Solving Sunderland’s goalkeeping crisis high on Chris Coleman’s to-do list as manager gets down to work

All smiles as Lewis Grabban enjoys his opening goal for Sunderland against Millwall.
All smiles as Lewis Grabban enjoys his opening goal for Sunderland against Millwall.
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It’s that time of year when the latest batch of football blooper DVDs are released ahead of the Christmas rush.

And Sunderland’s Robbin Ruiter and Millwall’s Jordan Archer made a late case to be involved after a horror-show at the Stadium of Light.

Agony as Robbin Ruiter lets George Saville's first free-kick through him, in Sunderland's 2-2 draw with Millwall. Picture by Frank Reid

Agony as Robbin Ruiter lets George Saville's first free-kick through him, in Sunderland's 2-2 draw with Millwall. Picture by Frank Reid

In truly remarkable scenes, all four goals conceded in the 2-2 draw were down to keeper error. It was comical.

If you didn’t laugh watching Sunderland at times this season you’d be in floods of tears but Ruiter wasn’t laughing after gifting away Sunderland’s early lead.

Neither were the Sunderland fans or new assistant boss Kit Symons, sat next to chief executive Martin Bain, also in disbelief at what he was witnessing.

Symons will no doubt have had a direct line to Chris Coleman and an immediate priority for the pair will be to address the goalkeeping situation, easier said than done.

At the end the only thing the Millwall and Sunderland fans were fighting about was who had the worst keeper.

For Sunderland, the goalkeeping situation has now evolved into a full-blown crisis. Ruiter’s confidence rocked after letting two goals slip through his fingers in the space of four minutes.

It would have come as no surprise if he had been removed at the break for his own good but in fairness to him, he reacted well second half and made an important save late on.

Problem Sunderland have is they have chopped and changed their keepers and neither Ruiter or Jason Steele have convinced.

Both have found themselves on the end of ironic cheers. Neither ooze confidence.

Coleman will no doubt look to strengthen that area in January, he has to.

He could even consider the free agent market between now and then as there are still six weeks until the January sales get underway. Sunderland could be cut adrift by then.

For now, though, he will have to put his arm round Ruiter, in particular, and look to rebuild his confidence. It will be intriguing to see who starts at Villa.

This was Robbie Stockdale’s final game in the hotseat and the failure to beat Millwall ensured Sunderland broke a new English record for the worst home run in all competitions.

With the one-year anniversary fast approaching, it is now 20 games and counting since Sunderland’s last win on home soil.

With Didier Ndong missing through compassionate leave and Billy Jones and Lamine Kone injured, Stockdale named a strong side from those available.

As they have done so often this season, Sunderland started well. They were bright, positive going forward, creativity and movement flowing.

There was a good tempo with Millwall struggling to get hold of the ball in the opening stages.

The first keeper error came from a Bryan Oviedo corner, Archer flapping at the ball under little pressure, Lewis Grabban on hand to score his ninth goal in 14 appearances after just 12 minutes.

It was well deserved. Could this be the day Sunderland ended their home hoodoo? No.

Millwall fought their way back into it, Sunderland conceding a free-kick from which Jonny Williams went off injured with a shoulder complaint.

George Saville stepped up, his left-footed strike from 25-yards appeared harmless enough but Ruiter then inexplicably allowed the ball to squirm from his gloves through his legs.

A howler of epic proportions. Sunderland held the lead for four minutes. Within four minutes of Millwall equalising, the Lions went ahead.

Saville scoring from an almost identical spot, Ruiter this time not getting across his line quickly enough before palming the ball into his own net.

Frustration hung in the air. Millwall were no great shakes yet defensive mistakes again saw Sunderland trailing.

Manager’s cannot legislate for mistakes like that. Thankfully, Archer was again keen to take the spotlight away from Ruiter.

Within a minute of the restart Adam Matthews’ cross from the right flank somehow found its way into the net, Archer getting his angles all wrong before palming into his own net.

Sunderland could have gone on to win the game, with Millwall dangerous on the counter-attack but in the end it was a case of more points dropped.

Plenty of attacking play to encourage Coleman but he will be acutely aware of the need to sort out the defence, starting with the goalkeepers.

Lee Cattermole picked up his fifth yellow which will see him sit out the trip to Aston Villa while Duncan Watmore and Marc Wilson also went off injured.

Paddy McNair completed the 90 minutes but will he be able to start at Villa after such a long period out with a knee injury?

Sunderland remain rooted to the foot of the Championship, now four points adrift.

Coleman would have been well aware of the challenges facing him on Wearside and the Millwall game highlighted them perfectly.