Fleetwood Town 2 Sunderland 2: Spot-on Town salvage a point in stoppage time
Simon Grayson watched his Fleetwood Town side salvage a point at the death to draw with Sunderland at Highbury.
Two down with 15 minutes to play the Cod Army fought back impressively, and after Callum Morton made it 2-1, it was left to Ged Garner to snatch a draw with a 97th minute penalty.
The visitors came to Highbury, sitting pretty at the top of the table, and took the lead with fewer than 20 minutes played through Ross Stewart.
Aiden McGeady’s penalty on 75 minutes looked to have sealed victory but a startling fightback saw Fleetwood grab a point.
Grayson – who managed Sunderland for a brief period in 2017 – made one change to the starting side from Town’s win at Rotherham United a week earlier.
Max Clark came in for Darnell Johnson, who joined Dan Batty, Shayden Morris, Brad Halliday and Harrison Holgate on the injured list.
Fleetwood did survive an early scare, Alex Cairns saving Stewart’s fifth minute header from Lynden Gooch’s cross.
Stewart was not to be denied, however, and it took only another quarter of an hour before he did get his fifth goal of the season.
A generous free-kick awarded to the visitors was teased in by Elliot Embleton and Stewart did the rest, rising highest to plant a firm finish into the net.
Though the Black Cats were dominant, Fleetwood did create a chance of their own but Morton couldn’t make the most of his opening, denied by a reaction save from Thorben Hoffmann.
Although they looked lively enough going forward, Fleetwood chances were few and far between in the first half.
There was, perhaps, a degree of frustration taking hold of Garner when he received a terrific crossfield ball by Danny Andrew.
Having fed off scraps throughout the game, Garner cut in and tried his luck but sliced his effort meekly wide.
The half was perhaps summed up by one of its final passages of play.
Andrew’s long ball was skewed by Black Cats defender Bailey Wright into Morton’s path but, as he looked to control the ball and cut inside, he stumbled and his knee forced it out for a goal-kick.
In the second half, Callum Camps took the ball off Callum Doyle’s toe but the centre-back recovered well enough to block the attempted ball across goal.
As Sunderland searched for a second goal to ease their nerves, McGeady tried taking matters into his own hands and cut in from the left to let fly.
His shot was bound for the top corner but Cairns was equal to it, a firm hand pushing it over the bar.
Another opening seemed to have opened up for Morton 25 minutes from time but, as he shaped to shoot, right-back Carl Winchester timed his last-gasp challenge to perfection.
Fifteen minutes from time, Sunderland looked to have sealed victory with McGeady’s penalty.
Harrison Biggins’ foul on Luke O’Nien seemed innocuous enough but McGeady put enough power on his spot-kick to score, despite Cairns getting a hand to it.
Morton finally got on the scoresheet with 10 minutes left on the clock, netting with a neat finish, and although it looked like being mere consolation it gave Fleetwood hope.
Then, when the ball was handled inside the Black Cats’ box with five minutes of added time having been played, Garner held his nerve to send Hoffmann the wrong way from 12 yards and grab a point.
Fleetwood Town: Cairns, Hill, Clarke, Andrew, Johnson, Biggins (Lane 77), Rossiter, Clark (J Garner 46), Camps, G Garner, Morton. Subs not used: Crellin, Edmondson, Matete, Baggley, Conn-Clarke.
Sunderland: Hoffman, Winchester, Wright, Doyle, Cirkin, O’Nien, Neil (Evans 67), Gooch, Embleton (Broadhead 72), McGeady (Alves 90), Stewart. Subs not used: Burge, Huggins, Dajaku, Pritchard.
Referee: Neil Hair.
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