Sunderland will climb out of drop zone if they can beat Millwall – after Burton defeat and Bolton draw

Sunderland fans could see the Black Cats rise to fourth-bottom spot today, if they can beat Millwall at the Stadium of Light
Sunderland fans could see the Black Cats rise to fourth-bottom spot today, if they can beat Millwall at the Stadium of Light
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Bolton maintained their impressive run with a hard-earned point in last night’s Sky Bet Championship draw at Preston North End.

The 0-0 draw was not enough to lift Phil Parkinson’s side out of the drop zone, but they climbed above Birmingham on goal difference into 22nd spot – two points above bottom club Sunderland.

With fourth-bottom Burton Albion beaten 3-1 by new leaders Sheffield United, Sunderland will now rise out of the relegation places – albeit only on goal difference – if they beat Millwall today.

Parkinson is enjoying Bolton’s “new-found resilience” after they stretched their unbeaten league run to six.

North End, who at least ended their run of four consecutive defeats, had the better chances, but Bolton’s ex-Sunderland goalkeeper, Ben Alnwick, remained solid.

“Six unbeaten means there’s a new-found resilience in the team,” he said. “We are pleased, we came here feeling we could win but we weren’t able to do that. We will take the point, although we’d have loved all three. We managed the game – we went for the win but didn’t leave the back door open too many times. If you can’t win, you don’t get beat.”

Alnwick was equal to the tests provided by Paul Gallagher, Tom Barkhuizen and Stephy Mavididi in the first half before also denying Alan Browne after the interval, and Parkinson believes Championship survival will depend on clean sheets.

“We are pleased with the clean sheet,” he added. “Everybody knows that success of staying in this division will be built on getting clean sheets and we can build on that.

“They had more of a competitive edge than us at the start, but the experience in the team got us through.”

Burton remained fourth-bottom after their loss to Sheffield United – a fifth successive home defeat for Nigel Clough’s side, who host Sunderland next Saturday.

In that run, Albion have conceded 17 goals, with Billy Sharp (2) and Leon Clarke, with a header, guiding the Blades home last night.

Matty Palmer levelled at 1-1 with a 25-yarder. Boss Clough said: “The most disappointing aspect is that having got back in the game, with an absolutely wonderful goal, we give another soft goal away. That is the root of our problems at home. We are always chasing games. Far too many defeats and far too many goals conceded.

“We have kept more clean sheets away from home than any other Championship team in the calendar year yet at home we can’t keep one to save our lives.”

United’s win, which took them top, above Wolves, was marred by a seriously broken leg sustained by Paul Coutts.

Boss Chris Wilder said: “We are a bit subdued. It’s a difficult situation because we were outstanding and deservedly won the game.”