Sunderland came back from behind to secure a 1-1 draw with Millwall at the Den on Saturday afternoon.
Jake Cooper opened the scoring in the second half from a corner, before Dennis Cirkin equalised from a free kick late in the game.
The Black Cats couldn’t celebrate the goal though, as Cirkin was involved in a nasty-looking collision and had to come off straight after scoring.
Going into the game, the sides were separated by just one point. Sunderland were sat in 10th with 41 points, with Millwall ninth on 42.
Joe Gelhardt made his Sunderland debut in the absence of any other recognised strikers, whilst former SAFC captain George Honeyman started for the opposition. Duncan Watmore was on the bench following his late January transfer from Middlesbrough.
Millwall thought they opened the scoring after half an hour when Anthony Patterson spilled Zian Flemming’s shot and Honeyman tapped in the rebound, but the linesman eventually flagged for offside, as George Saville was blocking Patterson’s view.
Tensions boiled over just minutes later when Patterson collected a deep cross, and Cooper shoved the goalkeeper to the ground – earning himself the first yellow card of the game.
Mason Bennett then tripped Trai Hume from behind, leading to another first-half booking.
It was goalless at half time, although Millwall could be justified in feeling they should be ahead. As well as the disallowed goal, they were generally very direct and Sunderland had to work very hard to contain them at times.
Watmore came on at half time and instantly stretched the defence, with a pacey run in behind but Patterson came out with a strong hand to it.
Hume found himself booked as he was forced to bring Watmore down to stop a counter-attack.
Honeyman took a snapshot after 58 minutes, but Patterson reacted well to tip it over for a corner. The hosts had been dominant from set pieces all game and this one led to a scramble in the box, which Cooper flicked in while he was on the floor.
Tony Mowbray introduced Alex Pritchard on 62 minutes, replacing Jack Clarke. Soon after, Aji Alese made way for Dennis Cirkin.
After 70 minutes Patrick Roberts went on a mazy run and took the shot on himself, but it was blocked. The chance seemed to be a wake-up call for Sunderland and led to a period of better pressure from the Black Cats.
Pritchard whipped a free kick into the box and Dennis Cirkin leapt highest and nodded into the bottom corner, suffering a head injury in the process. He was replaced by the debuting Joe Anderson after a lengthy delay. In the meantime, Tom Bradshaw was replaced by Oliver Burke for Millwall and Pierre Ekwah came on for Edouard Michut for the visitors.
In the dying stages, Abdoullah Ba replaced Joe Gelhardt before six minutes were added on. Both teams pushed for goals, but the final score ended 1-1. A fair point – Millwall were physical and direct, but Sunderland stood strong and battled well throughout.
SportsByte Man of the Match: Trai Hume
Sunderland XI: Patterson, Hume, Ballard, Batth (C), Alese, Neil, Michut, Roberts, Amad, Clarke, Gelhardt.
Millwall XI: Long, McNamara, Wallace, Cooper (C), Mitchell, Bradshaw, Flemming, Cresswell, Bennett, Saville, Honeyman.