Sunderland AFC 1-0 Gillingham
Nathan Broadhead’s dramatic last-minute winner ensured Sunderland claimed a deserved victory over Gillingham on Saturday at the Stadium of Light.
The visitors were penned into their defensive third for most of the opening 45 minutes, with Luke O’Nien heading the Lads’ best opportunity against the crossbar.
Making his first senior appearance since early February, Danny Batth also found the woodwork following the restart, as Alex Neil’s side continued to push forward in search of an opening goal.
Elliot Embleton, Lynden Gooch and Broadhead joined Patrick Roberts, Jack Clarke and Ross Stewart in attack with 20 minutes remaining, with Corry Evans firing just off target soon after.
Broadhead had the final say, though, connecting with Embleton’s pinpoint delivery and sending a cushioned header into the corner with seconds remaining.
Alex Pritchard returned to the starting XI and Batth also returned at the Stadium of Light, as on-loan Everton striker Broadhead was named on the bench.
Sunderland started on the front, as Neil Harris’ side opted to put players behind the ball and put the early onus on the Black Cats.
Boasting 85 per cent of the possession in the opening 15 minutes, Roberts and Clarke both saw half-chances come and go and Stewart also headed wide.
The visitors stepped out in the period that followed, but they were unable to test Anthony Patterson as efforts from Olly Lee and Josh Chambers were charged down.
O’Nien headed against the crossbar after connecting with a sumptuous left-wing delivery from Clarke, with Roberts forcing Aaron Chapman into action for a second time before the interval.
The Lads continued to turn the screw following the restart, as Pritchard’s thunderous drive whistled wide and Batth bundled a corner against the post.
Neil opted for all-out attack with 20 minutes remaining, as Embleton, Gooch and Broadhead entered the fray in an attempt to finally breach an ever-weary Gills backline.
Stewart almost found the on-loan Everton striker with 75 minutes played, but last-ditch defending prevented the 23-year-old from registering a clean strike on target.
Corry Evans was unable to pick out the top corner following a blistering counter attack soon after, as time ticked away at the Stadium of Light and the game entered its final throws.
But with just seconds remaining, Broadhead claimed the points.
The striker lost his man and connected with Embleton’s pinpoint delivery from eight yards, ensuring the points deservedly remained on Wearside and the Black Cats extended their unbeaten run to seven games.
Sunderland AFC: Patterson, Winchester (Gooch 68), Wright, Batth, Cirkin, Evans, O'Nien (Embleton 68), Roberts, Pritchard (Broadhead 68), Clarke, Stewart.
Subs not used: Hoffmann, Matete, Neil, Xhemajli.
Gillingham: Chapman, Jackson, Ehmer, Masterson, Tucker, Tutonda, Lee, Chambers (Reeves 73), Thompson, Oliver, Kelman.
Subs not used: Dahlberg, Maghoma, Akehurst, Dickson-Peters.