Sunderland managed to right the wrongs of their previous disappointing result with a comprehensive victory over AFC Wimbledon at Plough Lane thanks to a Charlie Wyke hat-trick.
Although the 3-0 scoreline slightly flattered Sunderland, they were comfortably the better team and showed - just as they did at Lincoln in December - that once they get the first goal they are difficult to break down and very dangerous on the break.
With this game coming so soon after Saturday’s win, news on the injury front is limited apart from Lynden Gooch’s addition to longer-term absentees Denver Hume, Arbenit Xhemajli, Luke O’Nien, Will Grigg and Danny Graham due to a positive COVID-19 test late last week.
Here’s how I think The Lads will line up.
Lee Burge returned to the side after missing just 45 minutes of league action since taking a knock to the eye against Hull City. Only Lincoln City’s Alex Palmer has kept more than Burge’s nine clean sheets which, considering the Sunderland number one has played just 16 games, is an impressive record, despite his side’s struggles this season.
Burge will be hoping to get into double figures for clean sheets tonight, and if he can, Sunderland have a great chance of picking up maximum points at the Stadium of Light.
RB: Power CB: Willis CB: Wright LB: McFadzean
As expected, Max Power was preferred over Dion Sanderson at right back as Jordan Willis made his return to the heart of the Sunderland defence alongside Bailey Wright for their trip to the capital. This was the only selection decision which did not mean playing a member of the back four out of position, and since his side kept a clean sheet, it's likely that Lee Johnson will rinse and repeat with the same back four tonight.
Despite Max Power impressing at right-back, Callum McFadzean is simply not as good as the man he is replacing, Denver Hume. Regardless, his status as the only fit left-footed defender makes him one of the first names on the team sheet, unless he starts to make costly errors that leave Lee Johnson with no choice but to change things up.
As predicted, Wright and Willis made a rock-solid combination at Plough Lane with the Dons’ top scorer prevented from troubling our defensive duo. Willis’ pace will be key as Lee Johnson attempts to get his side to defend further up the pitch than under the previous managers - he’s almost certain to feature when he’s fit.
RM: Embleton CM: Leadbitter CM: Scowen LM: McGeady
A slight surprise when the teams were announced on Saturday lunchtime was the inclusion of Grant Leadbitter ahead of new signing Carl Winchester, especially considering Lee Johnson’s switch to 4-4-2 for the last couple of games. However, the club captain put in a good performance in the middle of the park, and was much quicker with his movement of the ball than in previous games.
Alongside him, Josh Scowen was wasteful at times against Wimbledon, but his busyness is a key part of Sunderland’s ability to field Leadbitter in a two-man midfield, and he did come up with the assist for Charlie Wyke’s third goal of the game.
In the wide areas, Aiden McGeady seems like the closest thing to a guaranteed starter since Johnson’s arrival, and his extra quality will be even more important for Sunderland in home games when the opposition sit deeper and make themselves tough to break down.
With McGeady, Jack Diamond dropped to the bench on Saturday and once again showed what a threat he poses on the counter-attack, with an intelligent run to create space for Wyke during the build-up to the final goal of the game. I think the former Harrogate loanee will continue in his role as super-sub, with fellow academy product Elliot Embleton preferred on the right side. Johnson’s new formation seems to suit Embleton, something which is vital as it appears it’s now or never regarding the England youth international’s long-term future at the club.
ST: O’Brien ST: Wyke
Charlie Wyke and Aiden O’Brien showed once against on Saturday that they both feel more comfortable in a two-man attack. The former Bradford centre-forward was the star of the show on Saturday afternoon with his hat trick, including one goal set-up by strike partner O’Brien, guiding Sunderland to victory.
As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don't fix it” - and there was very little broken about Sunderland's front two last time out.