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sunderland-2-1000x500Burnley and Sunderland will meet for a third time in two and a half weeks when they face each other a week on Tuesday in an FA Cup 3rd round replay after yesterday’s tie ended in a 0-0 draw at the Stadium of Light.

It was a game we should have won. We had the chances to do just that with Sam Vokes missing one early in the game and Ashley Barnes as time was running out. We also hit the woodwork through James Tarkowski while Nick Pope in goal only had one save of note to make all afternoon.

I like travelling to the North East. It makes a change from the usual motorway network going through Blubberhouses and the golf balls at RAF Menwith Hill. There was a hint of fog when we left and then the smog as we went past Middlesbrough on the A19.

The only hold up was on the A19. On the way to Stoke we had a wheelbarrow in the middle lane on the M6 and going to West Ham we encountered deer running across the road. This time there looked to be a hold up on the A19 with what appeared to be a car moving too slowly in the inside lane. It turned out that there was a dog walking in front of the car.

Once we encountered that, we were soon there and the Stadium of Light itself doesn’t look any different than it did on the last visit although there is some building work going on around it. There’s a hotel and restaurant gone up in the last two years while another large area of land outside has been closed off for building work.

Most of the stadium will be twenty years old this year since it opened ahead of the 1997/97 season but the away fans are now situated in the only addition made to the stadium since its opening, a third tier in the North Stand which leaves us almost hanging from the roof way above the pitch.

It’s a very elevated view but there was no mistaking the number 19 who turned out in a much changed Burnley side, and there was no failing to note that he was also spotted by the home fans. it was a second Burnley debut for Joey Barton and he’s certainly not a popular figure around Wearside with maybe his time playing in black and white being a major contributory factor to that.

Barton coming in was one of six changes made by Sean Dyche. Nick Pope, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Steven Defour and Sam Vokes were the other five to come in. With Tom Heaton and Ben Mee missing the captains arm band went to Michael Keane for the first time.

David Moyes though made just two changes from the team that had played against Liverpool last Monday with Jason Denayer and Javier Manquillo replacing John ‘Shea and Didier Ndong.

The first few minutes belonged to Sunderland but it was not to set the pattern for the game. They didn’t really create anything other than forcing Pope into a routine save, but once we got into the game we twice came close and should have been in front.

Andre Gray shot over after Vokes had set him up by dummying the ball but Vokes really should have given us the lead when he was played in by Scott Arfield. With just goalkeeper Vito Mannone to beat, he made it easy for the Italian who had no problem saving to his left.

Generally, it was a drab first half. I thought we had the edge over the home side who offered precious little and looked like a side without confidence. But this much changed Burnley side weren’t able to create enough against what always looked as though it could be a suspect defence.

Although nothing changed in the second half in the way of goals, it was much better for Burnley and Sunderland might wonder just how they are still in the competition having been dominated for much of it.

They did force Pope into one save, former Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell testing him with a shot from distance. He tipped that over the bar without any real concern but I don’t think anything more was asked of him throughout the game.

As it progressed we got more and more on the front foot. Despite being forced into changes which saw both Arfield and Johann Berg Gudmundsson suffer hamstring injuries, we kept on top of things.

At kick off I’d assumed that Barton wouldn’t play the full game, given his absence from competitive football and that Steven Defour would also be withdrawn given that he always is. The pair became more and more influential as the game went on and once the subs had been made, Barnes replacing Gray alongside the other two, they had no option but to stay on.

Our only scare in the second half was Jermain Defoe going down in the box alongside Darikwa. Referee Stuart Attwell, who overall had a good game, awarded us a free kick against Defoe for handling the ball once he’d gone down; at the time I thought he’d got it wrong and having seen it again I have not changed my opinion. For me it was a penalty and had he yellow carded Darikwa it would have seen him sent off having already been booked in the first half.

Overall though there was only ever likely to be one winner. The closest we came was when Tarkowski’s header got a slight deflection onto the post but right at the end Barnes made a mess of a chance when he went through, hesitated and then fired over.

That means a replay but this was a game we should have won. This should have been our first away win since Charlton last May, but we’ve got another chance a week on Tuesday in the replay when a victory would be our first at Turf Moor in the FA Cup in six years.

There were positives. Tarkowski looked assured at the back alongside Keane and the midfield pair began to look the part the longer the game went on. I was also very impressed with Hendrick when he came on, I thought he was a major factor in us dominating those closing stages.

So not quite the perfect day, but we’ve got used to that on our travels. There were no dogs on the way home though, just bad fog between Thirsk and Ripon.

The Saints will be marching into the Turf on Saturday, then we can look forward to the replay.

The teams were;

Sunderland: Vito Mannone, Javier Manquillo, Jason Denayer, Papy Djilibodji, Patrick van Aanholt, Donald Love, Jack Rodwell, Sebastian Larsson (John O’Shea 84), Fabio Borini, Adnan Januzaj, Jermain Defoe. Subs not used: Mika, Ethan Robson, George Honeyman, Elliot Embleton, Joel Asoro, Josh Maja.

Burnley: Nick Pope, Tendayi Darikwa, Michael Keane, James Tarkowski, Stephen Ward, Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Jeff Hendrick 72), Joey Barton, Steven Defour, Scott Arfield (Michael Kightly 60), Sam Vokes, Andre Gray (Ashley Barnes 72). Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Matt Lowton, Ben Mee, Dean Marney.
Yellow Cards: Tendayi Darikwa, Joey Barton.

Attendance: 17,632.

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