Sunderland went into the game without a win in 19 home games which was equal to the current English League record. Interim manager Robbie Stockdale took sole charge after Billy McKinlay resigned to join ex Sunderland gaffer David Moyes at West Ham.
The caretaker boss made a few changes to the side that were beaten at Boro before the international break, Jonny Williams came in for Darron Gibson, Duncan Watmore in for the injured Dider Ndong and Adam Matthews replaced Billy Jones.
Sunderland started off well and created a few half chances in the opening period, getting fans up for the game. Aiden McGeady had his shot deflected and then pushed wide for a corner, but the first real opportunity came for star striker Lewis Grabban who capitalised on some dodgy goalkeeping from Jordan Archer. Bryan Oviedo’s corner caused chaos for the Scottish goalkeeper who spilled it out on a plate for Grabban. He obliged, tapping in from inside the six yard area. It seemed that Sunderland might finally land some odds, at a reasonable price had you checked bookies free bets. We were 5/4 favourites before kick off, but the lead was short lived.
Robbin Ruiter then displayed some suspect goalkeeping himself; George Saville swung a free kick goalwards, won after Williams stupidly slid in, the Dutchman caught the ball as it was dipping onto the floor. However, he proceeded to let the ball slip from his grasp, under his body and it trickled across the line. It was a similar piece of goalkeeping to that of former Manchester United keeper Massimo Tiabi against Southampton’s Matt Le Tissier.
Only a few minutes later, Ruiter was again faced with another free kick from Saville, and again didn’t cover himself in glory. The former Utrecht keeper’s positioning was similar to Jason Steele’s at Brentford - pathetic. A professional goalkeeper shouldn’t be misjudging a free kick, especially when minutes earlier he made the same sort of error. Again the goalkeeper’s inability to catch cost us, Ruiter palmed the former Chelsea youth player’s free kick into the top right corner, giving the visitors the advantage.
Duncan Watmore had to go off injured, not before he had one last chance though, he cleverly beat three defenders before being taken out in a strong tackle just yards from the Lions’ goal. This consequently finished the injury-prone winger’s afternoon early. His replacement Callum McManaman would have a similar run down the right hand side just before the break but he went down far too easily looking for a spot kick.
Early in the second Matthews charged down the flank and played in a rather poor cross, only for the fourth goalkeeping error of the day cost Millwall the lead. Archer appeared to punch it into the roof of his own net, rather than simply catching a poor delivery. It was credited as a Matthews goal, his first competitive finish in red and white, this was due to it being on target.
Moments later, Grabban had the ball in the net again only for the officials to disallow the goal for a foul on full back McLaughlin. I must say it was a very harsh decision; myself and the people around me in the stadium couldn’t, at first work, out why referee Tim Robinson had overruled it.
Ruiter did however make a good save to deny striker Lee Gregory putting Neil Harris’ men in the driving seat. Steve Morison’s flicked through ball eventually foundit’s way to Gregory, who’s shot took a deflection and wrong footed the Dutchman. Ruiter made a good recovery to save.
Both sides towards the end lacked urgency, especially Sunderland. You would’ve thought it was Sunderland trying to protect a lead or a point; if anyone was going to win it, it was going to be Millwall on the counter attack.
I have recently given Jason Steele some heavy criticism but Ruiter hasn’t proved himself to be any better. As for the back line - still not good enough. The full backs are still consistently failing to close down crosses, and the centre backs are backing off. Midfield – firstly, Lee Cattermole; an absolute joke of a player, some fans love him because he runs about a lot and ‘puts a foot in’, when realistically he dives in carelessly and picks up stupid bookings. He doesn’t show 100% as his head’s down most of the time, he cannot string a pass together, he isn’t an attacking threat or a defensive help, more of a hindrance, so my question is - what does he actually bring to the side? Paddy McNair was decent but still needs game time, as I personally don’t think he’s 100% fit.
Fitness not up to scratch
Expanding on that point, in the last two league games we’ve had to make two early subs – Williams and Watmore against Millwall and then Jones and Ndong away to Boro. It just makes me question the fitness of some of these players, I know Watmore and Williams have bad injury records but still pulling up early on isn’t really helpful. We wasted two substitutions that we were crying out for in the closing stages.
Plenty to come - wwe have an interview with a former Rangers Trust member who dealt with Martin Bain in person and I’ve also caught up with a former striker who soon became a fans favourite - keep your eyes peeled this week!
Ruiter: 2, Matthews: 7, O’Shea: 4, Wilson: 5 (Browning ’82), Oviedo: 6, Cattermole: 3, McNair: 6, Williams: 2 (Honeyman ’16), Watmore: 6 (McManaman ’41), McGeady: 5, Grabban: 8
Honeyman: 3, McManaman: 6, Browning: N/A
Ethan Thoburn (Twitter: @ethan_thoburn)