Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Not Just Bosses Cats Can't Hold on to; THE MATCH: Sunderland 2 Millwall 2

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Not Just Bosses Cats Can't Hold on to; THE MATCH: Sunderland 2 Millwall 2

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner at the Stadium of Light @sturayner

AFTER another game Sunderland ought to have won but did not, it is clear more than a new manager, they need a master psychologist.

Early in the season, in particular, you can take heart from performances over results, but the Black Cats are more than a third of the way through their Championship campaign and the number of points thrown away is huge. It is hard to think of many they have scraped.

Defensive errors were the blight of Simon Grayson's tenure and defined Robbie Stockdale's only game (of this spell at least) in sole caretaker control.

More than anyone else, the goalkeepers were responsible for the two goals either side scored. It meant Chris Coleman inherits a team of record-breakers, their 20 matches the longest winless home run in English league football history. In Newport to switch on the Christmas lights, there must have been a point where his erstwhile assistant Kit Symons was tempted to text from the Stadium of Light director's box to tell his friend not to board his Sunday-morning flight but clearly this is a management team who see the low ebb Sunderland are at as a nothing-to-lose situation, a challenge they can overcome.

Coleman will be without a slew of players at Aston Villa tomorrow. Billy Jones missed the Millwall game with a knee problem and Jonny Williams, Marc Wilson and Duncan Watmore had to be substituted through injury.

Most alarmingly, Watmore's problem was with the left knee where he damaged cruciate ligaments just over a year ago.

Also concerning was seeing Paddy McNair limping for the last few minutes having just got back from a similar problem, although this time it was the other knee. With all the substitutes used, he played on.

Lee Cattermole's booking for bringing George Saville down before his run could get far into Sunderland's half means he will be suspended at Villa Park. But the biggest damage was psychological.

Goalkeepers make mistakes and unfortunately this season particularly Sunderland ones.

Frustrating as it was, Robbin Ruiter letting Saville's 17th-minute free-kick through his legs was just one of those things.

What made it doubly hard to take was that Williams damaged his shoulder conceding the free-kick. Trebly annoying was that only five minutes earlier the Black Cats had opened the scoring at home for the first time in 337 winless days. You would not trust these players to walk your dog, so poor are they at holding a lead. Grayson's final game was the first time in that sorry sequence they had gone in front at all, but Bolton Wanderers only trailed for three minutes.

Making a second such mistake in three minutes was more than just unfortunate, though, and it was clearly a product of the first. …

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