Luke O’Nien has reclaimed the top spot in the Roker Report Power Rankings after two excellent performances against Rochdale and Accrington Stanley.
In a monumental week for Sunderland, which saw the team react brilliantly to the Checkatrade Trophy final defeat to record two crucial League One victories, O’Nien’s energy and quality was crucial in both matches.
For the first time in months the Black Cats are favourites to gain promotion to the Championship automatically, having drawn level with second-placed Barnsley with the Wearsiders still holding two games in hand.
O’Nien provided the vital assist for George Honeyman’s glorious winner at Spotland and was among Sunderland’s top performers in their 3-0 drubbing of Accrington.
Breathing down O’Nien’s neck are two players who revitalised their Sunderland careers in rare starts. Charlie Wyke finally looks like the player fans were expecting when the club signed him from Bradford. The 26-year-old was a nuisance against the Stanley defence and scored the equaliser in a man of the match performance against Rochdale.
McGeouch was equally influential to Sunderland’s success, as the unanimous man of the match against Accrington and then again amongst the Mackems’ top performers against Dale. The diminutive midfielder’s showings were all the more impressive considering the Stanley game was his first start since January 12th.
In one of the most gratifying weeks of the season there’s plenty of movement among the Power Rankings, with injuries, returns to fitness and surprising returns to form playing chaos with Jack Ross’ usual pecking order.
1: Luke O’Nien (5) - Champion for a fourth time this season, his energy and underrated passing is vital in games against League One’s lesser sides - his role in Honeyman’s priceless winner will live long in the memory.
2: Charlie Wyke (11) - A remarkable turnaround, Wyke’s Sunderland career was on the brink of being over before it started after his substitution when we were two down in the reverse fixture against Accrington. Instead, he’s carried on grafting and contributed hugely in one of the Black Cats’ most important weeks of the season.
3: Dylan McGeouch (20) - Last time McGeouch started a game he was third in this list and, what do you know - when he plays he impresses. McGeouch was so good that it makes you question why Ross has left him out for so long.
4: Jon McLaughlin (6) - Unfortunate to miss out on the top three after playing a vital role in Sunderland’s win at Spotland. He remains at the forefront of Sunderland’s player of the season discussion.
5: Max Power (7) - Overshadowed by his midfield partner, but Power was another player who produced quality performances in Sunderland’s two fixtures.
6: Aiden McGeady (1) - Drops out the top five after missing out at Rochdale through injury, the 33-year-old did provide a moment of McGeady magic in Accrington with his wonderful opener setting the tone for an excellent away performance.
7: George Honeyman (10) - Alongside Wyke and McGeouch, our captain was another Black Cat who saw his stock rise dramatically. His goal will be one of the defining moments of Sunderland’s season, but that shouldn’t completely overshadow the relentlessness he played with from the moment he was introduced on Saturday.
8: Will Grigg (12) - Moves back into the top ten after another high-quality goal that edged his team closer to promotion, his struggles against Rochdale stopped the Northern Ireland international rising further.
9: Lewis Morgan (4) - Drops out the top five after two uneven performances. Morgan was sensational in limited minutes against Stanley, terrorising tired defenders in the second-half. The mercurial Scot looked a different player against the Dale, failing to make a noticeable impact on the contest.
10: Jack Baldwin (8) - Another Sunderland player who was a mixed bag, Baldwin looked assured and on top of his game at the Wham Stadium, but then played like he was disinterested and bored in an unfocused showing against Rochdale.
11: Tom Flanagan (14) - More consistent than his central defensive partner without ever looking dominant or in control in either match, the ex-Burton Albion man remains just outside the top ten.
12: Denver Hume (13) - One of his toughest weeks as a Sunderland starter. Hume was targeted defensively against Accrington and subbed after an ineffective showing versus Rochdale.
13: Grant Leadbitter (2) - Drops out the top ten mainly due to McGeouch’s excellence. Our midfield linchpin was rested against Accrington and then left out at Rochdale due to Ross keeping faith in the Power-McGeouch combination.
14: Lee Cattermole (3) - Like Leadbitter, Cattermole’s ranking falls due to inactivity - he missed both this week’s games due to injury.
15: Lynden Gooch (9) - Drops further after a mixed performance versus Accrington and a patchy showing against Rochdale that was cut short after Gooch pulled up with a hamstring injury.
16: Kazaiah Sterling (21) - Re-enters the top 20 after two bright cameos. Sterling bagged his first ever senior goal against Accrington and then was entrusted to help the team find a winner late on at Rochdale.
17: Bryan Oviedo (22) - Back in the top 20 after playing his first minutes in a Sunderland shirt since January, the Costa Rica international could yet have a crucial role to play in the Wearsiders’ potential promotion.
18: Reece James (15) - James couldn’t have got injured at a worse possible time. With Oviedo and Hume both fit and available for selection, it could prove tough for the ex-Wigan man to rise back up the rankings given Sunderland’s other left-back’s greater attacking quality.
19: Jimmy Dunne (16) - Another week of being left on the bench for the Burnley loanee who is another player who may not get a final chance to climb the Roker Report totem pole.
20: Adam Matthews (17) - Still not fully fit, Matthews faces a tough battle to reach Sunderland’s 18-man squad let alone the first-team given the improved competition at full-back in recent weeks.
21: Duncan Watmore 22: Chris Maguire 23: Benji Kimpioka 24: Robbin Ruiter 25: Alim Ozturk 26: Bali Mumba 27: Glenn Loovens 28: Jack Bainbridge 29: Donald Love 30: Jake Hackett 31: Lee Connelly 32: Brandon Taylor 33: Jordan Hunter 34: Daniel Neil 35: Max Stryjek