Sunderland drew 1 – 1 with Gillingham at the SOL in the first round of the FA Cup on Saturday lunchtime in an atrocious game of football. The lads had taken the lead in the first half after a tame Aiden McGeady effort found the net before a second half howler from Jon McLaughlin saw Olly Lee’s free kick spilt over the line. It means another game for Phil Parkinson's side with a replay although at least we are in the draw the next round.
Phil Parkinson made one change to the side that beat Southend United last weekend with Laurens De Bock replacing Denver Hume at left back. It was probably the strongest line up Phil Parkinson could have named which reflected his comments during the week in his pre match press conference where he said he still felt the FA Cup was special and he wanted to make sure the club was represented properly.
The lads got the game underway kicking towards an empty Roker End with all Sunderland fans housed in the East Stand with a few hundred Gillingham fans in the North Stand. The visitors won an early free kick on the right hand side but Sunderland cleared the set piece. We had an early chance when McGeady crossed from the right into the box for Grigg but his flicked shot was blocked by the defender. Just before the ten minute mark we had another half chance when Power teed up McGeady but his shot was blocked.
We then forced a couple of corners and went close with one when a header from Willis was cleared over before there was a break in play while one of the Gillingham players received treatment. From the restart we forced another corner but it was cleared easily.
The lads took the lead after fifteen minutes after Aiden McGeady found the bottom corner of the net with a decent finish from the edge of the box. Sunderland had moved the ball around well before the Irishman struck a low shot goal wards which seemed to catch the keeper off guard and nestle in the bottom right hand corner. Gillingham immediately threatened from the restart when the ball was slung into the box from a free kick with McLaughlin’s attempted headed clearance clipping the post.
Gillingham were almost gifted an equaliser after a sloppy pass from Dobson allowed them to break down the left. A cross was played over to the unmarked Mandron who saw his shot blocked before Sunderland were awarded a free kick for a foul on Willis. On the half hour we had a chance to double our lead when Maguire whipped a good corner into the front post which O’Nien got a faint touch on before the ball whizzed through the six yard box past three Sunderland players none of whom could get a touch.
There was three minutes added time at the end of the half after the early stoppage and Sunderland should have doubled their lead during them. A ball from the right was clipped in and found the unmarked Maguire in the centre of the box but he thumped his volley wide.
Neither side made any changes at the break and the visitors started the game and won an early free kick on the edge of the box after a foul by Willis. Gillingham drew level from the free kick after an absolute howler from goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin. The free kick was laid off for Lee who blasted a shot down the keepers throat who grabbed it and then managed to spill it through his legs and over the goal line.
The goal sparked Gillingham more into life whilst Sunderland became increasingly lacklustre and sloppy which was epitomised when Luke O’Nien ran across the field with no passes on and just kicked the ball out for a throw in. McLaughlin had to come and take a couple of crosses which he managed without dropping them whilst an ambitious shot from McGeady which flew over was the best Sunderland could muster.
With twenty five remaining Phil Parkinson made a change with Marc McNulty replacing Will Grigg. Five minutes later we had our best passage of play of the second half after McLaughlin and Maguire combined on the edge of the box after a good run forward by the right back but his shot was deflected wide for a corner which was cleared. At the other end the visitors broke and had a man over but McLaughlin produced a decent shot to deny Lee before we had another half chance when O’Nien was inches away from getting onto a cross with the goal gaping.
Chris Maguire then made way for Duncan Watmore with fifteen minutes left as Phil Parkinson made his second change of the game. However it was Gillingham who went closest to scoring after Hanlan drove into the box after leaving Lynch for dead but Lee couldn’t latch onto it. There was a moment of light relief ten minutes before time with Jon McLaughlin resorting to fetching the ball himself from an empty Roker End with the keeper having to run halfway up it.
Two minutes from time Aiden McGeady drew a decent save from the keeper when he drove in from the wing and curled a shot towards the bottom corner but the resulting corner was punched clear. The visitors then forced a corner which we cleared as the game petered out. O’Nien picked up a late yellow before the ref put everyone out of their misery with the full time whistle which was greeted by boos.
Final Score: Sunderland 1 Gillingham 1
ALS Man of the Match: Luke O’Nien