Memory Lane: Classic clashes vs Gillingham

Sunderland welcome Gillingham to the Stadium of Light on Saturday for the first-ever meeting between the clubs in the FA Cup.

Here are two classic clashes we picked out:

Sunderland 2-1 Gillingham, 23 March 2004

The 2003-04 season saw Sunderland compete long and hard for a promotion place and they eventually just missed out, finishing third.

Over 23,000 were at the Stadium of Light for this clash, and a victory would see Sunderland rise from sixth to fourth if results went their way.

Sean Thornton put the Lads ahead in the 11th minute with a typically stunning free-kick.

Patrick Agyemang got the away side level on 28 minutes as he headed a Alan Pourton cross past Mart Poom.

The relegation strugglers improved as the first-half went on and were good value for their draw at half-time.

However, the Black Cats were determined to get their noses ahead and Mick McCarthy’s team talk at the break clearly worked as his side retook the lead on 53 minutes.

Darren Byfield picked up the ball from distance before dribbling past the Gillingham defence and slotting past the goalkeeper.

The result meant the Lads were unbeaten in their 18 previous home games and still in the hunt for automatic promotion. 

Gillingham 0-4 Sunderland, 11 September 2004

Six months later, and the two sides would meet again at the Priestfield Stadium.

Sunderland had lost the play-offs against Crystal Palace in controversial fashion, while Gillingham survived in the Championship by the skin of their teeth on goal difference at the end of the previous season.

Just under 9,000 were in attendance and the large away following that Sunderland brought were to be rewarded with an emphatic performance.

The Lads had started the season in underwhelming fashion, winning just once from their first six league games.

But performances were improving, and McCarthy knew that if they kept at the level they had shown already then they would be more than okay.

The game started at a frantic pace, and Marcus Stewart put the Lads ahead in four minutes after he bundled in a scrappy effort.

It was 2-0 before long as Stephen Elliot executed a perfect diving header from a Julio Arca cross.

A third was added before the 20 minute mark after some terrible defending from the home side saw Stewart get his second.

The scoring died down, but there was still time for Stewart to complete his hat trick on 68 minutes as he capitalised weak back pass to round keeper Steve Banks.

That victory moved the Lads up two places in 15th, but they would soon be competing at the right end of the table and earn a promotion to the Premier League.

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