A “boring” showing: five reflections on Sunderland’s Championship defeat to Millwall

Sunderland’s poor home form continued on Saturday with Duncan Watmore scoring the only goal, as Millwall secured their Sky Bet Championship survival with a 1-0 win.

Watmore’s 71st-minute goal was the difference between the two sides, as the Black Cats continued to frustrate supporters with a weak attacking output.

Here are the key talking points:

2X26W55 Millwall’s Casper de Norre (left) and Sunderland’s Adil Aouchiche battle for the ball during the Sky Bet Championship match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland. Picture date: Saturday April 20, 2024.


After the humiliating 5-1 defeat to Blackburn Rovers on Easter Monday, the Black Cats have saw their performances gradually pick back up.

A home draw against Bristol City was an opportunity missed but encouraging, whilst an away draw to Leeds and win at West Brom both signalled a step in the right direction for the team who have struggled over recent months for any sort of consistency.

However, in his post-match reflections on this latest defeat, Mike Dodds judged the match as “one step forward, two steps back” – a candid assessment of a performance that was below the standards set since their return to the second tier.


Sunderland fans have read this script before, and so when former Black Cat George Honeyman was replaced with another in Watmore, the writing was on the wall.

Millwall’s form has massively picked up after the reappointment of Neil Harris, as they have clawed their way out of a Championship relegation dogfight with two games to spare.

Two successive home victories over Leicester and Cardiff saw Harris’ side head north looking to replicate some of their form at the Den, and here, they set up in a typical Millwall style.

A 4-4-2 set-up saw the Lions looking to cash in from one opportunity, and when Ryan Longman’s cross was met by Watmore, the visitors’ survival was sealed, in predictable fashion for the Black Cats.

2X26RXY Millwall’s Duncan Watmore (third right) celebrates with team-mates after scoring their first goal of the game during the Sky Bet Championship match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland. Picture date: Saturday April 20, 2024.


Rumours about Dan Neil’s season-ending injury began to circulate on Thursday, but they were left unanswered by Dodds in his pre-match press conference.

However, when the team news was announced an hour before kick-off, Neil was left out of the squad and was seen coming out of the dugout with an ankle boot wrapped around his foot.

It is a big miss for the Black Cats for the remaining two matches after the impact that the central-midfielder has had this campaign, but his absence may prove to be an opportunity for Callum Styles to impress in the centre as his loan spell comes to an end.

However, with transfer speculation around Neil’s future getting louder by the day, Sunderland fans may have seen the last of the midfielder.


Another one of Dodds’ assessments of this defeat was that it was a “boring” showing from his side, and judging from the post-match reaction from the fanbase, it was hard to argue.

Despite dominating possession with 68% of the ball and having more than double the number of accurate passes than Harris’ side, their attacking output was limited once again.

It will be the big area that needs addressing in the summer transfer window, as the Black Cats will ultimately look to use their troubles of the second-half of this season to push higher up in the division next time around.

2WT8G9N Sunderland manager Mike Dodds gestures during the Sky Bet Championship match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland. Picture date: Saturday March 16, 2024.


With only two rounds of Championship football remaining, the promotion and relegation battle is starting to intensify even more.

The Black Cats could have a massive say in the battle at the bottom, as Sheffield Wednesday visit the Stadium of Light on the final day of the season.

Sunday’s victory for the Owls over Blackburn has pushed them out of the bottom three, but with the two teams below them, Huddersfield and Birmingham, facing each other next weekend, it is likely to all come down to the last day to decide who will fall into the final two relegation spots.