SUNDERLAND’S sorry season plumbed new depths last night as they were knocked out of the FA Cup at the first-round stage for the first time in almost a century.

A 1-0 defeat to Oldham Athletic in the 1923-24 campaign was the last time the Wearsiders had exited the FA Cup in round one, but their interest in this season’s competition came shuddering to a halt as Brandon Hanlan fired in an extra-time winner to condemn Phil Parkinson’s side to defeat at Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium.

Sunderland failed to threaten Jack Bonham in the Gills goal despite playing for 120 minutes, and while their opponents were no more threatening for much of the game, Hanlan’s angled finish settled things shortly before the interval in extra-time.

The defeat means Phil Parkinson has failed to win seven of his first nine games as Sunderland boss, and while the cup competitions are not the priority this season, the pressure in mounting on the new boss ahead of this week’s back-to-back League One home games against Coventry City and Burton Albion.

Parkinson hopes to have a number of his injured players available for this weekend’s game against the Sky Blues, as well as Jon McLaughlin, Conor McLaughlin and Tom Flanagan, who have missed the last two matches because of international commitments, and admits there is a need to draw a line under what has proved a difficult spell.

“It’s up to me to pick the lads up now and make sure I can get the right performance out of us at the weekend,” said the Sunderland boss. “Obviously, the lads are disappointed because we put a lot of effort in tonight and we’ve got nothing for those efforts.

“We’ve got to look at why, but we’ve also got to take the positives of the good things that we did do, and the performances of the youngsters, particularly Brandon (Taylor), who performed so well.

“We were severely depleted tonight, we were missing ten players, that’s the facts. But when we get back to the training ground on Thursday morning, the international players will be back, (Joel) Lynch, (Jordan) Willis and (George) Dobson will be back training, and Marc McNulty has a chance for the weekend too.

“All of a sudden, the squad looks better as we head into what is undoubtedly going to be an important period for us.”

Parkinson was satisfied with his players’ levels of effort and commitment against a physical Gillingham side, but accepted their lack of cutting edge in front of goal was a concern.

Will Grigg was utterly ineffective yet again as he attempted to lead the line, and neither Duncan Watmore nor Chris Maguire was able to fashion a goalscoring opportunity in the final third.

Sunderland have failed to score in their last two outings, and have only scored more than one goal in a game once under Jack Ross’ successor.

“In the first half in particular, we got in some great positions to produce a cross to enable us to get a chance,” said Parkinson. “But one went in the keeper’s arms and another, we just delayed it for a second and it ended up going out for a corner.

“Ultimately, those moments decide football games. They’re the key players in the final third that, in a 100 miles an hour type of game, have to show that moment of calmness to produce something. But it didn’t come from us tonight.”

The one positive to emerge from the night was the accomplished performance of Taylor, with the 20-year-old centre-half acquitting himself well on only his third senior appearance.

“He played in the game against Grimsby before I came in, which obviously I watched, but I thought he was excellent tonight,” said Parkinson. “That was a tough game, a completely different game to what he’s played in the Under-23s, with the ball flying in the box and coming forward quickly.

“I thought he showed good calmness and did really well, and I’m pleased for him. I’m pleased for the academy as well that a young player has come in and stepped up to the plate. It’s a good sign for us.”