Sunderland travel to Scunthorpe today as they look to find a way to break into the league’s automatic promotion places - an opportunity they missed out on last weekend when drawing at home to second-placed Luton.
Standing in Sunderland’s way today are Stuart McCall’s resurgent side who’ve managed four wins from their last four games, making them one of the league’s in form sides.
Sunderland will have to be at their best to overcome the Iron today, and three points will be vital should Ross’ men want to maintain pressure on those just above them in the league.
The Gaffer says...
They had a change of manager not long after that game actually, and I know Stuart, especially recently, has had a real positive impact and their recent form is very good.
Every single away game, I know I repeat myself with it, but the fact that we’ll take a sell-out crowd as per every other away game this season, it seems to be that on those occasions the home club ask for their fans to turn out in numbers, which they usually do.
It then creates this cup-tie atmosphere. Again, we’ve got used to it, it just means it’s challenging. So, Saturday is a really difficult game for us.
Each and every time we go away from home it’s tough for all of those reasons I’ve mentioned, and Saturday will be no different. It’s where we are as a club.
We understand that it was a Premiership club two seasons ago, so it creates a bit of extra interest, I think. But also, part of that is that we’re still one of the better teams in this league and we’ve showed that to date in terms of results and where we are in the league.
Naturally, when one of the teams near the top comes to an away ground against a team that’s maybe mid-table, it creates a bit more interest and excitement as well.
We’ve had to handle that this season and I do think that people who’ve watched us week in and week out would say that we have got better at dealing with the challenges away from home.
Sunderland are still without several first-team players - most notably George Honeyman - but will welcome Josh Maja back into the side hoping he will be capable of making the difference this week.
Lee Cattermole returns from suspension, but Duncan Watmore will probably miss out with a slight knock taken during the game against Newcastle’s U23s. Bryan Oviedo is still doubtful, while Donald Love has seemingly vanished from the face of the earth. Jack Ross said:
Squad wise, not that dissimilar to last weekend.
Lee obviously returns from suspension, Duncan still hasn’t trained as of yet, but hopefully he’ll be back with the main group tomorrow, obviously it was a fairly minor injury anyway.
George remains out for Saturday’s match, which is obviously a blow for us and Josh returns from illness as well.
So, those that were big players, if you like, that were missing last weekend with the exception of George, will be back available for this weekend.
The view from the Home dressing room...
My lasting memory of Stuart McCall is that infamous scene of him absolutely mortal falling off the roof of a car after Motherwell qualified for the Champions League (video embedded below).
But, McCall is a savvy manager in the lower leagues, and his arrival at Scunthorpe has seen a rejuvenation of the Iron’s fortunes.
In Josh Morris and Lee Novak, Scunny have some real quality in their side, and after bringing in a handful of new players already this window to compliment his side’s injury-free squad, McCall is determined to carry on with winning ways:
There is no way that anybody, me, the staff, the players that will be thinking we are safe sitting in mid-table now. It only takes a couple of bad results and you are right back in there.
With each game that goes by, the momentum, the belief and the confidence naturally grows.
We will push on, work hard in training and continue to work hard in games to hopefully keep moving up the table.
Where Can I Catch The Game?
It’s a SELL OUT! 2,235 tickets have been sold as Sunderland have once-more sold out an away fixture.
For those unable to attend, audio commentary will be provided by Nick Barnes from around 2pm on both BBC Newcastle and the club website.
The game is also available via the Match Pass stream for international supporters. Full details can be found 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.