Boos rang around the Stadium of Light for a second successive match after Sunderland drew 1-1 against Gillingham in the first round of the FA Cup, meaning that a replay at the Priestfield Stadium was confirmed. Aiden McGeady opened the scoring with 15 minutes on the clock, before a massive howler from Jon McLaughlin allowed Oliver Lee to level the scores less than a minute after the half time restart.
Phil Parkinson reverted to his strongest side, making seven changes to the team that lost 2-1 against Leicester City’s under-21’s last Tuesday night, but only one to the team that beat Southend in the league.
Jon McLaughlin, Conor McLaughlin, Laurens de Bock and Chris Maguire were the only players to keep their places in the team, with Denver Hume picking up a virus leaving him out. Will Grigg, Luke O’Nien and Aiden McGeady came into the attack, ahead of Kimpioka, Watmore and McNulty. After picking up a knock on Tuesday, Ozturk was left out of the squad with Parkinson’s top two centre-halves coming back into the side.
First Half Action
After losing on Tuesday night in the Leasing.com Trophy, Sunderland started the match brightly and took advantage with 15 minutes gone. Dobson played the ball across to Conor McLaughlin on the right wing, but his cross was cleared by Mark Byrne. The clearance only fell to Aiden McGeady, whose weak shot from the edge of the penalty area found its way into the bottom left corner.
Gillingham responded positively and almost sent their travelling fans into delirium. Elliot Lee’s free-kick from around 25 yards out was flicked towards goal by Connor Ogilvie, but it trimmed the outside of the right post.
Another opportunity came and went for the visitors when Mikael Mandron - who was on Sunderland’s books for five years - took aim at Jon McLaughlin from just outside the penalty area, but it comfortably dropped into the goalkeepers’ gloves.
Just before half time, Sunderland should have made it two-nil and put daylight between themselves and their opponents. De Bock’s cross from the left picked out Maguire - who was situated in acres of space inside the penalty area. He struck the ball first time, but it travelled wide of the left post.
Second Half Action
Just less than a minute after the half time restart, Gillingham levelled through a big error from Jon McLaughlin. An Oliver Lee free-kick from just over 20 yards out was originally caught by Jon McLaughlin, but the Sunderland goalkeeper let go of the ball and it trickled in between his legs and it crossed the line, despite his efforts to claw it away.
In response to this, just after the hour mark, Phil Parkinson made his first change, when he brought on Marc McNulty in the place of Will Grigg.
Gillingham had the chance to go in front through a quick, slick counter attack when Stuart O’Keefe played a rapid ball to Oliver Lee. Lee dribbled it forward and tried to curl it past McLaughlin, but the Sunderland goalkeeper redeemed himself as he punched the ball away from danger, but Sunderland couldn’t counter in the same way as Gillingham had.
Not long later, Parkinson made his second change when he brought on some pace by introducing Duncan Watmore to the match, replacing Chris Maguire. With the clock ticking down, Sunderland had a couple of chances to stop the game from heading to a replay. McNulty turned into the penalty area on the left and squared it to Luke O’Nien, who was millimetres away from contacting with the ball, but it rolled just in front of him.
The visitors had a chance of their own to create an upset when Mandron played the ball through to Brandon Hanlan, who was quicker than Lynch and got to the byline inside the penalty area. He cut it back to Lee, who like O’Nien couldn’t connect with the ball.
After the three minutes of added time was up, Michael Salisbury blew the full time whistle and the match ended Sunderland AFC 1-1 Gillingham FC - meaning that both sides would meet again on the week commencing the 18th November.
Unlike on Tuesday, there were no excuses for Sunderland’s shocking display as the Black Cats played a full-strength team against a Gillingham side that had made two changes from their last League One match. Just like against Leicester U21s, we started the game well and got our reward with an early goal, only to then take our foot off the gas, leaving ourselves wide open on the counter attack. With no disrespect to Gillingham, a better team on the day would have profited from the chances that we gifted our opponents.
If we’re wanting to get promoted then this flaw has to be addressed.
We now have another game approaching on the week commencing 18th November when we play Gillingham at the Priestfield. I mentioned in my last article that Parkinson would make the best out of a week and a half break, but there is no break for him to spend with his squad and bond, as we have to play a first round replay at the opposite end of the country.
Next up, we face a big game in our Leasing.com Trophy campaign when we face Scunthorpe United at Glanford Park on Tuesday night. Parkinson will need a performance out of his team after two consecutive pessimistic displays.
I would think that Anthony Patterson will start in goal if Lee Burge in unavailable, with Jon McLaughlin being on international duty with Scotland. It will be the first game for a week until the FA Cup replay, so I would say that Parkinson will have to play a full-strength side so that the team can gain qualification to the second round of the Leasing.com Trophy.