A BLACK cloud cast a shadow over Sunderland's terrific performance in the rout of Gillingham with the news that Kevin Kyle could be out of action for up to three months.

While Mick McCarthy did not cover the topic in his post-match briefing it is understood the striker - suffering from a long-standing hip problem - is facing a make or break week.

Kyle is set to have an injection in the next few days which, if unsuccessful, will mean he will have to undergo an operation. With a lengthy period of recuperation following, the Black Cats could have to do without his services until at least the New Year.

Hat-trick hero Marcus Stewart said that would be a blow during such a pivotal period of the season but the players who were available just had to get on with the job.

"It's disappointing for him but he has been struggling with injury all season really," he said. "He has not been right in himself so maybe it is a good thing for him to get himself sorted out and hopefully we can do the business before he comes back in January.

"It's no doubt disappointing for him but I had my fair share of operations when I was younger, it's just how you get through it and I am sure he will get through it fine and come back firing on all cylinders like he was doing."

Stewart was certainly firing on all cylinders and then some on Saturday, grabbing a treble on a day in which he could have come away with half a dozen if it had not been for the heroics of Gills' keeper Steve Banks.

"It's nice to get a hat-trick. It's the first one I have scored for a bit," he said. "But the result was more important."

Taken off in the defeat at Reading, Stewart bounced back in style in Kent.

He added: "I am very happy. I have started seven league games and have got six goals; overall eight games, six goals. I am pleased with that but the main thing is getting the lads and the team back firing again and that's what we did.

"We played very well as a team, all over the park.

"We had some great early crosses and that's what strikers thrive on. If they can do that and we can keep putting the ball in the net like we did today then we can be up there."

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