It's bloody freezing here in London so I take my hat off to Sobs and everyone else who's turned up for tonight's match. I was working late otherwise I might well have gone along myself. I wasn't sorry that we made an early exit from the other cups but I'd like us to win this game and a few others in the competition but my expectations don't go any further than that. I've just seen the team news and there are a couple of names in the squad I haven't heard of before including Brandon Taylor, who's starting, but it's a strong starting eleven. We're all so down in the dumps at the moment so any win would give us a glimmer and I'm hoping the players will respond and do their best, unlike in some recent performances. I think we'll win it and I'm going for 2-1 or maybe pennas.
It sounded like we started off the brighter but Power had a few words with Maguire when a crucial pass went astray. We won our first corner in the fifteenth minute and it was headed away for Power to blast one in and it went for a second corner. We continued to do most of the pressing with Power having a couple of hopeful shots. Gillingham started to press more around the twenty-fifth minute and we had to scramble a few efforts away. Commentator Gary Bennett said there wasn't much finesse in evidence with Gillingham in particular indulging in big-welly tactics while all we seemed to be doing was chase the ball. O'Nien had a cross/shot on the half-hour that Bonham in goal turned out for a corner. Defenders on both sides seemed to be having difficulty in keeping the ball in on one side of the pitch and Nick Barnes suggested there was an unusual camber on that touchline...how kind of him. Benno added, “This game ain't gonna get supporters in. It isn't entertaining.” It was certainly looking like one goal would win it. Both sides had had a few corners by the time we approached the break but very little of note had happened really. Aymer was booked for a foul on Grigg in stoppage-time and that was it for the first-half.
I can't say I was filled with enthusiasm but I got SAFSEE back on for the second-half and hoped for better things (ha ha). After seven or eight minutes very little had happened, again, and I would've been happy to go to penalties there and then. De Bock was yellow-carded but there was no mention of why and then Ozturk went down in our box as some home fans shouted for handball. The ref wasn't having it. Benno said Gillingham had dragged us down to their level and our ball-players like Maguire and Watmore weren't getting a sniff. Around the hour-mark things started to liven up a bit and then we brought on McGeady for Watmore so I hoped for even more life. Power and Taylor had a collision on the touchline and both needed some treatment. Gillingham won the first corner of the half in the sixty-eighth minute and we scrambled it away. The time was going fast anyway as penalties loomed but then Grigg had 'the first meaningful shot on target' in the seventy-second. Next thing I heard a chorus of 'Garden Shed' and took it as a good omen. Then I heard that if necessary there'd be extra-time before any penalties and my heart sank. As we entered the final ten minutes the Gills were pressing more and Taylor was coming in for praise from Benno as he defended well. The 329 Sunderland fans who'd made the trip received a ripple and then we were into four minutes of stoppage-time. Taylor made a great block to keep us in it and then we were into extra-time.
Bainbridge had replaced Ozturk as we kicked off. O'Nien had already been booked near the end and was given a talking to by the ref early in extra-time. There was a loud shout for handball against Taylor about ten minutes in but after due consideration the ref waved it away. Shortly afterwards Ehmer crashed a shot against our bar with the closest effort yet and next thing Hanlon put them ahead with a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner. McGeouch replaced Hume for the final session and six minutes later we made a fourth sub, bringing on Connelly for Grigg. Benno supposed our players had been instructed to keep hitting the ball first time and not try any fancy runs. It certainly hadn't done us much good. Connelly didn't waste much time in getting booked and time continued to zip away till the whistle went and we'd lost again.
I'll be glad to get back to league action on Saturday after what seems like an eternity but if we try the same tactics against Coventry, we'll get a good hiding.