PHIL PARKINSON admits Sunderland paid the price for a “terrible start” as they were held to a 1-1 draw with Bristol Rovers on the opening day of the League One season.

The Black Cats fell behind after just three minutes as goalkeeper Lee Burge felled Jayden Mitchell-Lawson in the box as he scrambled to recover from failing to hold on to a header.

With a lead to defend, Bristol Rovers were able to adopt a series of time-wasting exercises that resulted in eight minutes of stoppage time being added on at the end, and while Parkinson was frustrated by the opposition’s spoiling tactics, he conceded Sunderland were their own worst enemies in the opening stages.

“It was a terrible start for us,” admitted Parkinson. “We couldn’t have started any worse, against a team that just came to time waste. Obviously that is exacerbated by the fact that we don’t really know what the rule is about the ball boys. Sometimes you were allowed to get a ball quickly, sometimes you weren’t. The goalkeeper was holding on to the ball for ages.

“I thought the start was terrible and we became a bit frantic after that, but once we got into our rhythm and started playing, we got better and better as the game wore on. In the second half, we completely dominated the game, and should have won it comfortably.

“We got the goal, but also had several other chances. There was some poor finishing, but also some good goalkeeping, and obviously the save from Max’s (Power) shot has kept them in the game.

“I don’t think we could have done much more in the second half in terms of the way we played. Obviously, the final moment of quality needs to be better because with the amount of dominance we had, we should really have been out of sight.”

Sunderland’s frustration was compounded in stoppage time when George Dobson received a straight red card for a foul on Mitchell-Lawson.

The midfielder made contact with the ball as he flew into his challenge, but it was a forceful tackle that probably merited a red card given that he clattered into his opponent after going over the top.

“He won the ball,” said Parkinson. “I thought at the time it was going to be a yellow, but the kind of manner of the challenge, sometimes they get interpreted as a red. It’s frustrating for George, but it will give someone else an opportunity.

“I’ll have a look at it again in the next 20 minutes. He’s clearly won the ball, I had a great view of it, but we’ll look at it again and make a decision.”