Published: 14:45, 30 January 2021
| Updated: 12:09, 01 February 2021
Gillingham claimed a point at Sunderland thanks to Jordan Graham's last-minute goal.
Alex MacDonald scored and struck the bar during an encouraging first half for the Gills but were behind at the break, with Aiden McGeady scoring from distance and Grant Leadbitter quickest to react after Jack Bonham had saved his penalty. Vadaine Oliver struck the woodwork before Graham's late equalising goal.
Gillingham had made just the one change to their side from the one that had beaten Crewe 4-1 last time out. An injury to Tom O’Connor led to a recall for MacDonald, a player who was sent off in the reverse fixture at Priestfield back in October.
Olly Lee was named upfront, playing off Oliver, and he had a couple of early chances, as did Connor Ogilive and Callum Slattery, but Gillingham had conceded in only the sixth minute, McGeady finding the net from 25 yards with an effort that took a deflection to take it beyond Bonham.
Gillingham responded well, creating several chances, before deservedly equalising through MacDonald. He found the bottom corner with a pinpoint volley from the edge of the box after Ryan Jackson’s throw had been cleared into his path.
MacDonald came close to scoring a second just two minutes later, a rasping effort crashing off the woodwork.
Sunderland got themselves back infront after getting an opportunity from the penalty spot.
The hosts broke after Jackson had lost out in the middle of the park and Robbie Cundy was adjudged to have fouled McGeady, as he looked to turn in the box. Bonham saved Leadbitter’s penalty, turning it onto the post and he then got his hand to the loose ball, but the Sunderland man was able to nod home to put his side back infront.
Charlie Wyke headed the ball onto the top of the crossbar early in the second half while Oliver went close for the Gills, poking the ball just wide of the upright.
Bonham had to make a couple of saves from McGeady but the Gills kept pushing for a way back into the match. John Akinde was introduced to play upfront with Oliver for the last half hour. Captain Kyle Dempsey had already departed with an injury.
Lee hit an effort at the keeper from 25 yards as the Gills kept knocking and the same player had a shot that went wide, seemingly shoved as he went to make the strike from just inside the area. Referee Oliver Langford was not interested.
Gills striker Oliver hit the woodwork with an overhead kick, with Stuart O'Keefe's ball back in hitting the bar, but the Gills did finally get an equalising goal late on, one they thoroughly deserved.
A long ball forward from keeper Bonham was flicked on by Akinde - beating Tom Flanagan in the air - Oliver laid it into the path of Graham and with a cool first touch to make the keeper commit, he then smashed a shot into the roof of the net from an angle.
Sunderland: Burge, Flanagan, Willis, Power, Wyke (O'Nien 86mins), O’Brien, Scowen, Diamond (Gooch 53mins), Leadbitter (Sanderson 86mins), McGeady. Subs not used: Matthews, Embleton, Winchester, Vokins.
Gillingham: Bonham, Jackson, Ogilvie, Tucker, Cundy, Dempsey (O’Keefe 52mins), Slattery (Johnson 86mins), MacDonald (Akinde 62mins), Lee, Graham, Oliver. Subs not used: Bastien, McKenzie, Willock.
Referee: Oliver Langford