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REPORT – Sunderland AFC 1-1 Oxford United: Johnson’s side miss opportunity to go level on points with league leaders

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Credit: @sunderlandafcofficial instagram - honours even at the Stadium of Light...

The Black Cats failed to build on their early lead, missing the chance to go level with League One toppers Plymouth.

The Wearsiders now sit in fourth but have all the momentum heading into the crucial Christmas period and have a game in hand on some of their closest rivals. 

The visitors, Oxford came from behind at the Stadium of Light to climb to seventh and extended their unbeaten run to seven games with the draw on Wearside.

Eastwood, Forde, Moore and Taylor all returned to the squad following the clubs COVID crises. 

Sunderland, now unbeaten in four matches, made a quick start when exciting youngster Leon Dajaku beat his man before slotting it beyond Simon Eastwood in the Oxford net, making it 1-0 after just seven minutes.

Elliott Moore had his header saved by Thorben Hoffmann moments before Matty Taylor levelled for the U’s in the 36th minute. 

The veteran full-back found the corner of the net following the cutback from Nathan Holland who pushed the returning Lynden Gooch aside with ease. 

Early in the second half, Black Cats top scorer Ross Stewart hit the bar before heading straight into Eastwood’s arms from a decent opportunity. Nathan Broadhead followed suit and rattled the post for the home side who pushed for a winner.

Gooch was involved again in the closing stages after his sloppy pass nearly gave Oxford the opportunity to take the spoils. Dan Adyei’s afford was denied well by Hoffman in the Sunderland net. 

An entertaining game which finished level. 

HOW IT HAPPENED

Sunderland had an early chance in the game when Ross Stewart was inches away from getting on the end of a cross from Gooch – Eastwood was able to claim before the ball got to the Scotsman.

The home side took the lead in the seventh minute when youth starlet Dajaku cut the ball onto his left foot and fired his shot into the far corner from inside the box. 

Credit: @sunderlandafcofficial instagram – Dajaku takes the lead for the home side…

That goal should have given Johnson’s side a platform to control the proceedings but the match became scrappy.

Oxford reacted well to going a goal down but offered little threat going forward with their direct style of play.

However, the U’s did equalise with nine minutes until the break when Gooch failed to clear the ball and Matty Taylor cleverly dispatched his shot into the far corner of the net. 

Moments later Sunderland saw a penalty appeal for handball ignored when Gooch’s cross struck a defender – replays show the ball had hit the Oxford player’s chest and his arm was in a natural position.

In the second half, Sunderland came out of the block quickly with a sense of purpose and determination to get the three points.

Pritchard and Stewart combined well as Nathan Broadhead entered the box but was unable to get a shot away. 

Before the hour-mark, Dajaku intercepted the ball after a mix-up between a defender and the Oxford goalkeeper. The exciting talent played the ball to Stewart who saw his shot crash back off the crossbar as Carl Winchester put the rebound narrowly over.

Minutes later, Stewart had an opportunity from a headed shot but the ball went straight down the throat of Eastwood in the Oxford goal. 

As the game entered the closing stages, Gooch allowed Daniel Agyei a guilt-edged opportunity to claim the win for his side before Hoffman saved the full-backs blushes. 

With ten minutes to play, Nathan Broadhead had the chance to win the game once again for the Black Cats but his effort from a tight angle wasn’t enough to put his side in front for the second time – despite clipping the woodwork.

Sunderland pushed desperately for a winner but couldn’t find a breakthrough.

A disappointing result in the end but perhaps a good point in the hunt for promotion…

Johnson’s side missed an opportunity to go top following the frustrating outcome but seem to be one of the most in-form sides heading into the hectic Christmas period – four league games unbeaten for the Wearsiders.

The Black Cats face a tricky trip to Morecambe in midweek and will be looking to extend the unbeaten streak to five and gain three points that could see them claim top spot if results go their way. 

The draw with Oxford may not feel enough given the level of performance on the day but the home side added another point to their seasons tally and cemented a place in the play-off positions. 

PLAYER RATINGS

Hoffman (7), Wright (6), Flanagan (7), Doyle (6), Gooch (5), Neil (6), Pritchard (8), Winchester (6), Dajaku (8), Stewart (6). Broadhead (6)

Subs: Embleton (6), O’Brien (n/a)

MOTM: Alex Pritchard

MANAGERS COMMENTS

Sunderland manager Lee Johnson:

“I thought there was effort in both halves, to be honest. We played better in the second half, but the commitment and effort was there. If you look at our bench today there’s a nice narrative – with Embo [Elliot Embleton] and Dan Neil there were seven academy graduates involved.

“But in one sense it speaks to the injury scenario and that leads to some players playing slightly out of position, so you have to credit these boys for how hard they have worked today. On another day we win it comfortably, against a very good Oxford side that caused us problems in the first half.”

