Sunderland’s near-perfect start to the season continued last night with a 4-1 win at Gillingham in a match in which the score line perhaps flattered the visitors. Chris Maguire, George Honeyman, Max Power and Josh Maja found the back of the net in what was a thoroughly professional display by Jack Ross’ men.
It didn’t start well for the visitors and they found themselves behind after just three minutes. A corner was swung into the back post and Tom Eaves beat Sunderland keeper Jon McLaughlin to the ball to head home, McLaughlins’ claims that he’d been fouled were waved away as the Gills forward led the celebrations.
Last season, if Sunderland fell behind that would be the end of it. However, this year they are a team made of stronger stuff. Just a minute after falling behind they were level. Glen Loovens got his head on a Max Power corner and Chris Maguire was on hand to finish from close range, 1-1 with less than five minutes on the clock.
This sparked Sunderland into life and they began to play with the confidence which had helped blow Scunthorpe away last Sunday. The turnaround was complete on 18 minutes. Josh Maja did well to draw defenders away and then lay the ball off to George Honeyman, the Sunderland captain found the top corner of the net with a sweet strike. The Black Cats were beginning to work their way up the gears.
For the second time in the match, two goals came within minutes of each other. Josh Maja won back possession on the halfway line and played a through ball out wide to Lyndon Gooch who cut the ball back to Max Power. The on-loan Wigan man fired a low effort into the bottom corner from just outside the box. 3-1 to Sunderland after only 20 minutes.
The hosts turned up the pressure towards the end of the first half and the break seemed to come at the right time for Sunderland. An enjoyable first half ended.
HT: Gillingham 1-3 Sunderland AFC
The second half started in the same manner as the first ended; increased Gillingham pressure. The Sunderland backline were being kept very busy but managed to prevent any further damage. McLaughlin was called into action, the Scottish international pushed away a close-range effort. Sunderland were being made to work hard for their win.
With half an hour left, the game was all but put to bed. Gillingham failed to clear their lines and the ball fell kindly to Josh Maja who stroked him his fourth goal in as many games; becoming the first player to do so at the start of a season since 1928.
Jack Baldwin made a superb block on the line to keep the score line at 4-1 and that is how it ended down in Kent. Another rampant win for Sunderland’s fresh new squad. Next up, a trip to AFC Wimbledon on Saturday afternoon.
FT: Gillingham 1-4 Sunderland AFC