Sunderland manager Phil Parkinson praised his side’s performance despite twice being pegged back in a 2-2 draw at Rochdale.
The Black Cats led through Charlie Wyke’s 15th-minute finish and later in the half via Bailey Wright’s glancing header, but those goals were cancelled out on both occasions by Matt Lund.
Parkinson’s men dominated the second half and struck the crossbar through George Dobson while Dale goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu pulled off fine saves to deny Wyke and substitute Danny Graham.
Parkinson said: “We changed the shape of the team slightly and played well in periods in the first half – we got the two goals, looked a threat and we were obviously disappointed with the goals we conceded but in the second half I thought we were excellent.
“We completely dominated and we should have come in talking about the three points. But in terms of performance levels and imposing ourselves on the opposition I thought it was a good all-round performance and we’re disappointed not to take the three points.
“We thought the changes would give us that little bit of freshness and it was the shape we played against Rochdale last season, when we did well against them.
“Sometimes just changing things gives the opposition something to think about and I felt it did tonight – we looked a decent side in the second half in particular.
“Rochdale’s first goal was a really poor goal to concede. The bedrock of our team has been that tenacity in defending and I said to the lads ‘let’s make sure that’s in place – let’s not allow the frustration of not killing teams off and not scoring enough stop us doing that’.”
Wyke’s opening goal, a header from Lynden Gooch’s cross, came against the run of play with Dale having started brightly and they deservedly drew level when Lund headed home Alex Newby’s cross after 25 minutes.
Bailey glanced the Black Cats ahead again five minutes before the break when he met a deflected Gooch shot. But Lund struck again after 44 minutes, stroking home after Ollie Rathbone teed him up with a backheeled pass.
Rochdale manager Brian Barry-Murphy said: “I thought it was a brilliant game. We were exceptional in the first half and it felt like a really rip-roaring affair, which is hard to say when the supporters are not here and you can’t really get a feel for the flow of the game.
“We were the dominant force in the first half and I felt we could have scored any number of goals. To come back on both occasions from goals we didn’t see coming was testament to the lads’ character.
“Our attacking play was brilliant, we were courageous and committed multiple numbers into the box and got our rewards for that.”