By Richard Cawley
Millwall’s unbeaten run was stretched to nine matches after Shaun Hutchinson’s second goal of the season – but a 1-1 draw against Sunderland did not aid their hopes of a late charge for the Championship play-offs.
The Lions knew they would need an almost flawless finish to the campaign to make a top-six spot a possibility and results elsewhere mean they are eight points behind sixth-placed Bristol City.
The point gained at The Den did move Neil Harris’ side above Leeds United and into 11th.
Millwall struggled to get their own game going in the opening 45 minutes and trailed to a spanking Bryan Oviedo goal on 29 minutes.
Sunderland were unable to keep out the Lions as they were pegged back under heavy pressure – Hutchinson netted his second goal of the campaign at The Den – but managed to cling on for a point.
Millwall’s set-pieces have been a useful source of goals – with Jake Cooper often the target to hit. Shaun Williams’ sixth-minute corner was headed down by the big centre-back with Lee Cattermole looking as if he got a touch as it headed towards the goal-line.
But Sunderland, playing a 3-5-2 system that gave Oviedo and Adam Matthews the impetus to break forward, did not play like a side doomed for League One in a sparky first-half display.
Matthews flashed one cross across the face which Ashley Fletcher could not get a touch on in the 21st minute.
Oviedo’s goal was one of simplicity but also significant technique. A short corner by the left wing-back was played back to him and he punished the lack of resistance to arrow a blistering hit inside Jordan Archer’s left post just before the half-hour mark.
The Lions took 38 minutes to produce a shot on target. Steve Morison bundled Oviedo off the ball near the corner flag and Gregory’s lay-off from George Saville’s cross saw Williams denied by a flying Jason Steele.
Ben Marshall’s cross on 41 minutes was headed wide by Morison.
Gregory had two chances early in the second half but his first shot lacked sufficient power while a looping header was tipped over by Steele.
Millwall went close just before they did score their goal. The Sunderland keeper saved with his legs as Morison struck a first-time volley as he raced onto Jed Wallace’s cross, the ball going out for a corner.
And from that set-piece a scramble in the box saw Hutchinson credited with the goal.
Millwall could not find a winner despite pressing forward and dominating nearly all of the second half.