SUNDERLAND’S stuttering start to the season continued as they were held to a 1-1 draw by a Bolton Wanderers side that are rooted to the foot of League One.

Aiden McGeady’s stoppage-time penalty salvaged a point after Bolton had taken the lead through Jack Hobbs – what were the main debating points from the game at the University of Bolton Stadium?


IN the last 13 months, no Football League side has recorded more 1-1 draws than Sunderland. It was the scoreline that meant the Black Cats were unable to finish in the top two last season – and it already looks like being the Achilles heel that could scupper their hopes of automatic promotion in the current campaign.

Saturday’s result means four of Sunderland’s opening nine league matches have now finished 1-1, and in three of those four games, the Black Cats fell behind before recovering to claim a point.

If you were going to take a positive view of those matches, you would praise the spirit that enabled Jack Ross’ players to claw their way back to parity. But a more damning assessment would conclude that you are not going to be promoted if you keep conceding goals, and Sunderland are yet to keep a clean sheet this season.


Ross’ first big call was to make four changes from the side that drew with Rotherham last Tuesday. The absence of the injured Marc McNulty meant the alteration in attack was enforced, and while Luke O’Nien did okay in midweek, Ross was surely right to restore him to right-back.

Similarly, Denver Hume’s first-half struggles meant Ross’ decision to substitute the youngster at half-time was justified. Having already been booked, Hume’s difficulties against Dennis Politic meant he could easily have been sent off.

With his side chasing the game though, the Sunderland manager’s move to take off Chris Maguire midway through the second half was much harder to fathom, and elicited an angry response from the travelling fans.


When Aiden McGeady missed from the penalty spot in Sunderland’s midweek draw with Rotherham, questions were raised about whether the Irishman should retain spot-kick duties or pass them on to Lynden Gooch.

Ross discussed the situation with both players, and McGeady’s confidence in his abilities proved justified as he confidently drilled home his side’s stoppage-time equaliser.

“His strength of character to do that in injury time given that he’d missed one in the week was good, but he has that in abundance,” said Ross. “It’s why he’s played at the level he has.”


Ross was criticised for Sunderland’s failure to claim all three points, but the Sunderland boss can justifiably ask what he is supposed to do when his players spurn a succession of gilt-edged chances.

Tom Flanagan had three free headers inside the penalty area, and failed to even find the target with any of them, guiding two first-half opportunities wide of the target before directing a second-half header against the top of the crossbar.

Will Grigg’s first-half miss was even more glaring, with the striker heading wide at the back post despite being completely unmarked as he met Maguire’s right-wing cross on the edge of the six-yard box.


Had Sunderland lined up against Bolton last month, they would have been taking on a rag-bag assortment of academy players and juniors that shipped five goals in four successive matches.

Since Football Ventures completed their takeover of the club, new boss Keith Hill has been able to bring in a dozen new players and the former Rochdale boss deserves huge credit for both the quality of his recruitment and the way in which he has knitted his new squad together in a matter of weeks.

This is a Bolton line-up that has been completely transformed, and while they are still searching for their first win of the season, they are no longer League One’s whipping boys. On the evidence of Saturday’s display, they should not have to wait too much longer for their first success.