Sunderland. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
DAVE MITCHELL, whose goals helped Swindon grasp the poisoned chalice of promotion a year ago, struck twice late in the first half last night to leave Millwall only four points behind the First Division's second-placed side, Nottingham Forest, with a game in hand.
Last autumn, Mitchell harboured hopes of appearing in the World Cup finals with Australia. It was not to be, though the reputation of one player who does expect to be involved this summer, Millwall's American goalkeeper Kasey Keller, was scarcely enhanced by the incident which led to the 65th-minute dismissal of Sunderland's Don Goodman.
The ball was still nestling in the net after Andy Melville had cut the deficit when Goodman, on as substitute, ran in to retrieve it. Keller seized it first and, as the pair tussled for possession, elbowed the Sunderland striker in the face.
Goodman responded by punching Keller, who for a moment lurched around as if hit by a flying mallet. The referee, Gary Willard, evidently saw the retaliation but not the provocation, and promptly reduced the visitors to 10 men.
Mick McCarthy, the Millwall manager, summed up the fracas nicely. 'They are a pair of tarts for fighting for the ball in the first place,' he said. 'To be fair, they could both have gone. The way Keller was playing it might have been a good thing.'
Before Millwall made the breakthrough, Sunderland created two clear chances. Martin Smith forced a sprawling save from Keller - though Willard, starting as he meant to carry on, awarded a goal-kick - before Dariusz Kubicki shot against a post.
But in the 37th minute Mitchell outjumped Gary Bennett to head home. Four minutes later, he rose to meet a Greg Berry corner, the ball requiring a significant deflection to beat Alec Chamberlain.
Sunderland's prospects soared and subsided in the space of seconds. No sooner had Melville headed them back into contention, Keller almost waving the ball home, than Goodman was gone, and with him any realistic chance of a point.
For Millwall, however, it is all to play for - they visit the leaders Crystal Palace on Saturday, and receive Forest a week on Sunday.
Millwall (4-3-1-2): Keller; Cunningham, Steen, Van Den Hauwe, Dawes; Roberts, Hurlock, Berry (Rae, 70); Allen; Kerr, Mitchell. Substitutes not used: Verveer, Carter (gk).
Sunderland (4-4-2): Chamberlain; Kubicki, Bennett, Melville, Ord; Smith (Armstrong, 85), Ferguson, Ball, Atkinson (Goodman, h/t); Gray, Russell. Substitute not used: Preece (gk).
Referee: G Willard (Worthing).Reuse content