Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cats Nudge Forward but Take a Step Back; THE MATCH: Millwall 1 Sunderland 1

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cats Nudge Forward but Take a Step Back; THE MATCH: Millwall 1 Sunderland 1

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner at the New Den @sturayner

SUNDERLAND have entered a phase of the season where they are nudging forward, but the 1-1 draw at Millwall was decided by backward steps.

Lee Cattermole's clearance from behind his own goal-line was symptomatic of the Black Cats' afternoon in freezing south London.

The midfielder had also been stationed on the line for a sixth-minute corner, and when Jake Cooper towered above the red-and-white shirts to win a free header, his intervention was crucial, knocking the goalbound ball way with his left knee.

All afternoon Millwall subjected Sunderland to a rigorous bombardment, playing the sort of physical football one expects of a club which prides itself in always being uncompromising.

In the first half, the visitors stood up to it, holding a high line and allowing Jason Steele to sweep up overhit passes with an assurance the recalled goalkeeper had never previously shown for Sunderland. They were rewarded with a Bryan Oviedo thunderbolt.

In the second half, though, they sank back, allowing the home players and their fans to get on top of them, seemingly waiting for the inevitable. Under those circumstances, they did well to come away with a point. For all their faults and frailties, this season's Sunderland never lose when they score first.

"We put some really good balls in and didn't get on the end of them, and some really poor balls in," frustrated Lions manager Neil Harris commented afterwards.

Sunderland might have won had it not been for goal-line technology. Hawkeye revealed Cattermole, not for the first time in his Sunderland career, had stood too deep at a corner and waited for Shaun Hutchinson's poked effort to cross the line before clearing.

That said, for in-form Millwall to have come away from the game empty-handed would have been a travesty. No matter their hit-andmiss crossing, or Steele's shot-stopping, you felt they would have found away to score.

To restrict them to one goal showed good character, and it was clearly the limit of the Wearsiders' ambition given how they wasted time as the game progressed. But while they can pat their backs at the very rare - perhaps unique this season - treat of three consecutive good Championship performances, the net result has been just two points.

With the snow rendering relegation rivals Hull City, Barnsley and Burton Albion inactive, they needed a win to turn up the heat. Sunderland's next game is at home to Aston Villa - Lewis Grabban, Steve Bruce and all. A little leeway would not go amiss, but they have none.

It was far from a waste of time for the 1,976 supporters who made it to the away end in a week when for some getting to the top of their driveway was too big an ask.

The Black Cats showed the spirit that has taken Millwall from the League One play-offs to the Championship comfort zone in nine months. …

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