden.
Subs not used: Crellin (GK), McAleny, Hill, Garner.
Sunderland XI: J. McLaughlin (GK), Ozturk, Willis (Watmore 67’), Lynch, Hume, Power, Dobson (McNulty 78’), O’Nien, Maguire, Gooch, Wyke.
Subs not used: Burge (GK), C. McLaughlin, Flanagan, Grigg, Leadbitter.