Phil Parkinson reveals what he told Sunderland players at half-time in 2-0 win over Gillingham

Phil Parkinson says Sunderland's hard-fought win over Gillingham underlined the progress he believes his side has made.
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The Black Cats twice failed to win away from home on this ground last season, struggling to get the better of the home side’s physical style.

This contest was no different, but the Black Cats came through a difficult start to seal three crucial points and a clean sheet.

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They were of course aided by a missed penalty and a red card early in the second half for Alex MacDonald, but they did create opportunities throughout the contest.

Lynden Gooch settles the contest in stoppage timeLynden Gooch settles the contest in stoppage time
Lynden Gooch settles the contest in stoppage time

Parkinson said he was pleased that Lee Burge, who saved that spotkick from Jordan Graham, would be in the headlines.

It was a return to form for the Black Cats defence, who kept their sixth clean sheet of the season after shipping five goals in their last two games.

Parkinson also praised his side for coming through a bruising contest and showing better composure on the ball than they had done a year ago.

“It was a great win for us,” he said.

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“It's a difficult place to come, conditions were really tough.

“When you come here with the gale-force winds and driving rain, it suits that style of play.

“I thought that lads coped with it really well.

“I thought today, if you look at when we came here last year, we came here a couple of times and competed, battled, but didn't play.

“Today I thought we got the balance right. We competed with their direct style and the ball coming into the box well, but we also played with real composure as well.

“We had several chances to go ahead in the first half.

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“Obviously the penalty miss and sending off were big moments, but it's not always easy against ten and I thought we showed good patience.

“We eventually got our rewards with the penalty and Lynden's goal.

“Today was a big progression for us, in understanding what we needed to do and implementing it,” he added.

“I thought we played with a real calmness in our football.”

Parkinson said Gillingham could have no complaints with the red card, which was shown when MacDonald raced towards a loose ball and left Luke O’Nien needing treatment with a reckless challenge.

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It had been a bad-tempered contest throughout, particularly in the dug-out.

Steve Evans was eventually showed a yellow card after Chris Maguire’s winning penalty, and Parkinson said the calm his players were able to show was crucial in securing the three points on the day.

"The key thing here is to be competitive but cool, to keep your heads,” he said.

“There was a bad tackle on Denver in the first half and I said to the lads at half time, we've got to be competitive but stay in control.

“I was really pleased with that.

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“Gillingham played well at Ipswich in the week and deserved something from the game, so we knew it would be difficult.

“That's now 11 points from five games on our travels, another clean sheet, and we can't wait for Ipswich on Tuesday night.”