Sunderland bounced back from two games without a win thanks to two late goals against ten-man Gillingham.
It was a poor first half with zero shots on target – the hosts should have taken the lead in the second half as they were awarded a penalty, but Burge denied Jordan Graham. The home side went down to ten men and from then on were on the backfoot - Sunderland took the lead through Maguire and sealed the points with a late Lynden Gooch goal.
Sunderland made their second away trip of the week looking for a much-improved performance and result as the lads travelled down to Kent to play Gillingham.
Phil Parkinson made four changes to the side that drew to Rochdale; Aiden O’Brien, Josh Scowen, Grant Leadbitter and Luke O’Nien came in for Max Power, George Dobson, Chris Maguire and Dion Sanderson.
The Gills came into the game off the back of four straight defeats without scoring a goal in 16th place and it was very much a winnable game for the lads.
Five minutes into the game at Priestfield it was a scrappy affair in tricky windy and wet conditions with Sunderland trying to attack down the flanks with Denver Hume and O’Nien.
The Gills had the first chance of the game as the ball was dinked over the top to Dominic Samuel skewed his volley high and wide from 12 yards.
The hosts had settled the better and looked a threat from set-pieces with plenty of big men lining up in blue.
20 minutes into the game and Sunderland were struggling with the conditions and couldn’t get anything going - it was an extremely lacklustre opening period for the lads.
Out of nothing, Sunderland thought they had taken the lead from a Scowen free-kick as it was floated to the back stick and met my O’Nien who brilliantly nodded it into the far corner only for it to be pulled back for offside.
With by far the best move of the game, Sunderland missed a golden opportunity to go in front. Gooch did brilliantly to launch the counter-attack and switch to O’Nien who laid it on a plate for Scowen, five yards out only for the midfielder to blaze it over – a massive chance wasted.
Scowen was in amongst the action again as he received a ball from Connor McLaughlin on the edge of the Gills box and did well to find a yard to shoot, but his effort flew just over the bar.
Despite a drab opening 25 minutes, Sunderland had kicked into gear and should have been ahead as Scowen’s low corner was met by O’Nien’s effort to come back off Charlie Wyke.
The half ended with no shots on target for either side, but Sunderland will have been looking to build on a promising last 15 minutes to the first half.
Ten minutes into the second period and it was eerily similar to the first half with a slow and lethargic tempo, and there were little signs of Sunderland creating any meaningful chances.
With an hour gone, Gillingham were awarded a penalty, as Flanagan brushed Ryan Jackson and the referee adjudged it enough to be a foul, but Lee Burge came to the rescue as the stopped guessed right and saved Jordan Graham’s spot-kick.
Things got worse for Gillingham minutes later as they were reduced to ten men as Alex MacDonald went flying two-footed into O’Nien; the Sunderland players were outraged with the challenge and MacDonald was sent for an early bath.
Sunderland should have taken the lead midway through the second half as McLaughlin’s ball in was flicked on by Wyke to Obrien who somehow couldn’t turn it home from five yards out.
It wasn’t turning out to be Scowen’s day in front of goal as the ball dropped to him via O’Brien, as he lashed it over the bar from eight yards.
The lads were pushing for that winner and the ball dropped to Wyke who managed to extend himself to get a shot away and forced a smart save from Joe Lumley.
It was all Sunderland with just over ten minutes to play and a man up –Maguire and Danny Graham had come on to try and get that breakthrough.
With only eight minutes to play, Sunderland were awarded a penalty as Wyke was clearly brought down by Zach Medley - Maguire fresh from the bench slotted it home to give the lads the lead.
Sunderland almost made it two on the break, Hume whipped in a lovely ball to Graham, but he couldn’t direct his header on target as it whistled past the post.
Deep into injury time Sunderland doubled their lead, on the break Gooch was in the clear as he ran from his own half with no Gillingham player in sight, he squeezed it underneath Lumley to seal all three points.
Full Time: Gillingham 0-2 Sunderland
ALS Man of the Match: Lynden Gooch
Sunderland: Burge; McLaughlin, Wright ©, Flanagan; O’Nien, Scowen (Maguire 80’), Leadbitter, Gooch, Hume; O’Brien (Graham 69’), Wyke.
Subs not used: Matthews, Power, Sanderson, Diamond, Grigg.