Elliot Embleton’s penalty in first-half injury time saw Sunderland round off pre-season with a draw at League Two Hartlepool United. Pools took the lead with an own-goal inside two minutes, but the Black Cats went on to dominate for virtually the entirety of the 90 minutes.
They created a series of chances in the first half but could not find a finish until Jack Diamond was fouled, and man of the match Embleton scored from the spot. In the second half, more chances came and went with Luke O’Nien coming closest to winning the game when he slid the ball against the post soon after the restart.
But in the end the game remained deadlocked, with both sides now set to start their respective league campaigns next weekend. Sunderland boss Alex Neil made a full slate of changes following the weekend defeat at Accrington, opting to use this game to give more squad members minutes rather than as a dress rehearsal for Sunday’s Championship opener against Coventry City at the Stadium of Light.
READ MORE: Hartlepool 1-1 Sunderland as it happened
Neil opted to play with a back three of Carl Winchester, Danny Batth, and Aji Alese, with Trai Hume and Harrison Sohna as the wingbacks. Jay Matete, O’Nien, Embleton, and Ellis Taylor formed a diamond in midfield, with Diamond up front.
Sunderland made a bright start and applied early pressure, winning a corner, but were then caught out on the counter-attack as Hartlepool scored from their first attack. The hosts broke forward quickly and the ball was played into the right-hand channel for Jack Hastie, who beat Alese inside the area and got to the byline with his cross deflected into the net, possibly off Taylor as he tried to get back.
But after that setback, the remainder of the first half was essentially one-way traffic towards the Pools goal. Hume was picked out with a deep cross and saw his shot pushed behind by Ben Killip for a corner, and a few seconds later Diamond squared the ball across the six-yard box but it was slightly behind O’Nien who could only reach it on the turn and his time effort was off-target.
Batth sent a downward header narrowly wide from an Embleton corner from the right, before another Embleton corner – this one an inswinger from the left – almost caught Killip out and he had to tip the ball over the bar. A poor clearance from Killip was picked up by Embleton 35 yards from the goal, but the keeper recovered his ground to save the long-range shot.
Sunderland should have levelled on the half-hour when a mistake by Jack Hamilton let in Diamond and he rounded the keeper, but he was wide of goal and tried to set up Embleton who blazed his shot a yard over the bar. Killip then had to react quickly to turn a cross from Taylor over the bar.
But Sunderland did get the equaliser they deserved in injury time at the end of the first period. Diamond was running across the area from left to right when he was bundled over by Euan Murray, and Embleton stepped up to convert the spot-kick, beating Killip and finding the right side of the net.
Sunderland should then have taken the lead five minutes into the second half. Taylor worked his way into the area on the left and rolled the ball across the face of goal, but O’Nien sliding in at the far post could only divert it onto the post, and when the ball eventually came back out to Embleton he fired over the bar.
Embleton saw another inswinging corner clawed away, and Hume glanced a header wide from a Taylor cross, as Sunderland continued to pile on the pressure but without finding a way through. Hartlepool forced a late half-chance, but Carney was equal to sub Josh Umerah’s backheeled effort.
How they lined up
Hartlepool: Killip (Letheran 46), Tumility, Lacey (Menayese 46), Murray (Shelton 46), Ferguson (Paterson 46), Featherstone, Cooke (Niang 46), Crawford, Hastie (Ndjoli 46), Gray, Hamilton (Umerah 46)
Sunderland: Carney, Winchester, Batth, Alese, Hume, Matete, O’Nien, Sohna (Spellman 84), Taylor, Embleton, Diamond. Subs not used: Patterson, Wright, Ballard, Stewart, Cirkin, Evans, Roberts, Neil, Pritchard, Clarke, Gooch
Referee: David Webb (Lancashire)