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Sunderland 0 Rovers 0

24 January 2020

Rovers battled to a deserved point at promotion rivals Sunderland, and could have claimed an impressive win had they made more of a good first half.

It was an end to end opening to the match, with the first real chance falling to Madger Gomes who saw his shot deflected after good play down the left. Moments later Jon Taylor’s cutback almost fell to Gomes, but he could not get his shot away.
The home side’s first opportunity came after 21 minutes when Joel Lynch headed wide from a corner but Rovers continued to force the game and create the majority of the chances, with Tom Anderson heading wide from a Taylor free-kick after 23 minutes. And Taylor fired an effort wide himself five minutes later after cutting in from the right.
Rovers just could not get the bit of luck needed to go ahead, with Niall Ennis not quite connecting properly with his glancing header from a deep Taylor cross.
It took a vital headed interception from Lynch to stop Reece James - playing in a more advanced role than usual - finding Ennis at the far post with a cross from the left. 
Chris Maguire fired harmlessly wide for the Black Cats after 39 minutes when the ball fell back into his path after a block, but the home side - who were the division’s form team going into the match - struggling to break down a determined Rovers side.
There were no changes at the break from either side, with Ennis lifting a first-time effort over three minutes following the restart after collecting a smart pass from James.
An Alim Ozturk free-kick bobbled around the area for the visitors, before a spell of pressure which was ended by Maguire firing well over.
Rovers attacked at the other end when a James reverse cross played in Gomes, but the Spaniard’s cross was directed too close to Jon Mcloughlin and Taylor could not direct his header from the follow-up on target.
Sunderland started to enjoy plenty of possession in the second period but Rovers held firm, with the home side not creating many clear chances and Tom Anderson standing firm with a crucial block the one time they created space in the area itself.
Luke O’Nien and Gooch both sent over dangerous-looking crosses that were well left, while O’Nien headed over from a free-kick after 70 minutes.
Phil Parkinson made a double change to try and force the game, bringing on Duncan Watmore and Kyle Lafferty to replace Wyke and Maguire.
The referee played advantage after a handball from Ozturk, only for Taylor to stumble after threatening to break through on goal. The Turkish defender was shown the yellow card when there was next a break in play.
Matty Blair and James Coppinger were sent on by Rovers as the game became stretched in the final stages, but chances remained at a premium for both sides. Blair had an effort blocked, while Anderson in particular stood firm at the back for Rovers.
And when the Black Cats did fashion a rare chance, Seny Dieng was equal to it as he got down quickly to make a low save from Watmore deep in stoppage time and preserve a point for Rovers.

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