Goalkeeper: Jon McLaughlin
Jon McLaughlin will have been delighted with Friday’s clean sheet against Play-Off hopefuls Doncaster Rovers, especially after conceding five in the previous game against Coventry City. When called upon the Scotland international did all that was required of him and Sunderland’s back-line looked in control throughout the game.
McLaughlin knows another clean sheet will offer Sunderland the best possible chance of three points today. With Barnsley and Portsmouth showing no signs of letting up in the race for automatic promotion, today’s game at London Road is another must-win.
Another good team performance, built on a sound defence marshalled by the excellent keeper, will surely keep the pressure on those teams around us.
Defence: O’Nien, Ozturk, Dunne, Oviedo
Jack Ross sprang something of a surprise against Doncaster by removing both his centre-halves and creating a new partnership between Jimmy Dunne and Alim Öztürk.
Jimmy Dunne was outstanding, showing the form that he displayed when he first broke into the side following his loan move from Burnley. The youngster coped very well with the Doncaster forward threat, made intelligent decisions when both in and out of possession, and was a huge influence on the returning Alim Öztürk.
Having not started a league game since September, Öztürk deployed a no-frills approach to his game. Perhaps fortunate not to concede a penalty in each half, the former Turkey U21s international trooped off the field having helped to secure a clean sheet against a top six side. Jack Ross perhaps has a big call to make today. Can Öztürk manage two games in 48 hours? Equally, can he now be dropped to make way for a defender who showed plenty of mistakes against Coventry City in the previous game?
Luke O’Nien and Bryan Oviedo seemed far more comfortable against Doncaster, balancing attacking runs with sound defending. Today’s game will be another test of their defensive discipline, but three points are the order of the day and they will certainly be ready to contribute.
Defensive Midfield: Lee Cattemole & Grant Leadbitter
Lee Cattermole’s return on Friday evening was everything Sunderland fans hoped for. The former captain was everywhere, barking orders, winning the ball, driving the team forward. Even a yellow card did not diminish his enthusiasm and his was one of the performances of the night.
Alongside him was Max Power, leaving Grant Leadbitter on the bench. A late swap following an injury to Power means Jack Ross could be forced into the change again from the start this afternoon. Leadbitter’s passing range and ability to deliver a dead ball will undoubtedly be useful against a decent Peterborough team.
Attacking Midfield: Morgan, Honeyman, McGeady
Aiden McGeady’s surprise inclusion on the team sheet on Friday evening was a welcome boost for all Sunderland fans.
His influence has been missing in recent games and that clearly prompted Jack Ross to throw him on the rescue the game against Coventry. Unfortunately that didn’t work but, despite not training all week, Ross felt the risk was worth it to start the Irishman against Doncaster. It was McGeady’s cross for Charlie Wyke to head down into the path of Lewis Morgan that resulted in Sunderland’s opening goal. Ross will hope McGeady can recover sufficiently inside 48-hours to retain his place today.
Lewis Morgan’s overall play on Friday was excellent. Driving the team on and carrying the ball with skill and purpose, his goal set the Wearsiders on their way after only seven minutes. That statement of intent will be needed again today as Sunderland search for back-to-back wins.
Skipper George Honeyman played his usual high tempo game closing down the Doncaster defenders and winning the ball back in midfield. With Chris Maguire available, Honeyman will need to remain on top of his game today.
Striker: Charlie Wyke
Charlie Wyke was simply excellent again on Friday.
Leading the line with intelligence and purpose, the striker claimed the assist for Morgan’s opener before adding a second himself before half-time.
His third goal in four games means he is now Sunderland’s in-form striker. Such a turnaround from a few weeks ago when he couldn’t get a game off from the start.
Coming off for Will Grigg with just a quarter of an hour to go will hopefully have kept him fresh and ready for the challenge today. With Grigg carrying an injury, Jack Ross will want to use the former Wigan man wisely and so a lot will fall to Wyke again this afternoon.
The big striker is clearly realishing his role in the team of late and will be looking forward to adding to his goal tally at London Road.