In the end, it was a disappointing result because, having shot ourselves in a foot now riddled with self-inflicted bullet wounds, we’d put ourselves in a winning position. But to gain a draw when forced to play with 10 men for three quarters of the game, as Pete Sixsmith says in his one-line verdict elsewhere, shows character …
It was against the run of play. After the early dismissal of Lee Cattermole – of which more later – it had taken Simon Mignolet’s saves and confident handling to keep us level early in the second half after a first 45 minutes with little action at either end.
But Henderson used excellent skill to make acres of space for himself before sending over a wonderful cross which Gyan – who otherwise looked well below matchfit -finished in style with his left foot.
Sadly Mignolet was finally beaten with a few minutes of normal time to go when a shot going nowhere was headed past him by a man I had much earlier heard Nick Barnes, on BBC Radio Newcastle, identify as Alcatraz but is actually called Alcaraz.
And we did it with 10 men.
Make immediate allowance for the ridiculous harshness of the first Lee Cattermole booking.
Then remember that a man given the responsibility of Sunderland’s team captaincy is presumably aware that having been booked, he must now take care to avoid rash tackles or general indiscipline.
So what did Cattermole do a few minutes later but make a rash tackle showing general indiscipline?
And off, for the second time in a season so young and in which he has played little part, he went.
Andre Marriner may be Graham Poll’s favourite ref; he certainly isn’t mine and showed lamentable inconsistency later in failing to produce a second yellow for a second yellow offence by the same Wigan player (before awarding a dangerous free kick for a good, ball-winning Richardson tackle and maybe even missing a handball in the box that might have doubled our lead).
But having acted with unnecessary severity to award Cattermole’s first yellow, he had no choice but to show the card again, and then a red, when the midfielder launched into his no-hope tackle to bring down Hugo Rodallega just outside our box after 23 minutes.
The first thing that needs to happen is loss of the captaincy, a role for which he is quite obviously showing insufficient maturity at this stage of his career.
And the second is a reminder to Steve Bruce, from above, of the responsibility he shoulders in persuading the players of Sunderland AFC to stop what has become an embarrassing threat to our ambition as a club.
We didn’t actually play that badly in the first half – though nor were we playing well, even before the sending off – but the stats tell the true story: one shot on target for us, none off; eight off target for Wigan, none on.
Despite the numerical imbalance, I said at half time we could go on to get something out this game since the balance of play suggested anything could happen. Malbranque had an excellent game; Mensah made important tackles when he came on late for Richardson, who’d also done fairly well until his injury (and who was absolutely right to be furious that Mensah was not immediately ready to replace him).
A draw was fair. But how close we got to three away points.
And how difficult we make things for ourselves.