Millwall 1-1 Sunderland: Lions battle for draw
Last Updated: 03/03/18 6:28pm
Sunderland remain rooted to the foot of the Sky Bet Championship table after Shaun Hutchinson's second-half equaliser pegged them back to a 1-1 draw at Millwall.
The Black Cats claimed a first-half lead through a long-range effort from Bryan Oviedo, but Hutchinson's scrambled effort from a corner means they have recorded just five league victories all season.
The point was not what they required as they look to scramble to safety and also did little to aid Millwall's slim prospects of claiming a play-off place, with Neil Harris' side now eight points adrift of the top six.
Sunderland boss Chris Coleman rang the changes before kick-off, making six alterations from the team that drew with Middlesbrough seven days earlier - and his tinkering was rewarded as his side claimed a deserved first-half advantage.
However, Millwall might well feel they should have claimed a sixth-minute lead. Jake Cooper found himself completely unmarked from a corner but Lee Cattermole was able to hack away the defender's goalbound header from a position on the goalline.
The next opportunity came at the other end of the field, and while Ashley Fletcher was unable to make any connection with Adam Matthews' dangerous driven cross, the fact the Black Cats were getting on the front foot was nevertheless positive from their perspective.
Callum McManaman fired over when a corner was cleared into his direction midway through the first half, but the next time Sunderland tried their luck from distance four minutes later, the deadlock was broken.
Oviedo played a neat one-two with Aiden McGeady in a pre-rehearsed short corner routine, and drifted infield towards the corner of the area. There appeared to be little danger when he took aim with his left foot, but he arced a sensational strike that found the top right-hand corner.
Millwall's players appeared shocked by the concession, although Jason Steele was forced to produce a decent save as he parried Shaun Williams' low strike shortly before the break.
The hosts started the second half with an increased sense of purpose and Steele produced two good stops to deny Lee Gregory, claiming the striker's scuffed shot before tipping his looping header over the crossbar.
The Sunderland goalkeeper also kept out Steve Morison's back-post volley - but the Lions hauled themselves level from the subsequent corner.
The visitors' defenders failed to clear Ben Marshall's delivery and although Cattermole thought he had blocked Hutchinson's stabbed effort, referee Andy Davies adjudged that the ball had crossed the line.
Neil Harris: "I thought we did enough to win, but that's a good reality check for everyone associated with this football club. It showed that if we're not at our best, we can come unstuck against anybody. I thought we started the game well but Sunderland grew into the game and scored with a really good shot.
"I thought we came really strong in the second half though, and if there was anyone who was going to win it, it was us, although maybe our composure in the box wasn't quite as good as it could have been. No one within the training ground was getting above themselves, it's just about how far we've come from the play-off final last year to thinking about a play-of campaign this year."
Chris Coleman: "I'm pleased with the character but frustrated by the result. It's a really difficult place to come. If you don't come here with your sleeves rolled up, you're finished before you get off the bus.
"That's three games now where we've had something about us. Four games ago, we'd have lost that game. But when you're winning 1-0, the very thing we said not to do was what we did - invited pressure. It's a little bit of a disappointment there, but at least we stood up to the test and got a point. I thought we deserved a point."