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Sunderland 2 Gillingham 2: Gills boss Steve Evans said his team deserved three points in League 1 clash


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Gillingham left Sunderland with a point but the performance warranted all three said their manager Steve Evans.

Jordan Graham’s late goal levelled it up at 2-2 but in-form Gillingham - now four unbeaten - were left chasing the game in the second half after Sunderland scored following a penalty that Evans felt should never have been given.

“We played really well in spells and went home to Kent disappointed we didn’t take all three points,” said the manager.

“We could do nothing about their first goal, it takes a wicked deflection. The referee has had a bad day at the office. You cannot get a big decision like that wrong, it is never a penalty, it was a poor decision.”

Jack Bonham had saved the penalty but Grant Leadbitter nodded home the loose ball. Sunderland went into the break 2-1 ahead.

Gillingham struck the woodwork on a couple of occasions before Graham’s 90th minute equaliser. It was the least the Gills deserved.

Evans said: “Sunderland were holding on at 2-1 and I am sure their fans were thinking ‘we’ll take this because we have been outplayed for long spells, we have rode out luck and we have had a penalty that was never a penalty’. There were lot of things in their favour.

“It is a great place to play football but I never doubted our ability to get a point, never doubted our players, we have some big players in that dressing room, some real leaders and fighters, players that won’t give up. The words of the backroom team at Sunderland at the end were that ‘it was a late goal but you left two here.’

“It would have been a travesty of justice (if we didn’t get anything from the game) which you often get in football.

“We went behind early doors with a wicked deflection and it happens in games, you get it sometimes in your favour and against. We got a bit of luck as well, Alex MacDonald has had a good strike (to make it 1-1) but there was a bit of a deflection and we got back, we then hit the underside of the bar, we were totally dominant and then we had a penalty given against us.”

Evans couldn’t believe the referee gave it after reviewing the decision, Robbie Cundy penalised for a foul in the box on Aiden McGeady.

He said: “I can speak with the benefit of having watched it back, it is an absolutely shocking decision, from a referee who is experienced and normally very good. He got that badly wrong. He tells me he got it right.

“Second half they had a little spell where they passed it around, without really making a chance, only territorially. We changed the system.

“Last time there we scored late (Mikael Mandron earning a 2-2 draw in the league in March). We didn’t leave it that late but it was late. I think the draw in the last game we played before the pandemic was a fairer result, I don’t think this final result was fair, we deserved to win, we deserved to win comfortably. On another day we will.”

A couple of Sunderland players got caught up in some debate with Evans during the match. Max Power had some words first half before Tom Flanagan fired off some expletives second half.

Evans was asked about the incident with Flanagan - a former Gills loanee - and said: “He won’t be the first person to tell me I’m not a size 28 waist! I won’t be the first person to say to him, ‘just concentrate on winning promotion for Sunderland and stop talking’.

“They have fantastic new owners so I am told, they have fantastic and magical support, it is massive, huge numbers, but their players, ‘just shut up son, play football and win them points’. If he wants to get involved with me then he isn’t focused is he!?”

Gillingham thumped Crewe 4-1 in midweek thanks to a great pressing game and rattled Sunderland too, which came as a surprise to Flanagan, who spoke to the home media afterwards, saying: “I didn’t think they were going to press us like they did. I thought they would sit in and play for set-pieces.

"They pressed us, they came at us, that is their style of play and they are good at that. It is not something I would want to be a part of but we let ourselves down. People will look at that style of play now in a positive style of play because they have got something from it.”

Report: Sunderland 2 Gillingham 2

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