Six things: Five goals, a marriage proposal and how League One sides can't cope with relentless Sunderland

As midweek trips to Gillingham go, this was as entertaining as they come.

Thursday, 23rd August 2018, 10:21 am
Updated Thursday, 23rd August 2018, 10:25 am
George Honeyman and Max Power.

Five goals, a marriage proposal and thrilling end-to-end League One action.

Here's what we learned from the 4-1 win at the Priestfield Stadium.

Sunderland boss Jack Ross.

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Teams can't cope with Sunderland's relentless energy and fluid system

Sunderland lined up with a 3-5-2 system, with Lynden Gooch and Reece James asked to do the hard graft down the flank, with Donald Love, Jack Baldwin and Glenn Loovens at the back.

That's how they started but the way Jack Ross wants his players to play is so fluid that players often switch positions, outwitting their opponents.

This Sunderland side are physically a cut above too, the energy in the team often outworking the opposition; skipper George Honeyman a key man in that regard.

The Sunderland players celebrate.

Chris Maguire didn't enjoy his best game but he always grafts and is a big influence. Lee Cattermole and Max Power again impressing.

At times, Sunderland are too open in their quest for free-flowing attacking football but it isn't half entertaining to watch.

Jack Baldwin was outstanding at the back

The summer signing is proving to be a fans' favourite after an impressive start to his career on Wearside.

Baldwin, comfortable with the ball at his feet, is an all action defender. He has a mistake in him but will throw his head and body in the way of anything and he reads the game well.

High-risk at times, Sunderland got the job done defensively.

Sunderland made two changes at the back; the injured Bryan Oviedo and Adam Matthews replaced by Reece James and Donald Love.

Love was on the pitch and in the air. Liam Clough, a security steward based in the Sunderland end got engaged to 'Moira', after being proposed to over the PA system.

Lucky Liam may have taken some prompting though - the engagement wasn't confirmed until the second half following a half-time prompting from his soon-to-be mother-in-law via the PA announcer.

Sunderland had to fight to the end

On paper it looked a comfortable evening's work, winning by a three goal margin.

Yet, in reality it was anything but.

Sunderland may have stormed into a 3-1 lead within 20 minutes but they were hanging on defensively towards the end of the half.

The Gills had three goals chances to cut the deficit, Ross looked unimpressed as his side invited pressure.

They got to half-time with their lead in tact. You sensed the next goal could prove key.

And despite another spell of Gills pressure early in the second half, it was Sunderland that notched again - Josh Maja scoring the fourth just before the hour mark.

It wasn't as comfortable as the scoreline may have suggested but it was another thrilling and entertaining victory. Roll on AFC Wimbledon.

Cats show their mettle

Sunderland, to the shock of the large travelling support in the open-air seating behind the goal, fell behind within the space of three minutes.

It was a poor goal to concede, Gillingham able to whip in a cross before Tom Eaves nodded home. Jon McLaughlin came but got nowhere near it. His first error in a Sunderland shirt.

Ross was stern faced. Within 90 seconds he was celebrating along with the rest of the bench. Chris Maguire nodding Sunderland level.

It was a stunning response and by the 20th minute, Sunderland had a 3-1 lead.

Sunderland clinical in their finishing

Sunderland only had four shots on target - and they scored from all four of them. Remarkable really given the frantic nature of the game, it was end-to-end at times but Sunderland only managed four attempts.

Maja continues to blossom, scoring his fourth goal in as many league games. A remarkable start.

His stunning form has eased the pressure on the need for an additional striker, with Charlie Wyke due back in training next week.

Sunderland fans play their part

Ross summed it up when he hailed the 'unbelievable commitment' of the Sunderland fans.

Gillingham away is a 600-mile round-trip - in midweek - yet the Black Cats were backed by more than 2,000 supporters.

A fair chunk would have been Sunderland fans based in the south but still that is a remarkable away crowd for such a long journey - at any level.

Sunderland fans have had to contend with a lot in recent seasons following successive relegations.

The club is currently being rebuilt on and off the pitch but fans feel like they have their club back. The wild scenes of celebration at the end testament to that.