Black Cats deny Swans in stalemate

Titus Bramble, left, denied Danny Graham, right, as they played out a stalemate

Titus Bramble, left, denied Danny Graham, right, as they played out a stalemate

First published in National Sport News © by

Titus Bramble denied wanted man Danny Graham an injury-time winner as Sunderland and Swansea played out a goalless stalemate.

Defender Bramble blocked a shot from Graham, Black Cats' boss Martin O'Neill's prime target for what remains of the winter transfer window, in the third minute of stoppage time to rescue a point.

The 27-year-old had been booed by sections of the home fans as he was introduced as a 74th-minute replacement for Leon Britton, but his reception as he left the pitch might have been even more virulent had Bramble not intervened.

In a classic game of two halves, the visitors failed to make the most of their dominance during the opening 45 minutes, while Sunderland were equally unable to capitalise on a much-improved display after the break.

Midfielder Nathan Dyer passed up a glorious opportunity to win it for the visitors nine minutes from time when he fired wide with the goal at his mercy, and both sides ultimately had to settle for a point in front of a crowd of 35,628 at the Stadium of Light.

Graham's presence on the Swansea bench was perhaps a blow for those home fans who want him and a boost for the travelling supporters, although it is understood Sunderland are hopeful of completing a swoop for the 27-year-old before Thursday's deadline.

And their need for reinforcements in attack was graphically illustrated during an opening 45 minutes in which they struggled to win the ball, let alone do anything with it. Leading scorer Steven Fletcher and playmaker Stephane Sessegnon were virtual spectators as the Black Cats were at times left chasing shadows by Swansea's passing and movement.

The Swans may have been guilty of over-playing at times, but they created much of what was to be admired in the first half, although without troubling goalkeeper Simon Mignolet unduly.

Sunderland resumed after the break in determined mood and it took a timely interception by Ashley Williams to prevent David Vaughan picking out Fletcher in front of goal.

Dyer could have snatched victory at the death, only to sidefoot wastefully wide after running onto Michu's intelligent pass. Full-back Dwight Tiendalli whistled a shot across the face of goal in the final minute of normal time, but Bramble had to get in a priceless block to deny Graham from point-blank range after Michu had headed down for him deep into injury time.

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