Steve Cotterill says Sunderland fans were on the verge of turning before ‘cruel’ late winner

Shrewsbury boss Steve Cotterill says Sunderland’s injury-time winner was ‘cruel’ – and believes the crowd at the Stadium of Light was on the verge of turning after the Black Cats had thrown away a two-goal lead. Sunderland took command of the game early on, with goals from Elliot Embleton and Nathan Broadhead inside the opening 15 minutes putting them in control.

They let the tempo drop for 20 minutes, however, and Shrewsbury hit back to level before the hour through Josh Vela and ex-Black Cat Tom Flanagan. Sunderland then reasserted themselves and laid siege to the Shrewsbury goal, with Ross Stewart hitting the woodwork and bringing an excellent save out of the keeper, before Broadhead scored the winner in the 92nd minute.

But one-time Sunderland assistant manager Cotterill did not see it like that. He felt that at 2-2 Shrewsbury had quietened the crowd and if anyone was going to find a winning goal, it would be his side of him.

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“I am so disappointed for the lads, not with them, because they gave so much and we didn’t deserve to get beat, but we have a long journey home with no points in the skip,” he said. “The winning goal was so cruel because we definitely deserved something from that.

“It is really tough for us. At 2-2 I thought only one team was going to win it.

“We played well, especially in the second-half, when we were really good but it took 22 minutes before we put our first passing movement together and before we played with any arrogance. We created enough to get a third but it is difficult when you come to a club of this size because 32,000 can drive them on and get behind them.

“It does give you extra energy having that behind you. This is a difficult place to come and get a result – even tougher when you’re 2-0 down. But not only did we quieten the crowd I think they were on the tip of turning.

“We made the game difficult for ourselves in the first 22 minutes and the players won’t know how well they have done to come back from two down, I cannot fault them.”

Flanagan left Sunderland to join Shrewsbury in January, and his goal in front of the Roker End could have put a severe dent in his old club’s play-off challenge had it stayed 2-2.

Cotterill said: “I am so pleased for Tom. He has that in him to nick a goal and we don’t have too many goalscoring centre-backs.

“It was nice for him to get the goal – I just wish it had been 0-0 and he got the winner!”

Cotterill spent five months as assistant to Howard Wilkinson on Wearside in 2002-03, and was pleased to be back at the Stadium of Light after missing his side’s visit last January while he was battling Covid. He said: “I always get a really nice welcome when I come back here, I still get to see some familiar faces and everyone is always very good to me.

“Obviously last time we were here I had Covid, so a big thank you to all the people who sent me good wishes, and there were a lot, and who asked how I was yesterday as well.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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