Gillingham 1-0 Sunderland AFC
A late goal from Connor Ogilvie condemned Sunderland to defeat at Gillingham on Saturday.
Steve Evans’ side crafted the superior openings in the first 45, but they were unable to edge in front, as the Lads survived a couple of close calls.
Brandon Hanlan headed against the woodwork first – and appeals it crossed the line were waved away – before Mikael Mandron thundered against the upright from two yards.
After coming off the bench, Charlie Wyke thought he had scored a potential winner, but despite the goal initially standing, the officials overturned it and parity remained.
Ogilvie rubbed salt into Sunderland wounds with less than 60 seconds on the clock, ensuring the Gills claimed three points.
Phil Parkinson made six changes for the Kent-based match-up, as Jon McLaughlin lined up in goal and Alim Ozturk, Tom Flanagan and Laurens De Bock were also called into the side.
After serving a one-match ban, George Dobson returned to the starting XI, with Marc McNulty making his comeback following a spell in the treatment room.
A combative start saw neither side take the game by the scruff of the neck, but the home side began to threaten after the 15-minute mark.
An aerial bombardment proved to be their best route to success, as corners and long throws put the Black Cats, who looked to counter, under pressure.
Hanlan led the charge, as last-ditch defending from Ozturk prevented him from finding Mandron before the striker headed against the underside of the crossbar.
Players and supporters pleaded that it crossed the line, but the officials waved play on.
Sunderland continued to live dangerously, and they had a former Black Cat to thank when parity remained at the break, as Mandron somehow found the upright instead of the net from two yards.
Both sides issued their intent swiftly after the restart, as Olly Lee’s free-kick was cleared before O’Nien’s half-volley was pushed to safety by Jack Bonham
Charlie Wyke made his comeback after the hour mark – and the striker almost marked it with an instant goal, as he drove just wide after taking down the ball in the box.
With 12 minutes remaining, Wyke did find the net, but controversy followed.
Grigg’s inch-perfect cross was headed home by the frontman, but despite the linesman initially signalling he was onside, the goal was eventually overturned after the referee consulted his colleague.
An open finale ensued and with 89 minutes played, Ogilvie smashed home to seal a Gillingham win.
Gillingham: Bonham, Ehmer, Ogilvie, Hanlan, Mandron, Fuller, Jones, Byrne (Marshall 43), Lee, O’Connor, Tucker.
Subs not used: Walsh, Hodson, Ndjoli, Charles-Cook, Cisse, Jakubiak.
Sunderland: J McLaughlin, C McLaughlin (Maguire 90), Willis, Ozturk, Flanagan, De Bock, Dobson, Leadbitter, O’Nien, Grigg, McNulty (Wyke 61).
Subs not used: Burge, Hume, Lynch, McGeady, Watmore.