Is Lee Cattermole coming into form just in time for the play-offs?
Sunderland’s former captain’s performances were a major bright spot in an otherwise tough week that confirmed the Black Cats can only gain promotion via the play-offs.
Cattermole was outstanding for an hour against Fleetwood Town as the Wearsiders looked to be coasting to three points at the Highbury Stadium. Even after the Black Cats’ late collapse against Joey Barton’s men, the 31-year-old was still an easy pick for man of the match and was Sunderland’s best player by a distance.
The midfield enforcer was also effective in Sunderland’s impressive performance against Portsmouth where he excelled in breaking up attacks and building play. His skillset could be vital if Sunderland are going to exorcise their Wembley demons.
Lewis Morgan’s on-going form remains a positive to take from a bleak week on Wearside. But for the brilliance of Craig MacGillivray the Celtic loanee’s overhead kick would have been a late contender for Sunderland’s goal of the season - he retains his top three ranking.
Luke O’Nien’s impressive return to form after his defensive disasters versus Burton Albion and Coventry City continued, earning a top three rating. The 24-year-old’s fingerprints were all over Sunderland’s impressive first-half against Fleetwood and the Pompey game represented one of his best defensive showings against a top-half League One team.
1: Lee Cattermole (8) - Surprisingly, despite Cattermole being a major asset when fit this season, this week is the ex-Sunderland captain’s first time at number one.
2: Lewis Morgan (2) - One of the first names on the team sheet currently, Morgan drops one spot after another impressive week. His creative imagination and ability to carry the ball could be crucial in the play-offs.
3: Luke O’Nien (7) - Ends his two-week stint outside of the top three by continuing to mature as a defender and as an attacking weapon at right-back. O’Nien has returned to form just in time to see off the challenge of a fit-again Adam Matthews for Sunderland’s starting spot at right-back.
4: Jon McLaughlin (5) - Another week where McLaughlin didn’t make many saves and yet wasn’t at fault for the goals Jack Ross’ men conceded. He climbs one spot in a tough week for Sunderland’s outfield players.
5: Max Power (2) - Drops four places after an inconsistent week. Somehow, Power looked like one of the team’s best and worst players at times in both fixtures.
6: Alim Ozturk (10) - We actually live in a world where Alim Ozturk might be Sunderland AFC’s most reliable centre-half. How on earth did we get here?!
7: Aiden McGeady (3) - Wasn’t at his best on Saturday against Portsmouth and drops due to inactivity after missing the Fleetwood game with a fractured foot.
8: Chris Maguire (13) - Continues his rise back up the rankings since returning from injury. Maguire already looks like Sunderland’s best option to create a chance or score a goal coming off the bench. The 30-year-old impressed in his first start in months on Tuesday, too.
9: Charlie Wyke (4) - Falls further down the rankings as his inspirational form over the past month has slowed. He missed out on Tuesday due to a dead leg and struggled with Christian Burgess’ physical defending in the Portsmouth game.
10: Bryan Oviedo (6) - If Cattermole is peaking at the right time, then Oviedo’s form has gone in the opposite direction. The Costa Rica international was targeted by Fleetwood as they stole all three points from Sunderland. The left-back was also wasteful in possession and generally off the pace in the Portsmouth six-pointer.
11: Jimmy Dunne (9) - Dropped after a shaky display against Peterborough United, the Burnley loanee may return after Tom Flanagan replicated his nervousness in a desperately poor showing at Highbury.
12: Tom Flanagan (26) - His goal against Portsmouth and all-round commanding showing would have returned the ex-Burton defender to the top ten, but then Tuesday happened. Flanagan simply wasn’t good enough in that game, not only at fault for Fleetwood’s equaliser, but just appalling in possession throughout.
13: George Honeyman (11) - Really hasn’t looked the same player since his suspension at Wycombe, the skipper never caught up to the pace of the game as a late substitute at Fleetwood and was below par against Portsmouth as well.
14: Will Grigg (12) - Grigg just can’t buy any luck at the moment, the Northern Ireland international was the width of the post away from being a two-time goal-scorer and match winner, instead the 27-year-old remains a big-money signing in desperate need of a goal and statement performance.
15: Grant Leadbitter (14) - Ross continues to prefer the Cattermole and Power pairing in midfield, but after a winless run of three games Leadbitter may get a chance as a starter before Sunderland’s promotion hopes are decided.
16: Dylan McGeouch (15) - Continues to fall down the ranks due to missing games through injury.
17: Denver Hume (16) - Didn’t make the 18-man squad against Portsmouth and was an unused substitute versus Fleetwood; however, Oviedo’s dip in form might benefit our promising full-back in the near future.
18: Lynden Gooch (17) - Still struggling to recapture his magical form from the start of the season, Gooch was given his first start since his hamstring injury against Fleetwood, but couldn’t show the improved decision-making in the final third lads fans have been calling out for.
19: Kazaiah Sterling (18) - Wyke’s dead leg and Grigg’s uneven form, meant Sterling got an extended run-out at Fleetwood; unfortunately, the youngster didn’t provide that killer second goal.
20: Adam Matthews (21) - Played for what felt like the first time in an eternity when he replaced O’Nien in stoppage time against Portsmouth.
21: Benji Kimpioka 22: Reece James 23: Duncan Watmore 24: Robbin Ruiter 25: Bali Mumba 26: Jack Baldwin 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