Millwall was always going to be a tough place to go for Tony Mowbray’s side.
With only two league defeats at home all season (with both of those coming in the opening weeks), and one defeat in their last six Championship matches, a sellout crowd packed The Den with hopes of a mid-season playoff push high.
The noise generated by Millwall’s biggest home attendance since 1995 was deafening, hostile, and slightly uncomfortable for those wearing the red and white stripes.
Very rarely this season have our players had to experience this sort of atmosphere and for Mowbray, this was a good test for his young team.
At times, it was a case of ‘backs against the wall’ as Danny Batth tried to provide the experience without our captain, Corry Evans, and talisman Ross Stewart.
However, it was a test that Sunderland just about passed, and during a season of surprising results, this was one of the most valuable points that we’ll pick up.
In the grand scheme of things, a draw against a team hovering around the top six is always important, and this one was even more significant.
Against Fulham last week, and probably during Wednesday’s replay, we saw and will see a completely different side to our game as we impressed during a ‘proper’ footballing contest at Craven Cottage.
One week on, however, a more determined and resolute display was needed in order to take anything away from the game.
Also, when you consider that our attack was led by a striker with limited game time for Leeds this season, our main threats weren’t at their eye-catching best, and we fielded a young midfield partnership, our resilience was all the more impressive.
Unlike our most notable performances this season, this display wasn’t about attacking quality- it was more about defensive solidity and holding our own when it mattered.
The equalising goal showed this more than anything else.
Alex Pritchard’s free-kick was whipped into the danger area, and Dennis Cirkin produced a moment of bravery and determination to flick the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper and into the corner of the Millwall net.
It wasn’t a perfect goal but it was one that mattered and which came at the right time.
At that moment in the contest, we were building some momentum and pressure, but were also struggling to make the breakthrough.
Overall, this result leaves us in a great position heading into what could be an important few weeks for the club.
An FA Cup fifth-round tie with Leeds is the reward if we manage to progress against Fulham on Wednesday night, and there’s some games ahead, especially at home, where we can continue to build the momentum.
However, what this performance showed was that we don’t have to rely solely on our eye-catching talent to blow teams away, because we’re establishing a real sense of solidity and resilience as well.