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Match Preview: Sunderland v Port Vale

Time for a break from League One and turn our attentions to an opportunity to make the quarter-finals of the Papa John’s Trophy with a third round tie at home to Port Vale - here is everything you need to know before kick-off!


Sunderland v Port Vale

Papa John’s Trophy - Third Round

Stadium of Light

Kick-Off: 6.00pm - Tuesday 12th January 2021


Match Coverage

TV/Stream: Full live match coverage available via www.safc.com

Radio: Full live match commentary available via BBC Newcastle (not online)

Don’t forget to follow the blow-by-blow account of the game on the Roker Report Twitter feed (@RokerReport) and check out the player ratings after the full-time whistle at www.RokerReport.com!


After being in doubt due to a positive COVID-19 test in the Port Vale ranks last week, the fixture in the Papa John’s Trophy third round at Sunderland does go ahead as scheduled. The FA Cup 1st round fixture in 2018 was the first time the two sides have met this century, and they of course also met in the 3rd round of the FA Cup as Sunderland ran out 3-0 winners in 1992 on route to the final.

Lee Johnson has been in the Sunderland hot seat for just over five weeks and that includes losing two of those weeks through positive COVID-19 results at the Academy of Light. This has resulted in virtually zero time for the manager to work with the team on the training ground and to experiment with a number of the fringe players, which no doubt this provides an opportunity.

Sunderland made comfortable progress from a group stage consisting of Aston Villa U21s, Carlisle United and Joey Barton’s Fleetwood Town before dispatching Oldham Athletic in round two in December.

With form and the second half of Sunderland’s season at stake, what Lee Johnson might take from the fixture may be more important than the result itself.

Oldham Athletic v Sunderland: Papa John’s Trophy
Josh Scowen celebrates after scoring for Sunderland in the second round tie at Oldham Athletic
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

It might only be twelve days long, but 2021 has been a fairly eventful year for League Two side Port Vale. On the 4th January the club parted company with manager John Askey and assistant manager Dave Kevan as they sat five points above the relegation places.

Former Leeds United, Stoke City and Preston North End player Danny Pugh has taken over the reins as caretaker manager for a second time after stepping in when Neil Aspin resigned in 2019.

In his only game in charge to date, Port Vale ran out 3-0 winners at home to League Two strugglers Grimsby Town, which was their first win in six moving the Valiants up to 13th position.

Port Vale v Oxford United - The Emirates FA Cup First Round
Danny Pugh during his time as a player at Port Vale in 2017 - now in his second spell as caretaker manager
Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

EFL Trophy Rules

Any eligible goalkeeper from the club can play in the competition.

A club must play four qualifying players from the 10.

A qualifying player must meet one of the following criteria:

- A player who started the previous of following first team fixture.

- Any player who is in the top ten players at the club who have made the most starting appearances in the League and domestic cup competitions that season.

- Any player with 40 or more first team appearances in their career.

- Any player currently on loan from a Premier League or Category One Academy Club.

Only two players over the age of 21 who have made 40 or more senior appearances can be selected to play for Academy sides.


Sunderland Team News

Dion Sanderson and new signing Carl Winchester are cup-tied so will not take part and Jordan Willis may play a part after recovering from illness at the weekend.

So it’s spin the wheel to guess at how much Lee Johnson will rotate his squad.

Possible XI: Anthony Patterson, Conor McLaughlin, Bailey Wright, Jordan Willis, Callum McFadzean, George Dobson, Elliot Embleton, Lynden Gooch, Chris Maguire, Aiden O’Brien, Danny Graham

Sunderland v Hull City - Sky Bet League One
Will Chris Maguire make the starting XI for Sunderland for the EFL Trophy third round tie against Port Vale?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Port Vale Team News

Port Vale have been busy on the transfer front with the acquisition of Jake Taylor confirmed yesterday on a permanent deal from Nottingham Forest. Taylor impressed on-loan at Vale Park last season and the Manchester United academy graduate may be eligible to play some part in the fixture at the Stadium of Light.

With a small squad and Danny Pugh looking to build on a victory in his first game in charge it would be a surprise if we saw wholesale changes.

Possible XI: Dino Visser, Zak Mills, Shaun Brisley, Nathan Smith, Cristian Montaño, David Worrall, Scott Burgess, Tom Conlon, Alex Hurst, Tom Pope, Mark Cullen


Last Time We Met... at the Stadium of Light

Saturday 12th December 1998:

Nationwide Football League Division One

Sunderland 2 - 0 Port Vale (Smith 24’, Butler 44’)

Sunderland: Sorensen, Makin, Melville, Butler, Scott, Rae (McCann), Ball, Clark, Smith, Bridges (Dichio), Quinn Substitute not used: Williams

Port Vale: Pilkington, Walsh (Beesley), Tankard, Bogie, Barnett, Aspin, Lyttle (Corden), Barker, Beadle (Naylor), Foyle, Talbot

Soccer - Nationwide League Division One - West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland
Paul Butler scored for Sunderland the last time the two sides met at the Stadium of Light
Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images

Played for Both...

Reuben Agboola

Spent six years on Wearside after signing from Southampton making 170 appearances during that time. Played nine games for the Valiants during a loan move in 1990 after dropping down the pecking order at Roker Park.

Brett Angell

A signing most Sunderland fans don’t often appreciate being reminded of, a £600,000 signing from Everton in 1995 to help Mick Buxton save his job and save Sunderland from the drop. Ended up doing neither. Made fifteen appearances at Vale Park towards the end of his career in 2002.

Craig Russell

Local lad Craig Russell became a fans favourite at Roker Park after coming through the youth system, scoring 34 goals in 174 appearances. Made eight appearances for Port Vale whilst on loan from Manchester City in 1999.

Soccer - Barclays League Division Two - Playoff Finals - Swindon Town v Sunderland - Wembley Stadium
Reuben Agboola in action for Sunderland in the 1990 play-off final
Photo by Michael Stephens/PA Images via Getty Images

Head to Head... Port Vale at Sunderland

In all competitions...

Played: 11

Sunderland wins: 4

Draws: 6

Port Vale wins: 1

Goals for Sunderland: 18

Goals for Port Vale: 11


Match Betting

Despite the likely rotation in the squads, the bookies still see Sunderland as clear favourites at 11/20, with an away victory priced at 24/5, and the draw at 14/5.

Charlie Wyke is once again favourite to open the scoring for Sunderland at 3/1, closely followed by Chris Maguire at 7/2. Others may be given game time however and Danny Graham is on offer at 4/1 and Mitch Curry at 5/1.

A 1-0 Sunderland win is the shortest correct score at 5/1, and if you fancy a heavy home win then a 3-0 to Sunderland is priced at 10/1.

Gillingham v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Will Aiden O'Brien be in a position to open the scoring for Sunderland?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Match Prediction

Is it irony or just another quirk that you see when following Sunderland Association Football Club, that we will continue to progress in a competition that we would be better off without? On paper, it appears we will continue our march to an empty Wembley and further fixture congestion.

Sunderland 2 - 0 Port Vale