Gillingham 1-4 Sunderland
Sunderland maintained their unbeaten record with a stunning 4-1 win at Gillingham on Wednesday evening.
The Lads fell behind within the opening two minutes as Tom Eaves headed home, but Jack Ross’ players dusted themselves down and produced an emphatic reponse.
Level with four minutes played thanks to Chris Maguire, the Red ‘n’ Whites led 3-1 with just 20 minutes on the clock as George Honeyman and Max Power produced a finishing masterclass.
Gillingham surged out of the blocks following the restart and the Black Cats were forced to defend, but they pounced on the counter as Josh Maja extended his scoring streak to clinch a third win from four Sky Bet League One games.
Ross made two changes from the side that blitzed Scunthorpe United at the Stadium of Light last time out, as Donald Love and Reece James replaced Adam Matthews and Bryan Oviedo.
The Lads entered the game with confidence flooding through their veins, but within two minutes their bubble was well and truly burst, as Eaves nodded Gillingham into the lead.
It didn’t last, though, and Sunderland’s response battered the Gills to the canvas.
Just two minutes after falling behind, Glenn Loovens headed the ball into the danger zone and Maguire pounced to flick home his second goal of the campaign.
Unlike the 2,000-strong red and white army, who refused to be silenced after seeing their side concede, a nervousness descended on the home side after they were pegged back – and they never recovered.
With 18 minutes on the clock, the ball dropped to Honeyman just inside the box and the captain slammed the ball into the top corner to make it 2-1.
But the Lads weren’t done there, and like a runaway train they screamed forward once more and added a third less than two minutes later.
Following in Maguire’s footsteps, Power stepped up to bag his second in as many games with a delightful finish giving Gills ‘keeper Thomas Holy absolutely no chance.
The home side enjoyed the bulk of the possession before the interval, but Ross’ men held firm and entered half-time with a commanding two-goal lead.
Sunderland were forced to weather a brewing storm during the early stages of the second period, as Gillingham piled forward in search of a route back into the game.
Penalty appeals were waved away and Lee Cattermole was forced into a goalline clearance, while Jon McLaughlin proved his worth with a brilliant save to deny Josh Parker.
The Black Cats remained dangerous on the counter, though, with Maguire a fraction offside as he burst clean through on goal.
And Gills failed to recognise the threat posed, with Maja notching his fourth in as many league games to effectively end any hopes of a comeback.
More good news arrived on 68 minutes as summer signing Dylan McGeouch returned from injury to make his Sunderland debut.
The home side should have pulled one back with 19 minutes remaining, as McLaughlin somehow clawed the ball off the line after it deflected towards goal.
And even then Eaves should have buried the follow up, but from close range he smashed his effort off the post – a moment which summed up Gillingham’s evening.
But those in red and white didn’t mind a jot, as the Lads went marching towards AFC Wimbledon with their unbeaten record intact.
Gillingham: Holy, O’Neill (Reilly 68), Garmston, Ehmer, Zakuani, Hanlan (Stevenson 84), Eaves, Charles-Cook, Parker, Bingham (List 70), Byrne.
Subs not used: Hadler, Lacey, Fuller, Reilly, Nasseri.
Sunderland: McLaughlin, Love, James, Loovens, Baldwin, Cattermole, Power (O’Nien 82), Honeyman, Maguire (McGeouch 68), Gooch, Maja.
Substitues: Ruiter, Ozturk, Embleton, Hume, Mumba.