How Sunderland were undone by a set-piece bombardment as Gillingham snatch a late point

This was a siege and in the end, Sunderland just couldn't hold on.

Saturday, 30th January 2021, 2:57 pm

The soundtrack to this game were the constant cries of players and staff in blue, every single decision contested vocifefously.

Their game was free kicks and long throws, and for the most part the Black Cats found themselves on the ropes.

Twice they took a valuable lead, but the constant threat from dead-ball situations eventually told as the visitors won a point with a goal moments before the final whistle.

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Sunderland conceded a 90th minute equaliser against Gillingham

After the positivity of back-to-back wins, this was another afternoon of frustration on home turf for the Black Cats.

Lee Johnson's side were handed the perfect start, tenacious work down the right from Charlie Wyke and Aiden O'Brien allowing Jack Diamond to fire in a dangerous cross.

Callum McFadzean recycled the loose ball on the left and found McGeady in that pocket on the edge of the area where he is so dangerous.

The slightest nick from the defender proved crucial, the ball looping into the far corner where Jack Bonha, was helpless.

If that represented a dream start, what followed was a fine resposne from the visiting side.

Sunderland played into their hands, constantly giving away cheap fouls that allowed them to pack the box and fire the ball in.

Impressive, though. was the way Steve Evans' side created their own pressure with an aggressive and effective press.

Jordan Graham seemed to constantly have the better of his opponent on the right flank, and Jordan Willis had already made some vital interceptions when the seemingly inevitable equaliser came, Alex MacDonald the quickest to react to a long throw as he fired home into the bottom corner.

The crucial moment came when MacDonald was again free as Sunderland failed to cope with a set piece, Lee Burge making a superb stop to turn his effort onto the crossbar.

The Black Ctats were struggling, their lead at the interval coming as something of a surprise.

It was a fine, first-time pass from Leadbitter to release McGeady, who drew the foul as he broke into the box.

Bonham made a superb save to deny Leadbitter's penalty, but the experienced midfielder was first to the loose ball and nodded home.

When Wyke headed a good cross onto the bar moments into the restart, the Black Ctas looked well placed.

Gillingham kept coming, though.

Oliver turned wide from a matter of yards as those long throws and long balls downfield just kept coming.

It looked as if Sunderland had managed the worst of the pressure as the game entered the final quarter.

McGeady had seen a couple of half chances saved as Gillingham's momentum began to fade. The tempo of the game dropped, and Sunderland were seeing more of the ball further up the pitch.

The introduction of John Akinde proved key, the imposing striker redoubling his side's threat.

Oliver had underlined his side's persistent threat when turning a free kick from deep onto the post, and the pressure inevitably told in the 90th minute.

Another long ball was won by Gillingham, and Graham rounded Burge before firing into the roof of the net.

Sunderland XI: Burge; Power, Willis, Flanagan, McFadzean; Leadbitter (Sanderson, 87), Scowen, Diamond (Gooch, 53), McGeady; O’Brien, Wyke (O’Nien, 87)

Subs: Matthews, Vokins, Embleton, Winchester

Gillingham XI: Bonham, Jackson, Cundy, Ogilvie, Tucker; Dempsey (O’Keefe, 51), Slattery (Johnson, 87); Graham, Lee, MacDonald (Akinde, 61); Oliver

Subs: Bastien, McKenzie, Willock, McKenzie

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