Sunderland’s run of five games without a defeat in the Championship came to an end on Tuesday night as they were beaten 2-1 by Rotherham away from home.
The hosts took the lead in the 19th minute of the match as the impressive Ollie Rathbone produced a stunning strike from distance to find the bottom corner from the edge of the box, leaving Anthony Patterson with little chance of stopping it.
Tony Mowbray’s side failed to get themselves back into the game at the start of the second half and the Millers punished them with a second goal in the 56th minute. Dan Neil was dispossessed and the ball came across the box for Shane Ferguson to drill past the goalkeeper to make it 2-0.
Leeds United loanee Joe Gelhardt did make the game interesting by thumping in a header from Luke O’Nien’s cross but Sunderland were unable to force in an equaliser before the end of the match.
Whilst it was a disappointing performance on the whole for the Black Cats, one player – in particular – who let the manager down badly was left-back Dennis Cirkin.
How did Dennis Cirkin perform against Rotherham?
The former Spurs man was selected ahead of Aji Alese and handed a huge opportunity to prove why he should be starting ahead of his fellow defender.
Did Sunderland deserve a point?
However, the 20-year-old was unable to showcase his quality and Mowbray may not be considering him to start ahead of the ex-Hammers prospect in any of the upcoming matches.
Cirkin was poor at both ends of the pitch and put in a disappointing display, particularly given that the gem is capable of putting in good performances at this level.
The defender has won 53% of his individual duels over the course of the Championship campaign but lost 75% (6/8) of his battles against Rotherham, which suggests that he was physically dominated by the opposition.
The Northern Echo’s Scott Wilson was also critical of the full-back’s performance. In his player ratings piece, the journalist handed him the joint-lowest score (five) and wrote: “Had a couple of shaky moments and defensively and wasn’t really able to offer much going forward.”
In terms of what the youngster offered in possession, Cirkin had fewer touches (34) than goalkeeper Anthony Patterson (46) and only completed 64% of his attempted passes – without creating a single chance for his teammates.
The ex-Tottenham talent was sloppy in his passing out from the back and gifted the hosts possession on too many occasions. He was then unable to make up for that by producing any quality in the final third.
Therefore, the defender let Mowbray down on the night as the manager offered him a chance to prove himself and Cirkin – both defensively and offensively – was disappointing for Sunderland.