A 560-mile round trip for Sunderland’s hardcore support this weekend no doubt swelled with a few south-eastern exiles as Brentford pose the next challenge to Simon Grayson’s men.
With many calling for a radical refresh of the Black Cats line-up which has won just once this season, it remains that fitness and form issues continue to limit the impact that deadline day signings Jonny Williams, Callum McManaman and Marc Wilson are able to play at present.
With that in mind and heading to play a Brentford side who have averaged 60% possession at home, Grayson is likely to continue his cautious approach with Ndong and Cattermole selected to play in front of the back four, despite a growing consensus that the pair are hampering the side this season.
With defensive issues continuing to cost Sunderland every game, the Black Cats will simply have to outscore the Bees to get three points and that means throwing Lewis Grabban back in after his 45 minutes last week against QPR.
Grayson is likely to line-up his attacking options with a front three of sorts, Watmore and McGeady offering the impetus in support of the Bournemouth man on loan who hasn’t started a game since mid-September.
Duncan Watmore was utilised centrally against QPR last weekend but rotated around somewhat with James Vaughan. Grayson continues to keep faith with George Honeyman, who is likely to keep Callum McManaman out of the starting eleen for at least another week.
At the back, Lamine Kone is available for selection again after missing last weekend through illness. Billy Jones deputised in a reasonable fashion at centre-back a week ago, but his impromptu appearance in the middle was only a temporary one.
A big call in goal perhaps but Grayson’s public utterances about Jason Steele have continued this week. The boss is convincing no one but himself now that the summer signing is anything but a liability but Robbin Ruiter is likely to be overlooked once more.
Something like this for Brentford, then?
Truth be told, if results with this core starting eleven don’t improve this weekend, the pressure on Simon Grayson will start to mount and some bold calls may be required to keep his job.
The Black Cats boss continues to insist he can see results about to improve though and remains insistent that his side are on the brink of turning defeats and draws into wins. The proof - as ever - will be in the Saturday tea-time pudding.