By Luke McNulty, a member of The FA Young Reporters' Club. Luke is a third year sports journalism student at the University of Gloucestershire. He is extremely passionate about football, as well as basketball and tennis and is excited to be part of a project such as the YRC. "I feel this will provide me with some fantastic experience as I go into my prospective career as a multi-faceted sports journalist."
Walsall and Sunderland face a second round replay at The Stadium of Light.
When asked who they’d like to face in the third round of the FA Cup, should they progress, the most common answer from Sunderland fans was straightforward: ‘Manchester United at home’.
Despite their recent plight, which has resulted in them dropping into the third tier of English football, supporters of the two-time cup winners are still aiming big. They might get their wish when the third round draw is made on Monday evening, but they’ll have to get themselves through a second round replay first, after Walsall held them to a draw at the Bescot Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Aiden McGeady slotted home a Bryan Oviedo cross just before the break to deservedly put Jack Ross’ men infront, but Andy Cook’s leveller just after the break earned the Saddlers a rematch with the Black Cats.
Although this was their first ever meeting in England’s most prestigious cup competition, these two sides met just last weekend in the league. It showed in the opening half hour.
Both teams were limited to long balls down the channels; the only action seen in the opening exchanges being a passing plane on its way to nearby Birmingham International and a shirtless Sunderland fan chanting ‘red and white army’.
Openings presented themselves for both sides, with Josh Maja coming the closest, but nothing came of it.
The visitors did manage to make their pressure count just before half-time, however, when McGeady slid home at the back post after Oviedo low cross from the right had evaded everyone in the middle.
The 900-or-so travelling fans let out a huge cheer when the PA announcer read out a half-time score of ‘Newcastle United nil, West Ham United one’ in the Premier League. But they didn’t have much to cheer about when the teams were back out on the pitch.
The hosts were revitalised coming out of the break, and found themselves level in the 53rd minute when Andy Cook swept home a cross from the right side into the bottom corner. Jon McLaughlin was left stranded in the Sunderland goal, and the Sunderland fans behind his goal were stunned.
All of a sudden, Dean Keate’s side had their tails up, and they should have been ahead just after the hour mark when Morgan Ferrier found himself clean through. Ferrier was often at the heart of everything positive from Walsall in the second half, but McLaughlin got down well this time to save with his legs.
A minute later, he had his crossbar to thank for keeping the score level.
Cook's looping back-post header again left McLaughlin rooted to his spot, but it didn’t come down quick enough as it clipped the underside of the woodwork. Cook had another headed chance eight minutes from time but planted his effort straight into the hands of the grateful ‘keeper.
Despite a late push, Sunderland will probably head back up North relieved to live another day. Under the cosh for large parts of the second half, they’ll try their luck again in just over a week at the Stadium of Light.See all of the Emirates FA Cup results for the second round proper.