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Match Preview: Will Sunderland make it three wins on the spin when they face Rochdale tonight?

The pressure has lifted slightly on Jack Ross and Sunderland, but tonight they face a confident Rochdale side who have started the season well. We’ll need to be at our best to take something from this game - will we do it?

Rochdale v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Tim Markland/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Sunderland look to make it two wins on the bounce as they travel to Lancashire to face an unbeaten Rochdale. Saturday’s victory over Portsmouth was a huge moment for the Black Cats as supporters were growing frustrated with their performances; the result has lifted a little pressure on manager Jack Ross, whose position has been questioned from certain sections of the support.

The Lads visit Spotland with the home side in buoyant mood after a positive start to the season which sees them unbeaten in the league and into the second round of the League Cup. A repeat of Sunderland’s last-minute heroics would cap off an excellent seven days for the Lads.

Sunderland v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League One Photo by Iam Burn/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Jack Ross Says...

On the Portsmouth win:

Football changes on a game by game, week by week basis.

We have to have consistency about our emotions - it’s nice to have two wins.

The players enjoy any win but it’s still early.

Psychologically, because we played them so much last season, it’s a boost.

Looking ahead to Rochdale:

Rochdale have started the season well.

Brian [Barry-Murphy] has probably gone under the radar as a young manager who is doing well. They try to play football and it will be a challenge for us, but we go there on the back of a good win ourselves.

Sunderland v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League One Photo by Iam Burn/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Team News

Striker Marc McNulty has been ruled out of the Rochdale game after suffering a hamstring injury against Portsmouth. While Ross stated that it was a “minor” problem, the Scot could be missing for a number of weeks.

McNulty’s absence could open the door for Charlie Wyke to make his first start of the season. The former Bradford City man built on his goal at Accrington Stanley with an excellent cameo against Pompey, disrupting the backline and winning a number of aerial duels in face of Portsmouth’s burly centre halves.

Ross is expected to stick with the same formation that proved successful against Accrington and Portsmouth which could mean an unchanged defence. There could be a recall midfielder George Dobson should Ross to shake it up in the centre of the park.

Sunderland v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

View from the opposition

Rochdale have carried their positive form from the end of the 2018/19 season into the new campaign. Under the guidance of manager Brian Barry-Murphy, Dale won three of their final four games ending in 16th place relieving relegation fears that had been growing under the stewardship of former boss Keith Hill.

They remain unbeaten so far with an opening day victory over Tranmere Rovers and credible draws against Doncaster Rovers and Shrewsbury Town, they also gave Bolton’s under-18s a slapping in the League Cup. Dale will be without veteran striker Aaron Wilbraham, who is struggling with a calf injury, but full back Ryan McLaughlin is set to return after suspension.

Speaking about his side’s goalless draw against Shrewsbury, Barry-Murphy said:

I was delighted with the application of the players and the courage they showed in defending as a team.

I thought there were parts of our game today that weren’t up to the level skill wise that they have been in recent weeks.

But there’s different ways to get a result and our lads found a way today.

Rochdale v Bolton Wanderers - Carabao Cup First Round Photo by Andy Whitehead/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Match stats

Venue: Spotland, Rochdale
Kick-off: 7.45pm
Referee: John Busby
Last season position: 16th (League One)

Last 5 results:

SAFC

(L1) Portsmouth (H) 2-1
(LC) Accrington Stanley (A) 3-1
(L1) Ipswich Town (A) 1-1
(L1) Oxford United (H) 1-1
(FR) Heerenveen (H) 0-1

RAFC

(L1) Shrewsbury Town (A) 0-0
(LC) Bolton Wanderers (H) 5-2
(L1) Doncaster Rovers (H) 1-1
(L1) Tranmere Rovers (A) 3-2
(FR) Hyde United (A) 0-3

Sunderland at Spotland:

06 Apr 2019 (L1) Rochdale 1-2 Sunderland (Wyke, Honeyman)
06 Sep 2016 (LT) Rochdale 1-1 Sunderland (Embleton)

Top goalscorers (all competitions):

3 - Ian Henderson
2 - Callum Camps
1 - Rhys Norrington-Davies
1 - Rekeil Pyke
1 - Oliver Rathbone

Rochdale v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Tim Markland/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Last Time We Met

On a sunny April afternoon, every Sunderland supporter inside Spotland thought this would be it. As George Honeyman swept home a last-minute winner, fans spilled onto the pitch in jubilation as everything began to fall into place for a late promotion push.

Three league wins on the bounce, combined with Barnsley and Luton Town dropping points put Sunderland into the top two and with their fate in their own hands. Naturally, the Lads would win just one of their following seven games and subsequently lose in the play-off final. Still, we’ll always have that afternoon in Rochdale.

Rochdale v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images