Sunderland boss Michael Beale paid tribute to derby saviour Nazariy Rusyn after seeing him come off the bench to rescue a point at Middlesbrough.
The Ukrainian striker has taken his time to settle on Wearside after initially arriving without his family from Zorya Luhansk in September. However, he took a significant step forward on Sunday afternoon by blasting a late equaliser to snatch a 1-1 Sky Bet Championship draw at the Riverside Stadium.
Beale said: “I have seen a difference in him – and you would, if you are a father. Living away is different if you’re living in different parts of the UK, but obviously where he is from there is a war going on and he was a long way away from his wife and child.
“They are here now, which is fantastic for him on a personal level. All the time his English improves, he will have better connection with his team-mates on the pitch.”
Rusyn’s intervention came in the nick of time with Boro threatening to complete a double over their neighbours.
Both sides squandered good first-half opportunities with Finn Azaz blazing over an open goal after Sam Greenwood’s attempt had been saved and Abdoullah Ba failing to direct his attempt past defender Rav van den Berg on the line.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 61st minute when Forss blasted past Anthony Patterson but that proved insufficient to claim the points when 25-year-old Rusyn squeezed a dipping shot through goalkeeper Tom Glover with seven minutes remaining.
Beale said: “Our reaction, I thought, was fantastic and we go and and score a goal and then after that, I thought that with one or two of the moments we had, certainly with [Jack] Clarke getting in down the left, that maybe we should do better again.
“But if you can’t win… It’s a big point, How big, we won’t know for another few weeks yet.”
Middlesbrough boss Michael Carrick admitted his frustration at dropping precious points from a winning position.
Asked about his emotions, Carrick said: “Yes, definitely, frustration and there’s a little bit of we need to get what we deserve from games and performances. It feels like we’re losing points that we definitely should be gaining.
“I feel for the boys because they put a lot into the game and showed a lot of quality, especially second half to control it fully, and not to come away with the win is disappointing.”