Sloppy Sunderland twice threw away the lead to draw 2 – 2 with Gillingham at the SOL on Saturday a result which sees the lads lose ground on top spot. Kyle Lafferty had twice given Phil Parkinson’s side the lead in the second half only for former SAFC youngster Mikael Mandron to twice draw Gillingham level the second of which came at the end of six minutes of injury time.
Phil Parkinson made one change from the side that lost against Coventry last weekend and it was an enforced one with Charlie Wyke missing out on the match day squad all together through injury. He was replaced in the side by Kyle Lafferty whilst Duncan Watmore returned to a strong looking bench.
The visitors got the game underway kicking towards their fans housed in the North Stand but it was the lads who had the first effort on goal but Dobson hit a volley into the ground. We won a free kick after five minutes when O’Nien was clattered just inside the Gillingham half but Maguire’s set piece was held easily by the keeper.
It was a physical opening fifteen minutes with zero chances and pretty poor football on show. Just before the twenty minute mark we won a corner after good work from Hume on the left but Maguire’s corner was headed clear before Lafferty could get on the end of it. A couple of minutes later we won a corner on the other side after Maguire and Willis combined but this resulted in another corner on the other side. This time Maguire picked out Lafferty unmarked at the back post just inside the six yard box but the big striker nodded over.
We carved out a good chance just before the half hour with a good move involving Willis and O’Nien on the right before Maguire eventually crossed into the box. Hume made a hash of his shot but the loose ball fell to Gooch and after a couple of feints got a shot away but the keeper raced off his line to smother the American’s effort.
Five minutes before the break Maguire stung the palms of the Gillingham keeper after he rode a few challenges in the box and got a powerful left foot shot away. It was a good effort created out of nothing from the Scot but his resulting corner didn’t match his effort on goal with the keeper easily holding it. A minute later Maguire orchestrated another opening with a fantastic cross field pass to Gooch but Dobson couldn’t get on the end of the American’s cross into the box.
Just before half time we won a free kick in a dangerous position on the edge of the box after O’Nien was pulled down trying to latch onto a pass from Maguire. Maguire took the resulting free kick but it was headed clear by the wall before Flanagan went close with an audacious effort from about 30 yards. This was the last real action of the game despite the two minutes added time.
Neither side made any changes at the break but the visitors won an early corner after O’Nien headed behind. We made a hash of clearing the danger with Maguire dwelling on the ball too long but it didn’t matter as the cross from Gillingham was over hit and went out for a goal kick. At the other end Maguire whipped a free kick into the box which the keeper needed two attempts to gather with Lafferty lurking looking to pounce.
Ten minutes into the second half the visitors had their first real effort on goal which McLaughlin did well to palm away. The ball was worked to the edge of the box from the left wing to Roberts who powered a shot goal wards which McLaughlin did well to save before we cleared. We then went close a few minutes later but Lafferty dragged Hume’s cross wide of the post.
With half an hour remaining it was a mystery how the lads didn’t score after Dobson drove into the box from the right but his cross was cut out and cleared when it looked a certainty we score but could only manage a corner. Maguire took the corner but Willis made a hash of his header heading well wide.
Jon McLaughlin then had to be alert after Gillingham broke with Ozturk losing his man but Hanlan was denied by another smart stop from the Scot. The lads then went down the other end and scored with Kyle Lafferty notching his first goal in red and white. Chris Maguire slipped the ball to Denver Hume who picked out Lafferty who nodded the goal into the back of the net from just inside the six yard box.
Ten minutes later the visitors equalised after sloppy defending from Sunderland and to rub further salt in the wounds it was a former SAFC man with the goal. Mikael Mandron bundled the ball into the back of the net after a scramble in the box wasnt cleared by Sunderland after a long throw in from the right.
The goal swung the momentum with Gillingham in the ascendancy and Sunderland having to rely on Jon McLaughlin to make a couple of great saves to keep the scores level. Parkinson then made his first change of the game with Semenyo replacing Ozturk.
Parkinson’s change paid off but it was Lafferty who again struck after he nabbed his second of the game after he latched onto a through ball by Dobson. The big striker raced in on goal and poked the ball between the keepers legs to give the lads the lead again. Parkinson then made his second change of the game when Josh Scowen replaced Chris Maguire.
There was six minutes injury time despite not much happening in the game but we can’t really complain about that and should focus more on defending long throws. At the death the visitors won a throw and Sunderland failed to clear it and Lee laid it off to Mandron who blasted the ball into the bottom corner past McLaughlin with a good finish with his left foot. Sickener.
Final Score: Sunderland 2 Gillingham 2
ALS Man of the Match: Kyle Lafferty
RATINGS VS GILLINGHAM
BY DANIEL MCCALLUM
Jon McLaughlin (7/10): Made a few crucial saves just after their equaliser, would have lost the game without his input.
Luke O’Nien (6/10): Didn’t have too much impact on the game but showed some decent touches.
Jordan Willis (6/10): Comfortable on the ball but perhaps could have done better to defend their long throws.
Alim Ozturk (5/10): Poor passing and struggled defensively, particularly against Akinde’s physicality when he came on.
Tom Flanagan (7/10): Produced some good passes to split the defence.
Denver Hume (6/10): Got in the right positions but had no end product again.
Max Power (6/10): Covered a lot of ground and kept the ball moving.
George Dobson (7/10): Pressed well to win the ball up the pitch. Tidy in possession. Great pass for Lafferty’s second
Lynden Gooch (6/10): Linked up with Hume well in a selfless but fruitless performance.
Chris Maguire (7/10): Created problems with his set piece delivery and crossing.
Kyle Lafferty (8/10): A nuisance throughout and took both goals well. Really good to see a big striker that doesn’t go down whenever he’s touched by a defender.
Antoine Semenyo (6/10): Showed good pace and effort as we attempted to see the win out.
Josh Scowen (5/10): Came on the see offer defensive cover, and ultimately failed.
Joel Lynch (5/10): See above.