Goalkeeper: Jon McLaughlin
The Scotland international may have had an inconsistent start to the season, but we still expect him to hang onto the number one jersey for the time being.
He’s one of the players that has been away over the last week as he warmed the bench during Scotland’s back to back European Championship qualifier defeats at Hampden Park. The two crushing losses to Russia and Belgium means he won’t have had the best of times away with the national squad and will hopefully be clamouring to return to his club side and put in a good performance today at the Wham Stadium.
DR: O’Nien DC: Willis DC: Ozturk DL: Hume
Despite the fact we conceded three goals down at Peterborough in our last outing I would expect that Sunderland will keep the majority of the defence together that played in that game - with only Denver Hume coming into the side, in place of Conor McLaughlin.
There have been calls from some supporters for Luke O’Nien to get his chance in midfield but I don’t feel like that’s likely today. Jack Ross is a big fan of the former Wycombe man at right back, and his energy and work-rate will be key when up against Accrington’s tricky wingers.
Jordan Willis and Alim Ozturk have been fairly resolute together this season but won’t be happy with the fact we conceded three in our last game, or the fact that we’ve still not kept a clean sheet this season. There’s expectation on both men, along with Jon McLaughlin, to deliver that first shut-out and give Sunderland something to build from.
CM: Dobson CM: Power
Sunderland’s lack of mobility and energy in midfield at London Road was perhaps the chief concern coming out of the performance, and Jack Ross will be keen to address that by tightening us up in the middle of the park.
George Dobson has frustratingly had his opportunities cut short this season yet when he has played he’s done well, and certainly hasn’t warranted losing his spot in the side on the back of each display. His goal at Burnley was excellent and many people expected he’d keep his place, but he was made to watch from the bench as Grant Leadbitter was reinstated back to the starting eleven.
That said, this seems like the perfect game to give the former Walsall man his chance, and I’d expect him to be paired with Max Power, another player who is busy and would probably benefit from playing alongside another man in midfield who has the legs to get around the park and win the physical battle in the centre of the pitch.
RW: Gooch CAM: Maguire LW: McGeady
Aiden McGeady wasn’t at his best last time out but that won’t matter much, as when he’s fit he tends to start regardless. McGeady may benefit from having Denver Hume in support up the left wing, giving him more freedom to cut inside when the opposition inevitably double up.
On the opposite side of the park is likely to be Lynden Gooch, another who is a favourite of Jack Ross but hasn’t stood out in recent games and would benefit from a good performance. The American wide-man has already got himself amongst the goals this season and he’ll be keen to add to that tally with another this afternoon.
Returning back to the fold in support of our striker is likely to be Chris Maguire, who picked up a knock after his hattrick against Wimbledon and frustratingly missed out at Peterborough. He should be the first name on the teamsheet after his goalscoring exploits so far this season, and it’ll be good to see how he does alongside Marc McNulty once more.
ST: Marc McNulty
With Charlie Wyke suspended, Jack Ross has a straight choice between two men to lead the line. Whilst the temptation is always there to play Will Grigg, he simply hasn’t done enough when given chances this season and McNulty seems to have built up a decent relationship whenever he’s been played in a three-pronged attack with McGeady and Maguire.
The Scotland international is an exceptionally hard-worker and playing with a high press against an Accrington team who aren’t famed for being comfortable on the ball could be the key to success. I fancy McNulty to bag a goal this afternoon and stake a firm claim for a regular starting place in the side, taking full advantage of Charlie Wyke’s absence.