The dust has settled on the weekend’s action and yet again, we can be very pleased with Sunderland’s efforts. On reflection, a 1-1 draw at Millwall is a fantastic result.
At The Den this season, Gary Rowett’s team had lost just two of their thirteen matches before we came to town and despite being unable to play our natural game against a tough, physical outfit, we came away with a hard-earned point.
The result itself was largely thanks to a brave header from Dennis Cirkin, and as one of the players who joined the club in League One, it’s been great to see the full-back make the step up to the Championship.
Cirkin, like many of our players this season, has been plagued by injuries and although he’s missed roughly a quarter of our league games, he’s shown just why he’s such a miss when unavailable.
Saturday’s trip to London saw him make his return to the side from the bench.
Linking up with Alex Pritchard- another player we’ve sorely missed in recent weeks, Cirkin took one for the team in order to get his head on the end of an accurate free kick played into the box, and was on the receiving end of the gloved fist of Lions goalkeeper George Long.
Such bravery is rarely seen in the modern game, but it’s that kind of commitment that we all want to see from our players.
The blow prevented him from being unable to enjoy the goal, and as Tony Mowbray said after the match, it resulted in Cirkin needing to be told that he’d scored.
As a result, he’ll be unavailable for the next two matches as he goes through the appropriate protocols, but I’ve no doubt that his head coach was very grateful for the bravery he showed.
It might be easy to forget, given the large number of young players who’ve joined the club since 2021, but Cirkin is still very much among them. On Saturday, the twenty-year-old came off the bench to join a team whose starting eleven had an average age of less than twenty three.
The ability of our side has rarely been questioned, but its character was put to the test at The Den.
In front of a bumper crowd (their highest in almost thirty years) Millwall’s players looked well up for it and Sunderland sides of yesteryear would’ve crumbled in that situation.
However, this is a new era and to fight back the way we did in order to claim a point was both rewarding and encouraging for the remainder of the season.
We won’t see Cirkin in the matchday squad for a game or two, but his attitude and ability to recover from long-term injury is great for all involved. He’ll no doubt play a major role in what’s left of the campaign- hopefully without needing to give himself concussion in order to get on the scoresheet again!