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Match Preview: Bristol Rovers v Sunderland

Sunderland are facing the side in the worst form in the division, who have just lost to Southend and can’t score for toffee. Failing to win this evening at Bristol Rovers will further dent our automatic promotion hopes - can we get the job done?

Bristol Rovers v Cheltenham Town - Carabao Cup First Round Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Sunderland take on an out-of-sorts Bristol Rovers side tonight hoping to get their own season back on track after going three games without tasting victory in League One.

The Gas suffered the ignominy of losing resounding on Saturday to whipping boys Southend United, something that will have no doubt had an immensely negative effect on their already terrible morale - Ben Garner’s side have won only once in their last eighteen games, an awful run of form which has seen them go from play-off contenders to a team facing a lower-mid table finish come seasons end.

Sunderland simply have to win tonight. We are not facing a good side - we’re facing a team who just lost to the worst side in the division. Failing to take anything less than three points tonight would be a huge blow to our promotion hopes, with all the pressure is on us.

Strap yourselves in...

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

Team News

Charlie Wyke missed out on Saturday but is expected to return to the squad tonight, with Will Grigg expected to make way in order to allow Sunderland’s number nine a place on the bench. Speaking about where Wyke is at, Phil Parkinson told SAFC.com:

Charlie has had a bit of problem with his back, so we decided to get it sorted this week. He probably could have carried on through to the Blackpool game but it’s getting to a stage where we felt we should do the injection this week and hopefully he will be ok for the week coming up. It’s not a major problem and he has a good chance of being in contention on Tuesday night.

It’s an ongoing thing. It was ok before Coventry, at the beginning of the week he wasn’t too bad, but as the week has gone on it wasn’t getting much better.

With painkillers we could have asked him to get through this game but with Kyle and Will Grigg available we just thought it was better to get it dealt with and hopefully we will reap the benefit of that.

Elliot Embleton is nearing full fitness but is apparently being nursed back carefully. Bailey Wright remains out, and is expected to miss the rest of the season.

Otherwise, Sunderland have a fully fit squad to choose from.

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

The Opposition

One win in 18; seven goals in their last 14 league games - Bristol Rovers are on a terrible run of form, and their season has gone from bad to worse since former manager Graham Coughlan opted to swap 4th place in League One for a job at lowly League Two side Mansfield.

The Gas possess one of the most deadly forwards in the division in Jonson Clarke-Harris, yet new boss Ben Garner seemingly cannot find a way to get his leading marksman firing in tandem with the other players. Sadly for him, JCH is carrying a knock and is a doubt for tonight’s game. Similarly, tricky winger Josh Ginnelly is out for a long period, as is Derby County loanee Tareiq Holmes-Dennis.

Garner is under pressure, with some fans calling for him to go:

I’m desperate to win. I want to win every game. This run of results has been very frustrating and we need to put that right quickly.

I think the focus at the moment is just the next game. It’s Tuesday night, Sunderland at home, that’s the focus.

Everyone has tough times, there’s no hiding place. I’m not making excuses here, I’m not running away from this, the blame is solely on me, but we need to put it right.

He added:

You couldn’t ask for a better game than Sunderland at home. Huge, huge football club, massive following that will come down tomorrow night, it’s under lights on a Tuesday night at the Mem.

There’s no better game and we need to be right up for it and show them what we’re all about and come out fighting tomorrow night.

They’re a good side. They’ve got a good squad with strength in depth. I thought we did really well for an hour up there defensively in terms of our organisation, structure and work ethic.

I think we frustrated them, and I think teams have done that since as well. We need to build on what we did in the away game.

We know we can frustrate what they do, we know we’ve got opportunities to hurt them in certain areas. But it’s words, we need actions now.

We made easy work of Rovers just a few weeks ago when they visited the Stadium of Light, and despite making a host of very good signings in the January window their form just hasn’t improved. Losing to Southend at the weekend - the worst team in the league, comfortably - is a new low, with the confidence of the team and fans at rock bottom.

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

Where can I watch/listen to the game?

Alternatively, the game is available on SAFSee at the price of £10.

And, as always, BBC Newcastle (95.4FM & DAB) will be providing live match commentary, with full coverage from Nick Barnes and Gary Bennett starting at 7pm.