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Sunderland’s Tom Flanagan produces woeful display in Gillingham victory

Tom Flanagan produced a woeful display in the Black Cats backline as Sunderland beat Gillingham 2-0 on Saturday.

Boss Phil Parkinson opted to retain Flanagan as his left-sided centre-half at Priestfield Stadium with Luke O’Nien moving to the right-flank upon his return from suspension.

But Flanagan failed to impress and saw his blushes saved by Lee Burge, when the Sunderland shot-stopper did well to deny Jordan Graham’s weak spot-kick, after referee Sam Purkiss pointed to the spot for a foul on Ryan Jackson.

It was the only major blot on Flanagan’s record, but the collision with Jackson overshadowed an underwhelming afternoon from the 28-year-old who has now opened six of Sunderland’s League One fixtures for the campaign.

Does Parkinson need to drop Flanagan?

Yes, he was very poor

Yes, he was very poor

No, he has to play

No, he has to play

Flanagan could have counted himself lucky to retain his place in the Sunderland starting line-up after producing a far from fanciful performance in Tuesday night’s draw with Rochdale, where he won just two tackles, per SofaScore.

He continually sought to clear his lines rather than seek options that would have allowed the Black Cats to retain possession with six clearances, too, while playing 13 attempted long balls helped the 28-year-old to lose possession 17 times.

Parkinson saw Flanagan retain possession marginally better at Gillingham this weekend, with the defender only turning the ball over on 14 occasions, per SofaScore.

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Sunderland's manager Jack Ross gestures during the Portsmouth match, August 2018

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Yet while Flanagan lost possession marginally less at Gillingham than he did at Rochdale, the defender failed to complete 30% of his 46 attempted passes at Priestfield Stadium, misplaced six of ten long balls, lost each of his three ground duels and committed two fouls.

He additionally won fewer challenges with no successful tackles registered, while blocking one shot, making one interception, two clearances and being dribbled past once.

Flanagan saw his only shot of the match blocked, too, but did record two key balls as Sunderland secured all three points to move back within the League One Play-Off places.

Parkinson now faces a selection dilemma ahead of facing Ipswich Town on Tuesday night, with the Black Cats boss surely thinking that changes must be afoot in defence even though he thinks highly of Flanagan.

Speaking during the summer amid doubt of Flanagan’s Sunderland future, Parkinson said via the Chronicle: “Flanno is a good lad, he’s been reasonable, and we need to get that deal progressed sooner rather than later.”

AND in other news, Phil Parkinson risks a naïve call on a Sunderland man Jack Ross claimed had “not achieved anything”.

Article title: Sunderland’s Tom Flanagan produces woeful display in Gillingham victory

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