Another opportunity missed for Sunderland after Millwall's second-half siege

Another game, another opportunity missed.

Saturday, 3rd March 2018, 3:55 pm
Updated Saturday, 3rd March 2018, 4:00 pm
Oviedo's first half strike looked like it might secure three points for Sunderland

Sunderland's relegation rivals had mostly seen their games postponed while results elsewhere went largely in their favour.

The opportunity to cut the gap and psychologically make a significant step forward was there but it passed them by. The games are running out and this felt like one they had to win.

Millwall were more than worth their point. Indeed such was the extent of their second half dominance they will have been left frustrated that they did not leave with all three.

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After a first half in which they competed impressively, Sunderland simply could not live with the physicality and movement of Millwall's strikers. Steve Morison and Lee Gregory were menacing throughout and could have had a hatful.

It was clear why they have been so tough to beat at home this season.

As such, a point could be considered creditable but such is the gap that Sunderland have left themselves, it felt like a disappointing result.

It had almost been a horror start for Sunderland, with Jason Steele recalled to the side but stuck on his line as a corner was whipped across goal on the five-minute mark.

Jake Cooper was free to head at goal, denied only by Lee Cattermole's intervention on the line.

The visitors were second best, put under pressure by Millwall's direct play.

Their first meaningful effort came 17 minutes in, Callum McManaman sliding Adam Matthews clear down the right. The Welshman cut it back from the byline but Ashley Fletcher was just unable to connect at the near post.

Chris Coleman had gambled on playing McManaman and Aiden McGeady behind the striker and as the half developed they began to have an influence, cleverly finding space in between the centre-back and full-back.

McManaman fired high and wide from the edge of the area before Oviedo's dramatic intervention just before the half-hour mark.

He took a short corner with McGeady, picking up the ball and running across goal. The Den waited for a cross to the back post but Oviedo had other ideas, lashing an effort in at the near post.

Millwall responded strongly, with Shaun Williams stinging the palms of Steele before Steve Morison headed wide at the back post, but Sunderland made it to the break unscathed.

They could barely have started the second half worse, Lee Gregory missing a priceless opportunity to score when left unmarked from a wide free-kick. Within minutes, Ben Marshall was pleading for a penalty as Ovie Ejaria challenged him in the box.

A concerned Coleman had already sent Billy Jones out to warm up, and Steele was called into action again, tipping Gregory's looping header over the bar.

It was Joel Asoro who the Black Cats boss introduced, but it was not enough to turn the tide and with 20 minutes left the hosts finally levelled. Steele had done brilliantly to block Morison's volley at the back post, but from the following corner Shaun Hutchinson fired at goal and despite Cattermole's best efforts, the ball crept over the line.

Sunderland simply couldn't get out of their own half and by the end, looked happy to escape with a point.

Sunderland XI: Steele; Matthews, Kone, O'Shea, Browning, Oviedo; Cattermole, Ejaria, McManaman (Asoro, 62), McGeady (Honeyman, 76); Fletcher

Unused subs: Camp, Jones, Williams, Maja, Robson

Millwall XI: Archer; Romeo, Copper, Hutchinson, Meredith; Wallace (Cahill, 87), Saville, Williams, Marshall (Onyedima, 81) ; Morison, Gregory

Unused subs: Martin, McLaughlin, Tunnicliffe, Elliott, Shackell

Bookings: Saville, 79 Steele, 90 Morison, 90

Attendance: 14,358 (1,976 away)