Joe Edwards described the decision to award Sunderland a penalty that earned them a draw at Millwall as “marginal”.
The Lions took a first-half lead through Kevin Nisbet as the Scottish striker netted for the second Championship match in succession, a composed strike as he met a right-wing cross by Brooke Norton-Cuffy.
But Sunderland levelled in the second period through Jack Clarke.
Referee James Linington ruled that Ryan Leonard had tripped the Black Cats wideman inside the penalty area. Clarke stepped up to beat Bart Bialkowski from the spot.
“I’ve seen two angles – I’ve seen an angle where it looks a clear foul and then another where it looks as if Lenny gets a touch on the ball with his toe,” said Edwards. “You can see the line of the ball change.
“If I’m saying that from seeing two angles I wouldn’t get on the ref’s case too much because I don’t know what he sees.
“It’s a shame because we knew the threat that Clarke poses and we planned to defend like that, doubling up with Lenny and Brooke for most of the game. He always looks a threat but we dealt with it well. He didn’t hurt us anywhere near as much as he has hurt other teams.
“It’s frustrating that such a marginal decision has cost us two points.”
It was a first point at home for Edwards after a 3-0 defeat in SE16 to Coventry City last time around.
“I wouldn’t say we were hard done by – probably a bit frustrated,” said the former England U20 head coach. “Getting the first goal has been a big thing in the games we’ve had so far. We scored first in my first game against Sheffield Wednesday and the confidence really grew.
“Then vice versa in the other games, where we have conceded.
“Sunderland started the game well but then we grew. Once we got the first goal there was a noticeable change in the team. We looked confident, the fans really supported well and it felt like we were building some really nice momentum, albeit they pretty much dominated possession throughout the game – we always posed a threat and looked confident in our defending.
“The way they use the width and wide players in their team it causes everyone problems but we dealt well with it.
“When you lead a game for so long and don’t win it feels disappointing but you have to respect they also had a lot of control of the game in the second half. They mounted a lot of pressure, as an away team.
“It is about areas that we can improve. We did so well today without the ball and posed a threat on the break and in transition. We have got to keep bridging that gap where we can look after the ball a bit more so we don’t have to play at our absolute max just to take a point at home.”
Clarke was booked for one of two fouls on Leonard in the opening 45 minutes. And the one-time Lions transfer target was spared punishment for pulling back Norton-Cuffy on a Millwall counter after he had been cautioned.
George Saville was instead shown yellow for asking Linington to book Clarke. It means the midfielder will miss next weekend’s match at Cardiff along with Jake Cooper, who also collected a fifth booking of the campaign.
“I haven’t seen that (the latter Clarke incident) back yet,” said Edwards. “But the way the players are talking about it – the potential second yellow, those are the moments that define games.
“If it is deserved then it’s frustrating but I wouldn’t go too hard on that.”
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