Fleetwood Town 1 Sunderland 1: A tale of two penalties in Highbury draw

Fleetwood Town's Ched Evans scores the opening goal
Fleetwood Town's Ched Evans scores the opening goal

Fleetwood Town were denied what would have been a precious victory after conceding an equaliser with four minutes to go.

With manager Joey Barton sat in the stands following his sending-off against Bristol Rovers three days earlier, Town were pegged back late on by Sunderland, who had dominated for long spells.

The hosts, who are now outside the League One play-off places on goal difference only, gave it everything, though, with Paddy Madden going close a couple of times late on.

There was just the single change to Town’s starting line-up from the weekend.

That came at the heart of the home defence with Ashley Eastham stepping up to replace veteran Peter Clarke, after it was announced he was Tranmere Rovers’ latest signing.

Visitors Sunderland – backed by a travelling army of fans – went into the game with an unchanged starting XI from their win at Doncaster Rovers.

As was the case against Bristol Rovers, Town’s leading scorer Madden missed another early chance, this one before the two-minute mark was reached.

Released by Wes Burns, Madden only had keeper Jon McLaughlin to beat but dragged a poor shot well wide of the target.

The game burst to life in the 13th minute when Town went ahead from the penalty spot.

After a spell of head tennis in the Sunderland box, Josh Morris was felled by Charlie Wyke’s stray arm, leaving Ched Evans to coolly slot home his eighth goal of the campaign.

Three-quarters of Highbury erupted, though the Black Cats came close to a swift leveller when Lynden Gooch fired inches over from 15 yards.

The visitors definitely had the better of it in the run-up to the interval with Alex Cairns making fine saves to thwart Wyke and Chris Maguire.

It was the woodwork that came to Town’s rescue three minutes into the second half as Wyke headed Luke O’Nien’s cross against the post.

Minutes later, O’Nien headed narrowly wide with the hosts under fearsome pressure.

An equaliser had looked imminent but the home side almost doubled their lead on the hour.

Danny Andrew met Paul Coutts’ corner on the volley, only for McLaughlin to make a good low save.

With Town’s defending increasingly backs-to-the-wall, they were caught on 86 minutes.

Kyle Dempsey tripped substitute Duncan Watmore and Maguire levelled from the spot to ensure the spoils were shared.

Fleetwood Town: Cairns, Coyle, Eastham, Souttar, Burns, Dempsey, Coutts (Biggins 83), Morris (Sowerby 46), Andrew, Evans (Saunders 80), Madden. Subs not used: Crellin, McAleny, Hill Garner.

Sunderland: J McLaughlin, Ozturk, Willis (Watmore 67), Lynch, O’Nien, Power, Dobson (McNulty 78), Hume, Maguire, Wyke, Gooch. Subs not used: Burge, C McLaughlin, Flanagan, Grigg, Leadbitter.

Referee: Anthony Backhouse

Attendance: 4,011