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Brute strength & resilience - 3 Bristol Rovers stars to watch out for against Sunderland today

With composure in defence, energy in midfield and a tough tackling midfielder, defeating Bristol Rovers will be far from an easy task for Sunderland, despite their low standing in League One.

Sunderland AFC

Ollie Clarke

League One Games/Goals: 27/4

The Somerset-born midfielder has been at The Memorial Stadium since he was a teenager, and is a graduate of The Pirates youth academy where he broke into the first-team in 2013.

Strong in the tackle and vital to Rovers’ survival prospects, Clarke has discovered a scoring touch this term and has already notched five goals during a campaign in which he finally seems to be shaking off the injury problems that plagued the early part of his career. From the games I’ve seen him in, he’s not too dissimilar to our own Luke O’Nien. Energy, energy and more energy.

As a box-to-box, all-action midfielder, Clarke has already picked up ten bookings this term (that’s the same amount as Lee Cattermole), but equally he has the ability to nip in behind the opposition back four and nab a goal or two - he’s fond of a long ranger too, as showcased in the video clip below.

Gavin Reilly

League One Games/Goals: 20/3

Reilly is no stranger to Jack Ross - the 25-year-old striker was his top-scorer in his Scottish Championship title winning St. Mirren side last season.

He’s not been as prolific for his new club as he was for the Paisley side - he’s only scored three this term - but he recently grabbed the winner in his side 2-1 away win at Southend United and will be desperate to add to his tally this season in front of his former boss.

Powerful and direct, Reilly is equally capable in the air as he is on the floor and, despite his low tally this season, could be a package to cause problems for our under-performing central defenders.

Tom Lockyer

League One Games/Goals: 26/3

The central-defender is approaching his seventh season in the south west despite still only being 24-years-old. Lockyer already had seven caps for his country too, having been first capped by then Wales manager Chris Coleman during 2017.

His years in League Two have stood Lockyer in good stead and, despite being released by Cardiff City as a youngster for being “too small”, one of his main attributes is his strength and ability in the air. He will be more than a match for Will Grigg in that department.

His ability on the ball far surpasses what we have seen from most team’s centre-backs and is very comfortable in possession, whilst having a good range of passing.

He’s pretty handy in the oppositions box too, and has a career best four goals from defence already this season.

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