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Chronicle Live
James Hunter

Sunderland's Dennis Cirkin salvages a point at Millwall in a brief comeback from injury

Dennis Cirkin came off the bench to rescue a point for Sunderland at Millwall - suffering a head injury that ended his afternoon in the process. The Black Cats were trailing to Jake Cooper's goal scored on the hour, when substitutes Alex Pritchard and Cirkin - who were both making their comebacks from injuries that had ruled them out since December - combined to level the scores ten minutes from time.

Pritchard's free-kick was bravely nodded in off the post by Cirkin who was left in a heap on the floor, with his teammates immediately calling for medical attention. After receiving treatment, he was able to walk off but he had to be replaced by deadline day signing from Everton Joe Anderson, who came on for his debut.

Sunderland were second-best for long periods and Millwall will feel they could and should have won, with ex-Black Cat George Honeyman seeing a 'goal' ruled out for offside in the first half, while Murray Wallace hit the woodwork in the second while the game was still goalless. But Sunderland will point to their resilience to salvage a point from a physical encounter, and they have now lost just one of their last nine games in all competitions.

READ MORE: Millwall 1-1 Sunderland: Highlights and reaction as Cirkin rescues a point at The Den

The point also means they stay ninth in the Championship table. Tony Mowbray made just one change to the side that drew against Premier League Fulham in the FA Cup last weekend, with on-loan Leeds United striker Joe Gelhardt making his debut for the club in place of top scorer Ross Stewart, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury at Craven Cottage.

Millwall boss Gary Rowett made two changes, in his case to the side that won at Cardiff City in the league a fortnight ago. Charlie Cresswell and Wallace came into the side, in place of Shaun Hutchinson and Callum Styles.

Millwall made a bright start and wanted an early penalty when Tom Bradshaw went down inside the box under pressure from Aji Alese, but referee Tom Bramall was unimpressed. And also inside the first five minutes, Mason Bennett fired narrowly wide of the left-hand post.

Gradually, Sunderland began to come into the game and Gelhardt's first real involvement came when he was set up by Trai Hume just inside the box, but the striker's shot was blocked by a defender and trickled through to the keeper. Millwall had the ball in the net on the half-hour when Anthony Patterson saved but could not hold Zian Flemming's shot from the edge of the box and Honeyman followed-up from close range, but referee Bramall went over to speak to his linesman and after a brief discussion the 'goal' was ruled out for an offside.

The hosts created another chance just before half-time when George Saville's corner was headed down inside the box, but Cresswell blazed over the bar from six yards when he should have scored. In first half injury time there was a serious injury when Bennett came off worst in a 50-50 challenge with Patrick Roberts.

Roberts was able to limp away, but - with the referee blowing almost immediately for half-time - Bennett needed lengthy treatment on the pitch during the break before eventually departing on a stretcher, with former Sunderland man Duncan Watmore, who joined Millwall from Middlesbrough on deadline day, replacing him for the second half. Millwall were still on the front foot at the start of the second half and from a corner on the right, Wallace saw a header clip the top of the crossbar on its way over, although Patterson looked to have it covered.

Then Patterson made a brilliant save, diving to his left to turn a Honeyman shot round the post when it had looked destined for the top right-hand corner. But from the resulting corner kick, Millwall went in front.

The kick was taken short and when it was delivered into the box, Cresswell's header was blocked and Cooper's hooked finish looped over Patterson and in off the right-hand post. Late in the game, Sunderland began to put some pressure on the Millwall goal and it paid off in the 81st minute.

Pritchard's inswinging free-kick from the left found Cirkin inside the box and he nodded in off the left-hand post, taking a blow to the head for his troubles which meant he went off just 15 minutes after he had entered the action.

How they lined up

Millwall: Long, McNamara, Cresswell, Cooper, Wallace, Mitchell, Saville, Honeyman (Voglsammer 84), Flemming, Bennett (Watmore 46), Bradshaw (Burke 84). Subs not used: Bialkowski, Malone, Shackleton, Leonard

Booked: Cooper, Bennett

Sunderland: Patterson, Hume, Ballard, Batth, Alese (Cirkin 67 (Anderson 85)), Michut (Ekwah 85), Neil, Roberts, Amad, Clarke (Pritchard 63), Gelhardt (Ba 89). Subs not used: Bass, Bennette

Booked: Hume

Referee: Tom Bramall (Sheffield)

Attendance: 18,524


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