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Match Preview: The magic of the cup is alive (lol) as Sunderland welcome Gillingham to the SOL

Nothing says “magic of the cup” more than playing a team from your own league, in front of a sparsely populated stadium at an awkward kick-off time.

Milton Keynes Dons v Northampton Town - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round Replay Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Prepare to get hyped as Sunderland kick off their FA Cup campaign at the first round stage for only the third time in their entire history.

Gillingham are the visitors in a game that hasn’t even generated so much as a shrug from supporters from both sides. Despite the FA Cup being bottom of the list of priorities, Phil Parkinson will be keen to avoid continuing a worrying run of four defeats in his six games in charge. Dare to dream, ey?

Port Vale v Sunderland - FA Cup First Round Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Parky Says…

Steve’s [Evans, Gillingham manager] sides are always very well organised, very committed, and we’ve got to be ready for that. They’ve got some good players, obviously, but we’ve got to be strong enough to compete with what they’re going to throw at us, and also good enough on the ball to play like we did in periods of the Southend game and for the majority of the Tranmere game.

That’s what we’ve been speaking to the lads [about] and what we’ve been going through on the training pitch this morning.

The FA Cup for me is still a great competition, still has a special feel about FA Cup weekend, whether it’s the first round or the third round when Sunderland used to historically enter the competition, and the club’s got history in the FA Cup, and we want to represent the club properly tomorrow.

Sunderland v Southend United - Sky Bet Leauge One Photo by Steven Hadlow/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Team News

Denver Hume is a doubt for the game against Gillingham. Parkinson confirmed that the full back is struggling with a virus but both Lynden Gooch and Charlie Wyke are edging closer to fitness with the former having an outside chance of making Saturday’s squad. Goalkeeper Lee Burge returned to training earlier in the week but Parkinson was coy on whether he’d be fit for the cup tie.

Sunderland v Southend United - Sky Bet Leauge One Photo by Steven Hadlow/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

View From The Opposition

In true South Park impersonating Family Guy “you think that’s bad” fashion, Gillingham chuckle at our current goalkeeper injury conundrum. The Gills had to name 48-year-old goalkeeping coach Simon Royce among their substitutes against Rotherham United at the weekend. Much like the Black Cats, the Kent side don’t have success in the FA Cup at the top of their priorities.

The Gills are currently in a patchy run of form winning one of their last five games and currently lie 16th in League One. Their recent record in the cup is also fairly indifferent passing the first round just twice in the past seven years. Last season, however, saw them dump out then Premier League side Cardiff City before losing to Swansea City in the fourth round.

Captain Max Ehmer has fond memories of the Stadium of Light having been lucky enough to get Jozy Altidore’s shirt while playing for Carlisle United. The German defender was part of the Cumbrians’ side that lost 3-1 to Gus Poyet’s Black Cats in 2014 and managed to grab the superstar striker’s jersey after the game.

Ehmer told KentOnline:

It was a big game for Carlisle and I remember they had Jozy Altidore playing upfront for them and he was a handful. I managed to get his shirt after the game. They also had Sebastian Larsson and Adam Johnson in the team.

It was a good game, we pulled it back to 1-1 just before half-time, before conceding twice in the second half.

They are a team in our league and anyone is beatable. We are going to go with a game plan that we’re working on. We need to forget about last weekend’s game to a certain extent and take out of it what we need to.

Sunderland v Carlisle United - FA Cup Third Round
Ehmer challenging his hero Jozy Altidore
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Match Stats

Venue: Stadium of Light, Sunderland
Kick-off: 1pm
Referee: Michael Salisbury
Current position: 16th (League One)
Last season position: 13th (League One)
Last season FA Cup performance: Lost at 4th round vs Swansea City

Last 5 results:

SAFC

(LT) Leicester City U21s (H) 1-2
(L1) Southend United (H) 1-0
(LC) Oxford United (A) 1-1 (2-4 on pens)
(L1) Shrewsbury Town (A) 0-1
(L1) Tranmere Rovers (H) 5-0

GFC

(L1) Rotherham United (H) 0-3
(L1) Accrington Stanley (A) 1-0
(L1) Shrewsbury Town (A) 1-1
(L1) Peterborough United (H) 1-2
(L1) Portsmouth (A) 0-0

The Gills on Wearside

19 Feb 2019 (L1) Sunderland 4-2 Gillingham (Cattermole, Flanagan, Grigg, McGeady)
03 Jan 2005 (CH) Sunderland 1-1 Gillingham (Brown)
23 Mar 2004 (CH) Sunderland 2-1 Gillingham (Thornton, Byfield)
30 Jan 1988 (D3) Sunderland 2-1 Gillingham (Bennett, Gabbiadini)
17 May 1987 (D2) Sunderland 4-3 Gillingham (Gates 2, Bennett, Bertschin)

The Lads in the FA Cup 1st Round

2018/19 Port Vale 1-2 Sunderland (Honeyman, Gooch)
1987/88 Sunderland 2-0 Darlington (Atkinson 2)

Top goalscorers (in all competitions)

4 - Alex Jakubiak
3 - Brandon Hanlan
3 - Mikael Ndjoli
2 - Alfie Jones
2 - Olly Lee

Gillingham v Newport County - Carabao Cup First Round Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images

Last Time We Met

“Yeh, well when we win our games in hand, we’ll be right up there,” was the sentiment as Sunderland entered the draw-a-thon that was January and February 2019. The Lads brought that to an end in chaotic fashion when Gillingham rocked up to the Stadium of Light on a chilly Tuesday night.

In a frantic opening 10 minutes, Sunderland held a 2-1 lead thanks to gorgeous Lee Cattermole and not-so-gorgeous Tom Flanagan cancelling out Tom Eaves’ equaliser. However, in Sunderland fashion they went in level at the break and had to rely on two penalties to salvage their third win in the midst of six draws.

Sunderland v Gillingham - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images