Goalkeeper: Jon McLaughlin
The Scotland international was unable to keep a successive clean sheet against Gillingham on Wednesday night, but he hardly put a foot (or glove) wrong otherwise. A desperate save off the line kept Gillingham’s resurgence at bay before Sunderland’s goals killed off their spirited fight-back.
McLaughlin is in line for an international call-up in September and his club form will certainly not have escaped the attentions of Alex McLeish as he contemplates who gets the jersey.
Hopefully today will see him continue his strong form and help us to another victory, and perhaps clean sheet.
Defence: Donald Love, Jack Baldwin, Glenn Loovens & Bryan Oviedo
Adam Matthews didn’t make the side on Wednesday evening after picking up a knock against Scunthorpe at the weekend. Donald Love stepped into the right-back slot on the back of only one training session following his own injury, and with Matthews not expected to be fit enough to return he should keep his place.
On the left hand side, Reece James made his first league start following Bryan Oviedo’s injury last Sunday. Oviedo was initially recuperating on Wearside, but joined up with the squad yesterday for the final training session at West Ham United’s academy. Jack Ross will assess his left back options ahead of today’s game. Whilst James did play very well, it’s likely that Oviedo will come straight back in. He has shown his quality at this level, particularly in attack, which suits Ross' style of play perfectly.
In the centre, Jack Baldwin continues his impressive displays in a Sunderland shirt alongside Glenn Loovens. Ross has explained that his style may result in Sunderland losing the ball on occassion, but he has faith in his centre-halves to deal with the threat. So far the pair have stood up to the test. Hopefully, today will be no different.
Central Midfield: Lee Cattermole & Max Power
The sight of Dylan McGeough for the last twenty minutes on Wednesday night was a welcome one for the 2,200 strong travelling faithful. Indeed, for Ross and his team, the run-out will have served to further assess the Scot’s fitness levels ahead of a long league campaign. It’s likely that McGeough will still be eased in and managed gently, so Sunderland see the best of the midfielder for the rest of the season.
Lee Cattermole has performed well in the last few games and would be a welcome addition to the squad were he to remain beyond the end of August. Whilst there is no obvious move on the cards since Gus Poyet was sacked at Bordeaux, things in football can move quickly. Just ask Callum McManaman or Max Power.
Talking of which, the former Wigan man continues to endear himself to the Sunderland fans since his move to Wearside a few weeks ago. Two goals in successive games have added to his growing reputation, but it is his calmness and range of passing that has most caught the eye.
It is hoped the pair will continue to perform well and we can take a further three points today.
Attacking Midfield: Lynden Gooch, George Honeyman & Chris Maguire
Max Power was not the only Sunderland player to score in successive games. Chris Maguire led the comeback within seconds of Gillingham’s opener, scoring with a header at the back post. His equaliser followed his cheeky back-heel against Scunthorpe and he will, no doubt, be looking to make it three today. Given the reference Sunderland fans received from our Bury counterparts, it seems Maguire has found a home and is enjoying his football once more. Certainly his form suggests so, and long may that continue.
Lynden Gooch has made the right-hand role his own and continues to perform well. A young man with grat potential, the last few years have been a bit hit-and-miss for the American, but under Ross he has excelled. Gooch will be looking to add to his opening goal against Charlton and could relish the opportunity today.
Captain George Honeyman has accepted the armband and the responsibility with enthusiasm and has been the driving force so far this season. Jack Ross will be pleased with the progress of his fledging side, but none will make him more proud than Honeyman.
Striker: Josh Maja
Josh Maja knows he has a challenge on his hands as Charlie Wyke nears full fitness. Jerome Sinclair may not be too far behind. Yet, the 19-year-old remains focussed on his own game - four goals in four games is a great return at any level, but for one who has only just emerged onto the scene it is a tremendous achievement.
His goals to date show a calmness, a confidence and not a small amount of ability. Maja is an intelligent forward and he is learning all the time. Over the four games, he has taken onto the field all he has been taught on the training ground, regarding leading the line as a solitary striker. Such is the improvement that credit has to be given to Ross’ coaching team.
Maja is aware of the confidence the manager has in him and, whatever happens when Wyke returns, this year is one he can make a name for himself. Hopefully that name will be scrawled on the bottom of a new contract very soon.