YORK City could not get one over on Sunderland for manager and former Newcastle United star Steve Watson as they held the Black Cats to an entertaining 1-1 draw.

It was a good workout for the Minstermen at the LNER Community Stadium against the Black Cats, who came fresh from their win on Saturday at Hearts having had an extra day's rest over York.

The League One Mackems' attacking class had them well on top in the first half against a somewhat beleaguered City, who came slightly back into the contest towards the end of the first 45.

Sunderland deservedly led 1-0 at the break before half-time changes brought City a bit more fluidity, and Kurt Willoughby drilled in the equaliser.

Substitute keeper Pete Jameson did fantastically late on to save an 88th-minute penalty.

Ryan Whitley kept his place between the City sticks behind an unchanged back line from Sunday’s win over Newcastle.

A young trialist, who played the first half at Whitby and the final stages of Sunday, started in holding midfield in place of Akil Wright while Michael Woods replaced Paddy McLaughlin in the centre of the park.

Jason Gilchrist displaced Kurt Willoughby as the only change among the attackers.

Ex-Ireland international Aiden McGeady, formerly of Celtic and Everton, retained his place in the Black Cats’ line-up after his brace of goals against Hearts on Saturday.

There were just three changes from Sunderland’s trip to Edinburgh to face the freshly-promoted Scottish Premier League side.

Former Coventry City keeper Lee Burge came in for Anthony Patterson, 21-year-old Oliver Younger replaced Carl Winchester at centre-back and Northern Ireland international midfielder Corry Evans displaced striker Aiden O’Brien to the bench.

The early exchanges were certainly a livelier affair than against Newcastle with the visitors asking far more questions of the City organisation. York generally impressed in this regard, keeping the space compact between the midfield four and defensive four but fluid enough to plug the gaps.

The main danger in the first quarter came from the jinking pair of Lynden Gooch inside on the right and the 35-year-old McGeady on the left.

Whitley’s first piece of goalkeeping was to parry a seventh-minute effort from Gooch and Josh King had to be alert to clear ahead of the pacey McGeady.

The young keeper then did well to smother a through ball at the feet of Evans before, rightfully, fuming at his defence as the ball immediately and mystifyingly ended up in at the feet of Ross Stewart, from whom Whitley saved one-on-one.

Such was City’s greatest crime as the clock ticked towards 25 minutes – they had not made the most of their scant possession. Barring a couple of early corners and a through ball that released an offside Clayton Donaldson, it was all Sunderland.

Players charged with claiming a York clearance and getting City out of trouble were crowded out or unsupported.

It felt only a matter of time before the Minstermen conceded and it arrived just before the half-hour through Dan Neil, who turned home an excellent low McGeady cross from the edge of the six-yard box.

On a stuffy evening, the players in red looked a yard or two off it. Sean Newton had invited unnecessary pressure by passing a clearance – from York’s theretofore longest spell of possession – straight to Evans while Olly Dyson overhit a corner straight out of play. Left-back Scott Barrow made a marauding run to get on the end of the holding midfield trialist’s excellent pinged ball, only to mis-control (admittedly much less egregious than the former examples).

Fortunately for York, Whitley, with the gloves, was at the races and he comfortably palmed away a Stewart effort from inside the area from one of Sunderland’s ever-sparser attacks, which had become less frequent and less populated in the 10 minutes leading up to half-time.

Whether geed up by the cooling temperatures or Gooch’s 26th-minute departure, City walked into the dressing room at half-time with a toehold in the game. Towards the end of the half, fans watched with baited breath as Donaldson twisted and turned under a high ball only to have it poked away before he could pull the trigger.

Six minutes into the second half, City were level. Dyson was bundled over under persistent pressure on the right and Mackenzie Heaney whipped an in-swinging left-footed free kick into the area. Donaldson glanced his header onto Burge’s right-hand post, from where the ball bobbled out and second-half substitute Kurt Willoughby gleefully hammered home.

York found themselves on a more even keel in the second half, with the addition of the deeper-lying Willoughby giving them more options to relieve the Sunderland pressure, and add some of their own.

The visitors still posed a threat and, after York had shifted to a 3-5-2 (Paddy McLaughlin and Jack Degruchy out wide with Michael Duckworth and Scott Barrow flanking Matty Brown), Jameson was twice called on to make some fine saves. He first successfully narrowed the angle on the advancing McGeady to put his low drive out for a corner before clawing away a curling long-range effort at full stretch.

York had a couple of late chances to find the winner but from the best of them, Willoughby headed Donaldson’s dinked cross well over.

Benji Kimpioka showed great feet to win himself an 88th-minute penalty, tripped by Jameson, but the keeper did even better to guess right and stretch to save low to his right.

York: Whitley (Jameson HT), Duckworth, Barrow, Newton (Brown HT), King (Degruchy 62), Trialist ‘A’ (Wright HT), Dyson (Trialist ‘B’ 60), Woods (McLaughlin HT), Heaney, Donaldson, Gilchrist (Willoughby HT). Subs: Jones.

Goals: Willoughby (51)

Sunderland: Burge, Younger, Doyle (Richardson 61), Flanagan, Dyce (Newall 79), McGeady (Kimpioka 79), Neil, Embleton, Evans (Hawkes 61), Gooch (Diamond 26), Stewart (O’Brien 61). Subs: Patterson, Taylor, Wilding.

Goals: Neil (29)

Referee: Ross Joyce

Match stats York / Sunderland

Shots (on target): 5 (2) / 11 (7)

Corners: 5 / 4

Offsides: 3 / 2

Fouls: 3 / 4

Penalties: 0 / 1