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Match Preview: Sunderland vs Gillingham

Sunderland kick off with the first of three games in the space of a week at home to Gillingham this afternoon. Can the Lads get their promotion push back on track by finally beating the stubborn Gills?

Coventry City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

After a stuttering performance away at Coventry City ceded promotion momentum to the homeless Warwickshire side, Sunderland return to the Stadium of Light desperate to return to winning ways. Standing in their way is lovable rascal Steve Evans’ Gillingham side, who’ve only lost once in their last 16 league fixtures.

Saturday marks the start of another gruelling week for the Lads with trips to Bristol Rovers and Blackpool lying in wait, so starting with three points is an absolute must.

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

Parky Says...

It’s a big week of three games in seven days, everyone has to be ready.

Set-plays will be a key part, we have to be brave and make the pitch big and move the ball around.

We have to make sure it’s our turn to come away with the victory.

Coventry City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Team News

Parkinson was pretty coy on team selection ahead of the Gillingham visit, but did confirm that winger Elliot Embleton is back in training. The 20-year-old has been sidelined since September after picking up a hamstring injury in the League Cup victory against Sheffield United.

Sunderland Training Session Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

View From The Opposition

Despite having the demeanour of an angry plum, Gills boss Steve Evans has quietly been doing a great job at Priestfield. The former Leeds United and Peterborough United manager has led Gillingham to one league defeat in 16 matches since November, and the Kent side have become a tricky test for many of League One’s top sides.

Having already beaten Sunderland twice this campaign, the Gills have gained credible draws away at Peterborough and Ipswich Town as well as beating Doncaster Rovers on this impressive run. Evans will be able to call upon centre-half Max Ehmer who has recovered from a knock and could welcome winger Jordan Roberts back to the squad.

Evans said:

Sunderland are a different beast now. Phil [Parkinson] has got them fitter; they are an experienced management team and a fantastic football club. We will firstly respect them but secondly try to compete and be efficient.

Sunderland have been incredible at home. Playing against them at the Stadium of Light gives you a real buzz. We will take good support; it will be a tough afternoon but we have a nice mixture of experience and youth. We will do our very best.

Cardiff City v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

Match Stats

Venue: Stadium of Light, Sunderland
Kick-off: 3pm
Referee: Anthony Coggins
Current position: 11th
Last season position: 13th (League One)

Last 5 results:

SAFC

(L1) Coventry City (A) 0-1
(L1) Fleetwood Town (H) 1-1
(L1) Bristol Rovers (H) 3-0
(L1) Oxford United (A) 1-0
(L1) Ipswich Town (H) 1-0

GFC

(L1) AFC Wimbledon (H) 1-2
(L1) Lincoln City (A) 0-0
(L1) Southend United (A) 1-0
(L1) Doncaster Rovers (H) 2-1
(L1) Blackpool (A) 3-2

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)

Top goalscorers (in all competitions)

7 - Brandon Hanlan
6 - Alex Jakubiak
6 - Olly Lee
4 - Connor Ogilvie
3 - Regan Charles-Cook

Blackpool v Gillingham - Sky Bet League One Photo by Kevin Barnes - CameraSport via Getty Images