Sunderland rue close calls in West Brom draw
Sunderland squandered an opportunity to ease their Premier League relegation fears after failing to convert their chances in a dour 0-0 home draw with West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
The home side twice felt aggrieved by the officials` decisions, firstly when West Brom`s Joleon Lescott was shown only a yellow card for fouling Danny Graham and then when Adam Johnson had a goal ruled out for offside.
Gus Poyet`s side have now won only one of their last nine league games, leaving them three points above the bottom three in 16th place, with Tony Pulis`s West Brom two points and two places better off.
England manager Roy Hodgson was in attendance, presumably to cast an eye over West Brom striker Saido Berahino, but he was given cause to regret his choice of game on a cold, dreary afternoon at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland were able to recall Lee Cattermole after he missed 10 games with groin and knee problems, and it was the sort of scrappy, attritional game in which the combative midfielder usually thrives.
There was early controversy when Graham was brought down by Lescott as he raced towards goal, but to the home fans` disapproval, referee Mike Jones only showed the former England defender a yellow card.
West Brom, who recalled captain Darren Fletcher, were the first team to register a shot on target, but James Morrison`s tame shot was comfortably held by the recalled Costel Pantilimon.
Jermain Defoe also returned for Sunderland after calf trouble, but the hosts had to wait until the 37th minute before they threatened, with John O`Shea stabbing wide from Sebastian Larsson`s deep free-kick.
Minutes later the home team did have the ball in the net when Johnson rolled home after gathering Ricardo Alvarez`s pass and rounding Ben Foster, but he was denied by an offside flag.
In the second half, Defoe saw a shot blocked by Craig Dawson and Santiago Vergini headed wide from a corner, but despite the introductions of Connor Wickham and Steven Fletcher, Poyet`s men went home disappointed.