Max Power rails against Bristol Rovers' timewasting tactics - but Sunderland must get used to it
Sunderland were infuriated by Bristol Rovers' gamesmanship, but they will not be the last side to employ those tactics on Wearside this seasonby James Hunter
Sunderland will have to get used to teams running down the clock at the Stadium of Light, admits Max Power.
The Black Cats grew increasingly frustrated at Bristol Rovers' timewasting antics as the visitors attempted to cling on to the third minute lead they had taken through Luke Leahy's penalty.
Rovers slowed the game down at every opportunity, taking their time over every restart, calling on the physio at every opportunity, and even staying in the dressing room at half-time for several minutes while Sunderland and the referee waited on the pitch.
Ultimately, their ploys were in vain and Chris Maguire earned Sunderland a point, but Phil Parkinson was unhappy with Rovers' approach and Power shared his manager's view, although he says it is something he has seen before and expects to see again.
"Bristol came here with a game plan of slowing the game down at every opportunity," said Power.
"The keeper was taking a very long time on goal kicks and when the ball went out for a throw in, it made it very frustrating.
"When you concede so early, it always gives the other team a leg up and it's an uphill battle for us.
"It's tough. I think sometimes common sense has to prevail, and the referee can deal with that a lot quicker.
"If they get a warning for time wasting early on and then it's followed by a caution, maybe that will help.
"It comes to a point where it has to be a case of, 'come on ref, let's get the game moving and going'.
"I've never seen a physio come on so much.
"Has anyone gone off seriously hurt? No. I get what Bristol are doing, and it's something we've got to cope with, but sometimes officials can deal with that situation a lot better."
Power believes the fact there were no fans there to highlight Rovers' timewasting may have encouraged the referee to let it go, although deep into injury time even he lost patience and booked goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola as he dawdled over a goal-kick.
The midfielder said: "You see their goalkeeper, he gets booked in the 98th minute, but for me, there's no point booking him then.
"It's 98 minutes too late – he was taking his time after four minutes.
"I'm not saying the crowd would have got their goalkeeper booked, but the pressure certainly gets ramped up on officials when there is a crowd."
This was Sunderland's third competitive game of the season, all of them at home, and the lack of a crowd due to the Covid-19 crisis has made for an eerie atmosphere inside the Stadium of Light.
And Power says that became even more noticeable when Sunderland were in the ascendancy in the second half against Rovers and the usual roar from the terraces was absent.
"I do feel on Saturday, with how dominant we were in that second half, there's no denying that a full house would have helped," he said.
"The atmosphere would have gone up.
"It is a strange atmosphere at the moment – I hope it's not one that's here for the long run.
"Chris gets that equaliser, and there's hardly much noise.
"It's a very strange atmosphere, it's eerie.
"When you get corners or do good bits of play, it's usually greeted by a roar here.
"At the moment, it's very quiet.
"It's clearly got to be safety first, but I'll be pushing for fans to be in sooner rather than later."