After weeks of waiting for an outfield player to emerge as a viable contender to Jon McLaughlin’s throne at the top of the Power Rankings, three potential champions stepped up at once.
In two much improved, momentum-shifting, winning performances against Gillingham and Bristol Rovers, Aiden McGeady, Luke O’Nien and Grant Leadbitter all played at a level worthy of the number one slot.
McGeady has further established himself as a leader and inspirational figure within Jack Ross’ group. The Republic of Ireland international torched Rovers on Saturday and impressed against Gillingham, scoring as well as making the brave decision to give-up a penalty to allow Will Grigg the chance to open his Sunderland account.
It was another week where Luke O’Nien’s sheer will and boundless energy enabled him to have a direct impact on two vital Black Cats’ fixtures. He won two crucial penalties against the Gills and scored the opener in an impressive performance away at Bristol. Fantastic work from the makeshift right back.
Grant Leadbitter ran O’Nien and McGeady close in a competitive man of the match race at Bristol; he was the conductor of arguably Sunderland’s best, most-assured away performance all season - he was also the architect of the Mackem’s first two goals against Steve Lovell’s side.
1: Aiden McGeady (6) - Back on top for the first time in 2019, McGeady scored game-sealing goals in both games this week. He also looked back to his defence-torturing best - especially against Bristol Rovers.
2: Luke O’Nien (2) - O’Nien has been a fixture in the top five of this chart ever since his first League One match at right-back, and this week perfectly exemplified why. The 24-year-old produces big match winning moments - he earned two penalties at Gillingham and scored the opener in a cagey first-half at the Memorial Stadium.
3: Grant Leadbitter (5) - Any doubts about Leadbitter’s value or ability to improve Sunderland at 33 years of age have been answered emphatically. His set-pieces have been invaluable and he’s added a greater level of control to the Wearsider’s midfield, meaning he’s back up to third.
4: Jon McLaughlin (1) - Unlucky to drop so far, but Sunderland had their best week of 2019 performance wise, both collectively and individually. If we’re being hyper-critical the ex-Burton stopper could have swarmed Tom Eaves with better footwork in the build-up to Gillingham’s first equaliser, but he’s still a fantastic stopper.
5: Will Grigg (14) - Scored his first goal for the club, set up the opener at Bristol, he rises to fifth after his best week at the club.
6: George Honeyman (4) - Drops two spots after being overshadowed by more eye-catching attacking performances across both games; our captain is still yet to hit top form since returning from injury.
7: Lee Cattermole (19) - Ross’ decision to start the 30-year-old alongside Leadbitter was met with much scepticism, but six points later it looks an inspired tactical change. He was excellent against Gillingham and played well at the Memorial Stadium barring one memorable gaffe.
8: Reece James (13) - One of Sunderland’s most criticised players in recent weeks, he bounced back with two good showings. Contributing more often going forward, whilst remaining our most consistent defender, James is a solid fixture in the side.
9: Jimmy Dunne (8) - Once again Dunne is one of the tougher players to rank. He was woeful in Sunderland’s hard-fought win at Gillingham, yet the Burnley loanee recovered from a disappointing display on Tuesday to be a dominant force at the Memorial Stadium.
10: Lewis Morgan (SR) - Played just over 23 minutes this week, but what a 23 minutes they were. Morgan embarrassed the Rovers backline over and over again, if Charlie Wyke had brought his shooting boots to the west country then Morgan could have had several assists to cap his dazzling cameo.
11: Tom Flanagan (18) - Like his partner at the heart of the Mackem defence, Dunne, the-27-year-old didn’t play well at all against Gillingham, but he redeemed himself by helping the team secure an all too rare clean-sheet against Rovers.
12: Lynden Gooch (SR) - Stays put at 12 after contributing to Sunderland’s relentless second-half attack against Gillingham. He missed the Rovers game through injury.
13: Chris Maguire (2) - Sadly, drops out of the top ten after fracturing his fibula early on against Gillingham, the club are hopeful the King can return before the end of the season.
14: Duncan Watmore (7) - With Gooch and Maguire injured, Watmore got the nod to start on Sunderland’s right. The former England Under 21 international failed to take advantage of his opportunity being the most ineffective player in red and white, he drops out of the top ten after a disappointing showing.
15: Jack Baldwin (9) - Ross claimed he was resting Baldwin when he missed our matchday 18 against Gillingham. Interestingly Baldwin wasn’t selected again for the match-up versus the Gas…
16: Max Power (11) - Drops out of the top 15 after two short, fairly forgettable substitute appearances.
17: Charlie Wyke (16) - Yikes, Wyke’s performance against Rovers is the sort that makes you think the target man will never ever settle at the Stadium of Light. The ex-Bradford marksman missed to gilt-edged chances with the timidity of a man who already suspects his days on Wearside are numbered. Hopefully he can turn his form around.
18: Adam Matthews (16) - Fit enough to make the Sunderland bench at Bristol, it is really hard to see Matthews displacing O’Nien such is the quality of the former midfielder’s phenomenal transformation into a top League One full-back.
19: Dylan McGeouch (17) - Finally got some minutes against Gillingham - unfortunately for the Scot they came when the game was already won and just about to finish.
20: Bryan Oviedo (SR) - Still out injured, but considering he’s back in training the Costa Rica international could be available as early as the Plymouth clash on Saturday.
21: Kazaiah Sterling 22: Benji Kimpioka 23: Robbin Ruiter 24: Alim Ozturk 25: Bali Mumba 26: Glenn Loovens 27: Denver Hume 28: Jack Bainbridge 29: Donald Love 30: Jake Hackett 31: Lee Connelly 32: Jack Diamond 33: Brandon Taylor 34: Jordan Hunter 35: Daniel Neil 36: Max Stryjek