In last night’s Premier League clash Sunderland and Stoke drew 1-1 at the Stadium of Light.
The home side played for nearly an hour with ten men after versatile Craig Gardner received a red card for a poor tackle on Charlie Adam.
The draw means that both teams are still in the fight for Premier League survival this season.
However, for both the point could prove to be crucial at the end of the season. A Wigan win against Swansea this evening could makes things very interesting at the bottom.
Sunderland was awful in the first half of last night’s game, but improved in the second half and scored an arguably deserved equaliser.
The problem for the Black Cats for the remaining two games is that they are now without Steven Fletcher, Stephane Sessegnon and Craig Gardner.
The trio are the clubs three top goal scorers in the Premier League this season. The Black Cats have struggled for goals all season, but without their top scorers, they could now be toothless in attack.
Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio’s striking options are limited without Fletcher and youngster Connor Wickham currently also struggling through injury. The only senior striking option left available to Di Canio is Danny Graham, who has not scored for the club in 13 appearances, since his arrival from Swansea in January.
The Italian’s only attacking option on the bench last night was 18 year-old French striker Mikael Mandron, who has made just one appearance for the Black Cats, coming off the bench as a late substitute in the recent 6-1 hammering at Aston Villa. The situation is far from perfect.
The amount of players unavailable to Di Canio will test his managerial acumen. His team produced a livelier display in the second half of yesterday’s game, mainly thanks to the energy and skill provided by Adam Johnson.
The England international started the game just behind lone striker Graham, but struggled to get into the game in the first half. However, he grew into the role in the second half of the encounter. Sessegnon is usually the player that plays in that role and his form was just picking up before he received his red card against Villa.
Johnson certainly has the ability to provide the creative spark needed from that advanced position. The former-City ace has struggled for consistency since his arrival from the Etihad Stadium, and some would say throughout his career.
Johnson will have to be at his best in the last two games of the season, if the Black Cats are going to pick up the points they need to secure their Premier League status for next season.
One thing that is in Sunderland’s factor is the fact that their goal difference is superior to most of their rivals. That goal difference could be worth an extra point at the end of the season. The Sunderland defence, Villa game apart, has looked relatively solid this season.
Sunderland host rivals Southampton in their next game, followed by a difficult trip to Champions League place chasing Tottenham on the last day of the season. Boss Paolo Di Canio believes that one victory will be enough to secure the Black Cats safety this season.
However, the way the season has gone and the unpredictable nature of the relegation battle you just never know. If Sunderland fails to defeat Southampton in their next game then they could have to win at White Hart Lane to stay up, a tough task indeed.
Sunderland should have just enough to survive the drop this season. However, I am sure that Paolo Di Canio will look at strengthening his attacking options in the summer. The Italian knows a bit about strikers and I have a feeling that the Black Cats will not be as toothless next season, if they survive that is.
Could lack of goals cost Sunderland this season?