Chris Maguire of Sunderland celebrates after he scores their equaliser against Bristol Rovers(Image: Getty Images)

Maguire runs the show, but striker chances an issue - Sunderland's Bristol Rovers draw in numbers

The Black Cats couldn't kick off their League One campaign with a home after they were frustrated by Bristol Rovers at the Stadium of Light


With a run of tricky fixtures to come, Sunderland were desperate to begin their League One promotion push with a home win over Bristol Rovers on Saturday.

But Phil Parkinson's side were frustrated - in more ways than one - by the visitors and had to be thankful for Chris Maguire's late leveller to at least earn them a point.

With Oxford, Peterborough and Charlton on the horizon, it felt like a missed opportunity to get off to a winning start, especially with several of Sunderland's promotion rivals collecting an opening three points.

Here's what the stats - from - tell us about what went right on Saturday, and what needs to improve.


Key passes Chris Maguire made

There was no doubt about who made Sunderland tick on Saturday, at least in an attacking sense. No one came close to goalscorer Maguire's contribution when it came to key passes. The Scot also put in 19 crosses - more than double that of Denver Hume, who was the next highest.

With Will Grigg and Aiden O'Brien up front, Maguire can influence the game from a slightly deeper, central role, and that can only be a positive for Sunderland given these stats.

They key is making the most of his passing and creativity.


Total Sunderland shots . . . but only eight on target

The Black Cats were on the front foot for most of the game, and indeed Rovers were hanging on long before Maguire's equaliser.

But while 25 shots over the 90 minutes is an impressive total, only eight of them were on target.

That accuracy is something they must improve on if they are going to take advantage of home domination.

Sunderland simply have to work the opposition goalkeeper more.


Shots on target from Will Grigg and Aiden O'Brien

Both O'Brien and Grigg looked lively again, causing trouble for the Gas defence on Saturday.

But between them they only managed one shot on target - from O'Brien - during the game.

We know Maguire and Co are producing key passes and crosses, so again it's the accuracy which needs to improve.

Grigg managed just one effort on goal all game, while O'Brien fared better with four, but only one troubled Anssi Jaakkola in the visiting goal.


Number of through-balls played

Perhaps this is why Sunderland's frontmen had so few chances in front of goal? For all the Black Cats' dominance, particularly in the second half, neither Grigg nor O'Brien was played in on goal.

Neither are particularly tall players and so are unlikely to have too much success in the air - balls on the ground is where they'll prosper.

Now, some of this is down to how the game was unfolding. Sunderland were on top with Rovers defending deep, meaning there were far fewer opportunities for the likes of Maguire or Max Power to play the ball into space behind the backline.

And that comes back to conceding early, which allowed Rovers to defend a lead from the first few minutes.

Against sides who will look to attack more - Peterborough in a few weeks for example - this stat could well be different.


Touches Danny Graham managed

The former Blackburn striker made his second debut for Sunderland as a 66th-minute substitute on Saturday as Parkinson looked to change the game.

Given the 35-year-old will be used as an impact player - and that he had 24 minutes plus considerable stoppage time to do that - it's disappointing that he managed just seven touches.

Graham has the experience and nous to be a positive influence for the Black Cats this season, but he has to either get more involved, or Sunderland have to find a way of getting the ball to him in the right positions.


Clearances made by Cian Harries

As if proof were needed that Sunderland needed to change their approach earlier, Rovers central defender Harriers was on top of most of what was thrown at him.

The Welshman made 13 clearances - Max Ehmer also made eight - as Sunderland were rebuffed time and again.

It indicates again that balls into the box from wider positions simply weren't working and a change of plan was needed.