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Starting XI: Will Parky be tempted to make more changes to Sunderland’s side tonight?

Kyle Lafferty’s two goal performance on Saturday showed that we have good players waiting for their chance to start games. With that in mind, will Parky look to make even more changes when Sunderland take on Bristol Rovers?

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

Goalkeeper: Jon McLaughlin

Whilst the majority of Sunderland fans feel totally deflated after conceding late on against Gillingham on Saturday, the truth of the matter is that had it not been for our goalkeeper it could have been a whole lot worse.

McLaughlin was our third highest rated player by InStat, just behind Kyle Lafferty and Denver Hume, largely due to him making three ‘super saves’ to keep the score down.

Our defending has been poor in the last three games, and I feel for McLaughlin. His performances, particularly the one on Saturday, warranted a clean sheet.

InStat Football

Back Three: Willis, Ozturk, Flanagan

Unsurprisingly, Sunderland’s three defenders were three of the lowest ranked players coming out of Saturday’s display. Just like against Coventry and Fleetwood, they switched off at crucial moments in the game and generally struggled to deal with the threat posed by the opposition players.

It goes without saying that they need to improve, but with nine games left to play I’d argue that they’re showing signs of weakness too often, and that changes should be considered.

We signed Tommy Smith to add quality to that position, yet he doesn’t even make the bench. Yet, this is a 29-year-old player who has spent the majority of his career as the captain of a team largely challenging in the top half of the Championship.

He should be better than what we have.

Both of Gillingham’s goals came from long throws. Aerially, we’ve not been good enough.

Whilst I’d be all for taking Flanagan and Ozturk out of the team tonight, with Lynch and Smith coming in, I just cannot see it happening. Parky is too loyal.

InStat Football

Midfield: O’Nien, Dobson, Power, Hume

Saturday saw two of Sunderland’s midfielders bag assists, which is a small positive to take from an otherwise disappointing performance.

Despite his fantastic pass for Kyle Lafferty’s second goal, I felt George Dobson was poor, and we have to start asking: what is it going to take for Josh Scowen to get a chance ahead of him? This is a 26-year old, proven Championship midfielder. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t able to offer us more when given a stretch of games to prove his worth.

That said, he’s nailed on to play tonight. Scowen won’t get a shot until Dobson gets himself booked and subsequently banned, something that has been hanging over him for weeks

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

Front Three: Maguire, Lafferty, Gooch

Lynden Gooch was poor again on Saturday, but it feels only an injury to the American forward will prevent Phil Parkinson from picking him, despite the obvious flaws in his game.

Antoine Semenyo changed the game when he came on, causing Gillingham’s back line all kinds of problems with his pace and aggressive running, and you have to wonder whether Parky might be tempted to throw him in, particularly away from home against a side we carved to pieces a matter of weeks ago at the Stadium of Light.

If Kyle Lafferty doesn’t start tonight there will be a riot. Two goals on is first start showed exactly what we’ve been missing up top for almost as long as I can remember - Charlie Wyke should take up his rightful place on the bench, where he belongs.

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

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