Sunderland 0 Stoke 0
Sunderland’s dismal Premier League run now stands at one win in 14 after they were held to a lacklustre stalemate by visiting Stoke.
The Potters had the better of the chances, with former Black Cat Dean Whitehead twice going close, but the hosts had a strong penalty appeal for handball turned down after an hour.
Whitehead was lucky to get away with just a caution after kicking out at Lee Cattermole in the first half, but neither side truly deserved three points.
In just the third minute, good work from Tuncay and slack defending from Sunderland allowed Whitehead to break through on goal.
The midfielder should have done much better with the space he had but Craig Gordon smothered well.
Matt Kilgallon was coping well under the high ball on his home debut, while at the other end visiting captain Abdoulaye Faye produced a fine tackle to quiet an early Sunderland attack.
Kenwyne Jones forced Thomas Sorensen into action in the 10th minute after Michael Turner nodded Andy Reid’s free-kick into his path, but there was not enough power on the shot.
Sunderland were starting to settle and Steed Malbranque fizzed an effort just wide of the post before Ryan Shawcross was forced into a smart clearance.
Faye went down injured after 15 minutes and could not continue. Andy Wilkinson was sent on his place and also took the armband.
Cattermole attempted to start a quick Sunderland counter-attack in the 22nd minute but Salif Diao was on hand with the saving challenge.
John Mensa almost played Stoke in after dallying on the right touchline but he made amends by dispossessing Glenn Whelan.
Cattermole was doing well in the centre for Sunderland but there was little craft from either side to match his energy.
A clever dummy from Darren Bent in the 31st minute gave Malbranque the chance to test Sorensen, but having taken the ball down neatly his shot lacked venom.
Jones twice felt he had been held in the penalty area but referee Howard Webb was unmoved, despite the crowd’s protests.
Webb was under the spotlight again when he, perhaps leniently, handed Whitehead a booking for kicking out at Cattermole following a heavy tackle.
Two minutes after the restart Stoke had two fine chances in quick succession.
First Mamady Sidibe almost converted following a chipped Whelan free-kick, then Whitehead attempted to drill home the loose ball only for Mensah to deflect it over the crossbar from point-blank range.
Whitehead continued to keep his old team busy though and Kilgallon produced a perfectly-timed slide to halt his 50th-minute run.
Steve Bruce’s side hit back on the break five minutes later, when Jones freed Bent with a weighted pass that caught Stoke cold.
The England striker chased down the ball at the byline but the Potters rallied well to clear his cross.
Bent also had a strong penalty appeal turned down after 61 minutes when Robert Huth appeared to stop his lofted pass with his arm.
With 21 minutes left Bruce called on Bolo Zenden and Fraizer Campbell, with Reid and Malbranque making way.
A skiddy Zenden corner caused panic in the Stoke area three minutes after his arrival, but there were no red and white shirts on hand to poke home the loose ball.
Stoke substitute Rory Delap also did well seconds afterwards, heading Etherington’s deep ball across goal where Gordon claimed.
The Irishman then had the chance to send in a trademark long throw but Jones rose well to clear.
A sprinting Ricardo Fuller almost broke the deadlock with nine minutes to play but Gordon stood firm to parry, while Huth headed wide from a 90th-minute corner.