Swansea City claim draw at Sunderland
ON this evidence, both Sunderland and Swansea City could do with a goalscorer.
So perhaps it is no wonder that as the transfer deadline approaches, they are tussling over the services of Danny Graham.
The striker entered the fray in the closing stages last night at a ground that he might soon call home.
But for the moment at least, Graham is a Swansea player — and part of a squad who will be feeling pretty pleased about a goalless draw at the Stadium of Light.
Swansea had the better of a contest which never really sparked into life, and there will be some disappointment for Michael Laudrup and his team that they did not take all three points.
But this was another impressive clean sheet — and any point earned on the road is welcome.
There were three changes to the Swansea side which lined up against Chelsea in their last outing as Laudrup continued to rotate his squad at the end of a hectic January.
In came Dwight Tiendalli, Nathan Dyer and Itay Shechter, with Angel Rangel, Ki Sung-Yueng and Wayne Routledge dropping to the bench.
Gerhard Tremmel continued in goal as Michel Vorm is suffering with a minor knee injury.
But all the focus in the lead-up to the game was on Swansea's forward line — or at least the Swansea forward who began on the bench.
Graham was the talk of the stadium before kick-off amid strong suggestions that he will be a Sunderland player before the transfer window closes tomorrow night.
Once the action got under way, the eye was quickly drawn to those Swansea attacking players who were actually on the pitch.
Laudrup's team began with confidence and composure, fizzing the ball around the park with precision and pace.
The game was barely ten minutes old before the locals started expressing frustration about Sunderland's inability to get the ball off the team in white.
Swansea were passing the ball beautifully, pulling Martin O'Neill's defence all over the place without creating any clear-cut opportunities.
Dyer was the first man to try his luck, the winger firing wide from the edge of the area after a delicious Swansea move.
Next Dyer led a quickfire counter, galloping down the right before centring for Shechter.
He fed Pablo Hernandez, who touched the ball back for Michu to try his luck, but John O'Shea made a smart block.
Swansea were oozing confidence, Ben Davies and Tiendalli both getting into the box and Michu chesting elaborately into the path of Hernandez.
Then came what may be a first — at least in his Swansea career — as Chico Flores popped up on the left flank and fooled his man with a stepover.
The central defender pulled the ball back, then tried his luck from eight yards when Hernandez rolled it back to him.
Simon Mignolet got down low at his near post to push Flores's shot past the post.
Swansea were well in control on the pitch, but not on the scoreboard.
Their dominance was summed up in one surge which began with Davies piling forward on the left flank and ended with Tiendalli shooting at the far post.
The right-back's side-footed effort was heading for the bottom corner, but once more Mignolet denied Swansea.
Sunderland began to impose themselves a little more as the half wore on, with Stephane Sessegnon making a nuisance of himself in the space behind Steven Fletcher.
But the home side's only effort of note before the break came from Seb Larsson, who went for goal with a free-kick from wide on the left.
Tremmel got across to push the ball to safety, and other than that there was little for the big German to do.
Sunderland simply had to improve after the break — and they did.
Sessegnon was their driving force, the little No. 28 pulling the strings as Ashley Williams and Co were asked questions for the first time all evening.
But yet again Swansea looked resilient, Williams and Flores leading the resistance as the Black Cats pressed.
The last of Shechter's difficult night was to win a free-kick which Jonathan de Guzman whipped on to the roof of Mignolet's net.
At the other end Craig Gardner tried his luck with a dead-ball, but his low drive dribbled harmlessly wide.
Both managers sent on fresh legs, and Roland Lamah almost made an instant impact when got a toe on Larsson's loose ball.
The Belgian turned on the afterburners, but fellow countryman Mignolet raced off his line to smother.
Next fellow substitute Ki tried his luck from 25 yards, but once more Mignolet was well placed to save.
Laudrup sent on Graham for the last 15 minutes, and his arrival prompted boos from a section of the home support.
'You are nothing but scum' they sang at the substitute because of his Geordie roots. The small pocket of travelling fans, meanwhile, chanted Graham's name.
They almost had a goal to celebrate nine minutes from the end when Dyer robbed David Vaughan in midfield and fed the ball right to Michu.
Swansea's leading scorer pulled the back into Dyer's path, but his first-time effort flew wide of the upright from point-blank range.
Laudrup's men threatened again in the 90th minute, when Michu fed Tiendalli down the right.
He cut inside and aimed a left-footed shot towards the far corner, but his effort drifted harmlessly wide.
And in the last minute of stoppage time came Graham's moment, when the ball fell to him in the area but his shot was blocked by Titus Bramble.
What a story that might have been.