Published: 16:45, 07 December 2019
| Updated: 22:59, 07 December 2019
Connor Ogilvie fired home the winner for Gillingham a minute from time against troubled Sunderland.
Gillingham and Sunderland had both felt hard done by after having goals ruled out by the match officials at Priestfield.
Brandon Hanlan thought he had put the Gills infront with a header that bounced down off the underside of the bar in the first half and Sunderland’s Charlie Wyke had one ruled out in the second.
There was plenty of West Ham FA Cup talk in the week but the visit of Sunderland was a sobering prospect for the Gills, a team struggling of late but with plenty of individual talent to win a game.
The Black Cats had been second best to Steve Evans’ men in both of the FA Cup first round meetings between the clubs. This was the third meeting in four weeks and the Gills boss had said pre-match it was likely to be the toughest of the three.
Gillingham were keen to maintain their impressive recent home form of late. Under-fire Sunderland boss Phil Parkinson was hoping to keep his job, despite only being in the hot-seat for less than two months. He made six changes for the match while the Gills were unchanged.
The Gills defended well in the opening half to snuff out any of Sunderland’s forward forrays, with Barry Fuller mopping up much of the danger and Jack Tucker dealing well with the experienced forward line of the visitors.
Gillingham had the best of the chances in the opening half. Hanlan blazed over a good chance and Mandron headed a corner well side.
It was down to the match officials to decide if Hanlan’s 23rd minute header had crossed the line. Video replays of the incident suggested it had crossed but it was a tough ask for those making a split-second decision. No goal was the decision.
Moments earlier Hanlan had almost set up the opener, doing well to get the better of Alim Ozturk, but the ball into the waiting Olly Lee was just a touch behind him.
Mandron also went close to opening the scoring, rattling the bar with a header. Mark Byrne’s follow-up was blocked and the midfielder picked up an injury before the break, limping off with a knee problem.
Gillingham’s management confronted the referee as the teams went off at the break, adamant Hanlan’s effort had crossed the line. Fans inline with the goal in the Medway Stand felt likewise but the half-time score was 0-0.
Byrne’s replacement Mark Marshall was getting busy in the box early in the second half but Gills keeper Jack Bonham had to be alert, saving from Luke O’Nien after Sunderland found a way through the defence after a mix-up.
Gillingham were unable to make the most of a series of corners infront of the Rainham End and there was relief at the other end when visiting sub Charlie Wyke drilled a low shot wide seconds after replacing Mark McNulty upfront.
Sunderland were forced into some desperate defending at times to keep the Gills at bay and protected their keeper well, with Jon McLaughlin untested.
The visitors thought they had the lead with 12 minutes left, as Wyke headed in a Will Grigg cross. Celebrations were muted, however, as the linesman signalled for a foul on the keeper by O'Nien after the referee had appeared to signal a goal. Sunderland’s chance had come on the break after Marshall had lost possession.
Mandron had a blocked shot for the Gills late on before a goal finally arrived on 89 minutes when Sunderland failed to clear a Lee corner and Ogilvie was in the right place to score the winner, volleying home after controlling with his thigh.
Gillingham: Bonham, Fuller, Ehmer, Tucker, Ogilvie, Jones, Byrne (Byrne 44mins), Lee, O'Connor, Hanlan, Mandron. Subs not used: Walsh, Hodson, Ndjoli, Charles-Cook, Cisse, Jakubiak.
Sunderland: J McLaughlin, C McLaughlin (Maguire 90mins), Ozturk, Flanagan, Willis, De Bock, Dobson, Leadbitter, O’Nien, Grigg, McNulty (Wyke 62mins). Subs: Burge, Hume, Lynch, McGeady, Watmore.
Attendance: 5,401 (1,339 away)