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Match Preview: Can Sunderland make it 3 wins from 3 in pre-season v Harrogate today?

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IT’S THE JACK DIAMOND DERBY! Newly-promoted League Two side Harrogate Town are the latest pre-season visitors to Wearside this afternoon. Can Sunderland make it three wins from three?

Harrogate Town v Notts County - Vanarama National League Play Off Final Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Stream passes are again available from SAFC.com - £5 gets you full access to today’s game, with commentary coming from BBC Newcastle’s Nick Barnes.

Craig Chapman will be providing play-by-play coverage of all the action on the @RokerReport Twitter feed, whilst after the game Jimmy Lowson will be here on RokerReport.com with his player ratings, so be sure to check all of that out!


Phil Parkinson’s Sunderland side are looking to win their third consecutive pre-season game this afternoon when Harrogate Town make the short trip up the A1 to the North East (3pm KO).

Following on from victories over National League North side Gateshead (3-1) and League Two Carlisle (3-1), the Lads are in confident form, scoring goals and commanding possession - a good place to start with league action right around the corner.

Alright, whilst this is our last official pre-season game, we have two more ‘proper’ matches coming up that we expect Parky will use as warm-up outings - so we probably shouldn’t read too much into the team he selects.

Still, it’ll be interesting to see if he goes for a firmer-looking line up now that he’s had a few opportunities to see each of his players in action.

Lee Burge is likely to come into the team in goal, whilst fans will be eager to see more of Dan Neil after the youngster showed in his previous outing that he may be one to watch in the future - the academy product made a huge impact on the game with his introduction against Carlisle, hitting the post and playing his part in a series of exciting attacking moves.

Sunderland Training Session Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Another youngster who will be keen to leave a mark is Jack Diamond, featuring against Harrogate in the same month as he scored and earned ‘man of the match’ for the part he played in their play-off victory at Wembley Stadium against Notts County.

Harrogate’s manager has made no secret over the fact he wants to take Jack back for a season on loan, but I suspect Diamond will have other ideas, hoping to show Phil Parkinson why he needs to play his part in Sunderland’s first team squad once the campaign begins.

Does it matter if we don’t win? Of course it bloody does. I don’t care what anyone says - winning breeds confidence, whether that’s in competitive action or friendly games. If our strikers keep scoring, and we keep on picking up victories, it’s certain to give the Lads some momentum going into the game next weekend with Hull City. Bring it on!


The Opposition

As previously mentioned, Harrogate were promoted to League Two earlier in the month following a 3-1 victory over Notts County at Wembley Stadium - a game which Jack Diamond not only scored in, but also picked up the ‘man of the match’ award.

They’ve signed four new players - most notably bringing in former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Connor Kirby on a free - and have a squad that contains former Sunderland players Jon Stead and Liam Agnew.

Having played competitive football recently, Harrogate are likely to be the fittest and sharpest side that Sunderland have faced so far. They kicked off their pre-season campaign with a 2-1 win against Middlesbrough U23s, following that up with a 0-0 draw midweek against Northern Premier League side Brighouse.

Their assistant manager is Paul Thirlwell, so keep an eye out for him on the touchline - he made 92 appearances for Sunderland, scoring one goal during his six years as a first-teamer.


Predictions?

I said 2-0 last time out and we managed to go one better and scored three, though I do honestly believe that Harrogate pose a far greater threat to Sunderland than Carlisle did, largely due to the fact they’re still fit and buoyant from their successful play-off campaign.

I fancy this to be far tighter, with Sunderland winning 1-0 courtesy of Chris Maguire. He was a massive difference-maker when he came on in midweek and already has two pre-season goals to his name, so he’s clearly Sunderland’s most deadly attacking threat.

Please, just don’t let Jon Stead score.