GK: Jon McLaughlin
McLaughlin’s run of clean sheets came to a halt but still he managed to have a good game in the defeat at Fratton Park, with some of his saves keeping the score respectable.
As it stands, Lee Burge doesn’t seem to have any chance of ousting McLaughlin as he continues to show he is our number one goalkeeper following months of uncertainty and iffy form. Hopefully he can grab his fifth clean sheet in six games and help us on our way to a huge six points this afternoon.
CB: Willis CB: Ozturk CB: Flanagan
Sunderland’s defence came in for a lot of deserved criticism during last week’s defeat to Portsmouth, and I’ll think we’ll see more than the one enforced change in this afternoon’s game.
Joel Lynch, who was knocked unconscious last weekend, is forced out due to protocol on head injuries, meaning the likes of Alim Ozturk and Tom Flanagan will be knocking on Phil Parkinson’s door in hope of a recall.
However, I’m predicting that both players will return to the starting line-up.
Bailey Wright had a poor game last week, and Parkinson may just feel like reverting to a back three that he trusted in only three weeks ago may be the best option going into a huge six-pointer. Perhaps Ozturk will come into the middle of the three, with Flanagan returning on the left-hand side, and Jordan Willis on the opposite flank.
RM: O’Nien CM: Scowen CM: Power LM: Hume
Many fans were surprised to see George Dobson start last weekend’s game ahead of Josh Scowen and, unfortunately for Dobson, his performance that week did nothing to vindicate Parkinson’s decision.
Max Power had another quiet game and will be hoping to get back to the more consistent performance’s he’s put in since the Christmas period.
On the flanks both Luke O’Nien and Denver Hume should start, but finally have some competition in the shape of former Rangers wing-back Declan John, who will be waiting in the wings should they put in a performance similar to last weekend.
RAM: Gooch LAM: Maguire
When Lynden Gooch and Chris Maguire are on form, so are Sunderland. However, when both are not firing on all cylinders we don’t seem to be the same side - and that has to be a worry going into a crucial period in the campaign.
Phil Parkinson has spoken highly of Maguire’s work behind the scenes and, to be fair to him, everyone has an off day, so he can be forgiven for last week’s dip in form. Gooch, on the other hand, has been off colour since our dour 0-0 home draw to Doncaster Rovers and will be hoping to show the kind of form that made him so crucial to our new year form. With Antoine Semenyo ready to take their places, neither can afford to have another quiet match.
CF: Kyle Lafferty
It’s felt like we’ve been waiting an age to see the Northern Irishman start for Sunderland and, due to Charlie Wyke’s injury, this weekend could just be the time.
In his short cameos from the bench he’s looked a handful, and you can’t deny his pedigree and previous far exceeds what many League One club’s have available in reserve.
Hopefully he can show Wearside exactly why he was brought to the club last month with a match-winning performance today.