Gillingham lost for the fifth game in a row on Saturday in a heated encounter with Sunderland at Priestfield Stadium.
On a wet and windy afternoon in Kent, a Chris Maguire penalty and Lynden Gooch strike were the differences between the two teams in a match that saw two spot kicks and a red card for Gillingham midfielder Alex MacDonald.
Story of the match
In the wind and rain, the game took a while to get going, but the first real chance came after nine minutes, when a neat Alex MacDonald chipped ball found Dominic Samuel in the box. The forward struck the volley first time, but his effort went over.
A few Gillingham corners came to nothing, and Sunderland frustration began to grow as Lynden Gooch went into the book for dissent.
The visitors though did begin to grow into the game and wing-back Luke O’Nien had a goal ruled out for offside on 25 minutes. O’Nien then produced a brilliant cross for Josh Scowen, who received the ball roughly six yards out, but the number 14 skied his first-time effort well over the bar.
Connor Ogilvie then missed a free header at the other end of the pitch, before Scowen again hit row Z following a smart cut inside a defender.
O’Nien saw a shot blocked after a smart set-piece routine, and things soon began to get heated. Both dugouts were on their feet – Sunderland manager Phil Parkinson on the pitch – after Ryan Jackson brought down Denver Hume, and Gillingham manager Steve Evans had some choice words for referee Sam Purkiss following the incident.
The game was goalless at the interval, but it certainly wasn’t short on entertainment.
Things seemed to have calmed down at the start of the second-half, but how wrong that was. After Ryan Jackson was brought down by Tom Flanagan in the area, the assistant referee waved his flag and a penalty was awarded.
The normally-reliable Jordan Graham shot low to Lee Burge’s right, and the spot kick was saved. Dominic Samuel kicked the rebound into the ground and over the bar, and the game remained goalless.
Alex MacDonald then received a straight red card for a high challenge on O’Nien. There can be no questions about the decision, and Gillingham were left having to play the final half-an-hour with ten men.
Sunderland went close minutes later as Aiden O’Brien fired wide, and Scowen wasted another golden opportunity moments later as he fired over from a few yards out.
Joe Lumley had to make his first save on 77 minutes, tipping a Charlie Wyke flick over the bar, as Sunderland began to lay siege on the home goal.
Their efforts were rewarded in the final few minutes when Charlie Wyke went down under the challenge of Zech Medley. The referee pointed to the spot, and substitute Chris Maguire did what Jordan Graham couldn’t and slotted home from 12 yards to give his side the lead.
Gillingham tried to hit back, but they never really came close, and Lynden Gooch doubled the visitors' lead deep into stoppage time after a clear run at goal.
The full-time whistle soon followed and the Gills lost for the fifth game in a row. Sunderland were far off their best, but will be pleased with the win.
Takeaways from the match
Gillingham’s struggles in front of goal continue
Gillingham haven’t scored for five games in a row now, and their troubles going forward are really starting to become a problem.
It is all well and good making chances, but, if they aren’t taken, that is not good. Jordan Graham missed a penalty here and Dominic Samuel wasted the rebound, showing the Gills’ lack of confidence in front of goal at the minute.
Gillingham manager Steve Evans will be wondering if his team are ever going to score again.
Hot heads at Priestfield
The wet pitch invited sliding tackles, and the signs were there in the first-half when some rash challenges went mostly unpunished by the referee.
In the second-period things didn’t change. Alex MacDonald was given his marching orders on the hour mark for a horror tackle on Luke O’Nien, putting his team in a tough position to see out the rest of the game.
After having to watch from the sidelines for a long period of time, Robbie McKenzie has grabbed his chance with both hands over the last couple of games.
He needs to improve going forward, but, defensively minded, the youngster has helped organise the midfield and add some much-needed stability and protection.
Returning from a ban after picking up a red card against Portsmouth, O’Nien put in a man of the match performance at right wing back.
He created plenty and defended well, and will certainly count himself unlucky not to have at least an assist to his name. He has a goal ruled out for offside, too, however was lucky not to have his season ended after a rash challenge from Alex MacDonald.
Gillingham: Lumley, Jackson, Tucker, Medley, Ogilvie, MacDonald, McKenzie, Dempsey, Graham (Coyle 87), Samuel (Robertson 66), Oliver (Akinde 70).
Subs not used: Walsh, Maghoma, Drysdale, Willock.
Sunderland: Burge, McLaughlin, Flanagan, Wright, Wyke, O’Brien (Graham 70), Gooch, O’Neil, Scowen (Maguire 81), Leadbitter, Hume.
Subs not used: Matthews, Power, Sanderson, Diamond, Grigg.