He added: 

“We flipped the shape in the second half, decided to have a different square peg in a round hole, and I thought it worked well but unfortunately we just couldn’t get the ball over the line – whether that be due to good goalkeeping, finishes that hit the bar and the post, or at times just failing to get that magic delivery.

“I was pleased today with the performance and with the second half. There was a shape change at half-time, we put Bailey Wright at right-back and pushed Leon Dajaku up to right midfield and dropped Lynden Gooch to left-back.

“That’s why you have to give these boys credit, because that’s Dajaku playing out of position and scoring a goal, Gooch having to play right side and then left side, and then Bailey Wright slotting in at right-back despite being on a booking which made it a bit risky, but these are the things at the moment we have to do. I was positive with the players both at half-time and at the end of the game because I know how much they are putting in and how much effort they are giving.”

Oxford manager Karl Robinson: 

“If you looked at the first half I thought we were by far the better team. I thought we dominated most aspects of the game. I thought we started poorly in the first five minutes, but then we got to grips with the game and looked like a real class act. Our message at half-time was to continue doing the same things, (but) they had a change of shape and we got really sloppy.

He added: 

“I’m really angry with our performance in the second half. My players know I love them, they mean the world to me, but I felt in the second half we became disjointed. You’ve got to say we’ve done well to hang on. People have a nudge at Easty sometimes, but what a second half performance that was from him. That was sensational.”

Post-match thoughts? 

Are you pleased with the point? Can Sunderland keep the momentum going into the Christmas period and extend their run? Is Johnson the man to take the Black Cats to promotion?

Join in the conversation and have your say…

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Fantasy Premier League: Newcastle’s top players prices revealed

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@OfficialFPL via Twitter

Fantasy Premier League have revealed the prices for eleven of Newcastle’s top players next season. 

With the 2022/23 Premier League season fast approaching, clubs have been revealing their Fantasy Premier League prices.

There are some promising bargains among the Magpies’ ranks. Newcaslte’s 2021/22 top FPL point scorer Allan Saint-Maximin will remain just £6.5m. He has been reclassified from midfield to attack, and so players may find it harder to make space for him with more limited forward positions.

Newcastle’s most expensive player will be Callum Wilson. Last season’s top scorer will be worth £7.5m in the game. Users will hope that if he can avoid last season’s injury woes he will be guaranteed big points.

Midfielder Bruno Guimarães has increased in price to £6m. The Brazilian was listed at a meagre £5m on his arrival in January, but his form since then has earned him a higher price tag. With five goals and an assist in just seventeen Premier League appearances last season he will still be a tempting proposition.

Fellow January arrival Kieran Trippier will be valued at £5m. He only managed six appearances for Newcastle last season but scored two goals from free kicks in that spell. As a set-piece taking defender, Trippier has the potential to make significant point contributions from the back.

New keeper Nick Pope will look promising at £5m after proving his abilities with Burnley. He may be sharing game-time with Martin Dúbravka, which could see his points total limited. Other Magpies players not guaranteed minutes include Joe Willock (£5m), Fabian Schar (£4.5m) and Chris Wood (£6m).

Fans will also hope that more talent is set to arrive at St James’ Park before the start of next season, with plenty of time left in the transfer window.

Elsewhere, other top players have had their prices revealed. At present, players from fifteen clubs have been announced.

Kevin de Bruyne and Mohamad Salah are the most expensive players listed so far. Both come in at the high price of £12m, but are bound to prove popular with users nonetheless.

Erling Haaland is next highest priced, at £11.5m for Man City’s new striker. Cristiano Ronaldo, if he remains at Old Trafford, will be worth £10.5m. The Portuguese striker started last season at a record cost of £12.5m. Despite the drop in price, he was last season’s second highest scoring attacker at 159 points.

The Premier League season kicks off on 5th August with Arsenal vs Crystal Palace, with Newcastle facing newly promoted Nottingham Forest on Saturday 6th.

Who will be included in your team? Have your say on our Facebook page…

North East Updates will have our Fantasy Football League – stay tuned for updates on how to join.

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Eddie Howe’s pre-season: Opposition, Venues and more.

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Pre-season is vital when it comes to preparing for a new season for all football clubs around the world. It is a time where you can test different tactics, experiment with young and new players and overall get a sense of where your squad is at before the start of the new season.

For Newcastle, they have plenty of games to test the waters and give new signings like Nick Pope and Sven Botman time to get up to scratch before the start of the new Premier League season.

First, they play Gateshead in a behind-closed-doors friendly at the Newcastle United Training Centre on Saturday, 9th July. Gateshead are managed by former Magpies defender Mike Williamson and their side have just been promoted to the National League after winning the National League North.

Eddie Howe’s side will then travel to Austria for a week-long training camp where they will play two games.

