Sunderland resume their league campaign today against a side that was pushing hard for promotion last season. As opening games go, Charlton, Luton and Scunthorpe are all difficult opponents that offer Sunderland the chance to get to grips with life in League One.
So far, Jack Ross’ team have approached every game in the right way - humble enough in their current surroundings, but bringing enough quality to justify the club’s ambitions of promotion come May 2019.
With Peterborough and Portsmouth leading the way with three wins from three league games, whoever emerges victorious today will join the other unbeaten sides, Barnsley and Walsall, in the play-off places.
Today will be a tough test. Scunthorpe last lost a league game (play-offs excluded) back on March 17th and have started this season brightly. They have the same points as we do, having won one and drawn one. A cup exit in midweek is further reminiscent of our own form.
Sunderland will have to put the disappointment of Thursday’s cup defeat out of their minds quickly, particularly if we are to resume winning ways today.
The Gaffer says...
I’m disappointed to lose the [cup] game because we are trying to create a mindset where we don’t fall back into an acceptance of losing matches, especially not at this stadium.
But beyond that there were large parts of that game that we should be pleased with. Particularly in the first half, we were the far better team. Overall, there were more good things than bad to take from it.
The supporters have stayed with us, they were great against Charlton, down at Luton, and the reaction at the end was positive.
Players aren’t daft and neither are the supporters, you only get that kind of reaction if, by and large, they have been impressed with what they’ve seen; they see a team with energy and desire to press teams.
The challenge Sunday is to give them something back.
If we can replicate that performance in league games, and in this stadium, then I think we will give teams a hard time.
Jack Ross is likely to revert to the side that has performed so well in the league so far this season.
Glenn Loovens and Bryan Oviedo were both rested for the cup-tie, and Adam Matthews was always likely to recover from the knock picked up at Luton in time for today’s game. Josh Maja and Lynden Gooch were given opportunities from the bench in mid-week in an effort to conserve their energy levels for this afternoon. All five are likely to make the starting XI against Scunthorpe United.
Dylan McGeough is another who may make his competitive debut this afternoon. If not immediately selected for a role in central midfield, the Scottish international is likely to be a welcome sight on the Sunderland bench. After a good pre-season, Sunderland fans will be keen to see McGeough in league action, but Ross and his staff have been cautious given the midfielder’s injury record in recent years. Hopefully, once fit and firing on all cyclinders, the midfield maestro will regularly line up alongside Max Power in a very strong pairing.
If McGeough isn’t risked from the start, Bali Mumba will be competing with Lee Cattermole for the midfield spot. Cattermole had a good game in midweek and will have given Ross food for thought.
By and large, we are expecting a very similar side to take to the field against Scunthorpe as played at Luton last Saturday.
Scunthorpe arrive at the Stadium of Light boasting successive top six finishes and eager to experience the big crowd. Manager Nick Daws is hoping to use the experience of last season’s play-offs to take something from this game.
Daws will be without goalkeeper Matt Gilks, who is a long-term absentee, and exciting midfielder Funso Ojo. Defender Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, who came off with a dead leg during the midweek Carabao Cup clash against Doncaster Rovers, will be assessed before a decision is made on his fitness prior to the game.
Scunthorpe striker - and Newcastle fan - Lee Novak is hoping to line up alongside former Magpie James Perch. The former Charlton man is certainly looking forward to the game this afternoon:
With me being a Newcastle fan, that’s going to be a highlight. It will be a big occasion if I’m picked and selected to play there.
Sunderland are a massive team and they are going to be the big scalp that everyone wants to take.
We have to go there, implement our game and do what we work on all week.
The Treatment Table...
It’s relatively good news from the treatment room in that Tom Flanagan, Jerome Sinclair, Charlie Wyke and Donald Love are all reportedly ahead of schedule. Aiden McGeady is recovering from his injury and Ethan Robson was available to take a spot on the bench against Sheffield Wednesday.
The signs are good and the hope is it won’t be too long before Sunderland are at full strength.
Perhaps the only one still working his way back into contention is Duncan Watmore, but the club are pleased with his progress and will monitoring the forward carefully.
Where Can I Catch The Game?
Sunderland are expecting another bumper crowd this afternoon, and there will be cash turnstiles open for those without tickets. 400 tickets will be available in the East Stand (turnstiles 43-46) priced at £25 each, whilst 300 tickets are available in the North East Corner (turnstiles 33-36), at £20 each.
There are a number of ways to keep up with all of the action from the Stadium of Light today, courtesy of SAFSee audio and video streaming packages. Check out the options on SAFC.com.
We’ll also be providing live commentary via our Twitter page and, after the game, there’ll be a match report and player ratings article on the site - so keep an eye out for that.