Lee Johnson criticises 'naive' Sunderland in blunt verdict on Gillingham disappointment

Lee Johnson was left frustrated by his team's game management after Gillingham snatched a point in the last minute at the Stadium of Light.

Saturday, 30th January 2021, 3:43 pm
Updated Saturday, 30th January 2021, 3:45 pm

Sunderland struggled to compete with a physical and direct opponent, and they eventually yielded as Jordan Graham struck to put a dent in their promotion ambitions.

Johnson was left frustrated with his team's defending for that goal, and also criticised the regularity with which they gave away free kicks.

"I am frustrated because it's a bit of naivety in the final five or six minutes," Johnson said.

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Gillingham equalise in the first half at the Stadium of Light

"Generally we've been pretty good at that but I think, Bailey Wright being out you lose that organiser and talker.

"You look at the goal, they've got a line of five and we've got a line of four, that is crazy. You have to make sure you have the overload and that's just organisation from within.

"As a squad and as a team we've got to deal with moments in the game better than we did today," he added.

"We started bright and ended the first half bright, but there was a spell in the middle where we didn't cope.

"We gave away too many fouls and played into the oppositon hands.

"There were too many free kicks [given away], we know it's coming in so why bother?

"We may as well force them into showing their quality, rather than lump a long, high ball directly down our throat.

"They'd hit the post so we'd had the warning.

"That's when you need communication and characters."

Gillingham posed a threat throughout the contest, quickly responding to Aiden McGeady's early goal with a long spell of sustained pressure.

A Grant Leadbitter goal gave the home side the advantage going into the interval but Steve Evans' side were always in the contest as they continued to threaten the Sunderland box.

Critical of the way his side defended against that threat, Johnson also felt his side did not produce enough quality in the final third throughout.

"I wouldn't call it possession, I'd say box entries and territory," Johnson said.

"There's not a lot of possession going on in any game Gillingham play. It was very similar to the Northampton game and that's what's disappointing, when you don't deal with it and you don't bring your quality out when you get the opportunity.

"I thought down the right we were poor, not just the wingers, anyone who got down there, the quality was poor in the final third.

"Too many times we got into the elbow of the box and didn't produce any quality.

"We've got to finish teams off, when you play against that style, and everyone has their own style and I've no problem with that, you've got to deal with it and we were six or seven minutes away."

Johnson also confirmed that Chris Maguire was left out of the squad for tactical reasons.

The introduction of Jake Vokins meant that the previously influential midfielder was not involved with the matchday 18.

"I just couldn’t get everybody in [the squad],” Johnson said.

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