The first opposition is TSV 1860 Munich who currently play in the third tier of German football, 3. Liga. The match will take place on Friday, 15th July and will be played at the SaalfeldenArena Burgerau, kick-off is set for 6 pm local time. The former champions of Germany have had success in the past when they finished as runners-up in the European Cup Winners’ Cup in the 1964/65 season. The Toon met with this side in the UEFA Intertoto Cup back in 2001, Newcastle won 6-3 on aggregate across the two legs. One of Munich’s best players, Marcel Bar, scored 21 goals in 37 appearances last season.

Then, Newcastle play Mainz on Monday, 18th July in what will be their third pre-season fixture. The match will be played at the 4,500-capacity Kufstein Arena and will kick-off at 5 pm local time. Mainz, currently managed by Bo Svensson, finished 8th in the Bundesliga last season. The last time the two sides met was in a pre-season game back in the summer of 2017, Mainz came out on top winning 2-1. Some of their best players include Jonathan Burkardt who managed to bag himself 11 goals and 3 assists last season as well as Moussa Niakhate who scored 8 goals and assisted 5 times.

The Toon then have eight days to prepare for their next pre-season fixture as they travel to Portugal to play Benfica at the Estadio da Luiz for the Eusebio Cup. The match will take place on Tuesday, 26th July and will kick-off at 8 pm local time. Benfica finished third in the Portugal Liga Nos last season. It’s been 9 years since the sides last met in the Europa League quarter-finals when Papiss Cisse’s goal in the second leg wasn’t enough and the Magpies exited the competition losing 4-2 on aggregate. Benfica were knocked out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals by Liverpool last season and some of their best players include Rafa Silva who came out with 23 goal contributions last season and Alex Grimaldo who scored 5 and assisted 5 from left-back last season.

To finish pre-season the Toon then face a double-header at St James’ Park. The first game played on Friday, 29th July will be against Atalanta. It is expected that Howe will split his first-team squad across the two fixtures and play two completely different teams. Atalanta finished 8th in Serie A last season and exited the Europa League quarter-finals following a 3-1 aggregate defeat to RB Leipzig. Mario Pasalic is one of their best players and had a very successful 2021/22 season which saw him earn 20 goal contributions from centre midfield in the league. The match will kick-off at 7:45 pm in St James’ Park

Newcastle will then face Spanish side Athletic Bilbao, just a week before the first game of the Premier League season against Nottingham Forest to finish their pre-season. Bilbao finished 8th in La Liga last season and were close to cup success, following a 2-0 defeat to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final. Inaki Williams who hasn’t missed a single game for the Spanish side in over six years is a threat up-front and captain Iker Muniain will also be a danger for the Toon following last season where he managed 10 assists and 4 goals.

Ticket information for these games are to be confirmed soon.

So what do you think of the pre-season fixtures and how many wins will Eddie Howe’s side manage in what promises to be an exciting season ahead.

Join the conversation on our Facebook page …

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Transfer update: NUFC looking at Bayern and Leeds forwards and defensive departures

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Image: @premierleague via Twitter

After confirming the signing of defender Sven Botman, and long-term target Hugo Ekitike off the table, Newcastle are set to look elsewhere in the transfer market.

The signing of Reims forward Hugo Ekitke is now in doubt. Reports are that the players’ agent, Karl Mwalako Buchmann, has brought discussions to a standstill. Newcastle were close to completing a move for the young winger in January and again this summer. 

With these two long running sagas appearing over, Eddie Howe and Dan Ashworth will work on other transfers.

Securing Matt Targett, Nick Pope and Sven Botman marks a positive transfer window already for the Magpies, but their search for attacking reinforcements will continue.

According to The Chronicle, Eddie Howe wants a winger and a striker to compete with Callum Wilson next season.

One attacker Newcastle have been linked with is Leeds’ Jack Harrison. The club are reported to have enquired about Harrison. The talented 25-year old would seem a good fit in the Newcastle squad, and fit with the attractive stlye of football Eddie Howe has his side playing. 

Per the Telegraph’s Luke Edwards, Newcastle are keen on Harrison but have a limited budget remaining.

With Leeds forward Raphinha looking set to leave Elland Road for Chelsea, it could take a lot for Newcastle to persuade Leeds to depart with another winger. 

Reports from Belgium have suggested Newcastle are competing to sign striker Joshua Zirkzee from Bayern Munich. The Dutchman spent last season on a successful loan spell at Anderlecht. The 21-year old has also drawn interest from Ajax.

Zirkzee scored 16 and made 9 assists in 38 appearances for the Belgian side during his loan spell last season.

In terms of departures, the arrival of Sven Botman could make way for Jamaal Lascelles to leave. The captain has long been linked with a return to Nottingham Forest. 

Lascelles’ inclusion in marketing for Newcastle’s new third kit has been seen as a sign that the club are unwilling to part with the player. As an experienced player he could provide continuity in Newcastle’s new-look back four. It remains to be seen whether he would be content to play second fiddle to players like Botman, or move in search of more game time.

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