Saturday 30th January 2021
(7th) Sunderland v Gillingham (12th)
Sky Bet League One
Stadium of Light
TV/Stream: Full live match coverage available via www.safc.com
Radio: Full live match commentary available via BBC Newcastle (not online)
Sunderland return to the Stadium of Light to face Gillingham, looking to make it a hat-trick of successive victories having returned from East Anglia with all three points in midweek.
Lee Johnson will also be looking to improve Sunderland’s home record, which has seen four victories and four defeats out of twelve so far this term. On home form, we’re sitting in 16th place in the league – not good enough for a club aiming for promotion.
Only one victory has been picked up at the Stadium of Light since the victory over Ipswich on 3rd November. Fortunately, this was last time out against Shrewsbury Town a whole seven days ago and the result – if not necessarily the performance – suggest the poor run of form at home might be behind us.
Lee Johnson, however, will be hoping his side put in a solid display for a full 90 minutes this time around after showing something akin to a split personality in recent displays.
The Sunderland head coach will also have at least one eye on the League table as his side have clawed their way back to within a point of a play-off place. If results go our way, we could be occupying one of those positions for the first time since mid-November by 3pm on Saturday afternoon.
It’s the eighth straight season Gillingham have spent in League One, and after around 18 months in the hot-seat, Steve Evans is making steady progress at the Priestfield Stadium.
A respectable 10th place finish last season has so far been followed up by a similar performance during the current season as they currently sit 12th in League One. They trail Sunderland by six points after an impressive 4-1 home victory over Crewe Alexandra, who went into the fixture on the back of being undefeated in ten.
On their travels away from Kent this season they have won two out of the last seven, which is slightly better than our record for our last seven at home, and across the season have won five and lost five of their eleven games on the road so far.
In their 24 games to date, they have only shared the spoils on three occasions, which makes it the joint lowest record of draws in the division – but they have also lost more times than anyone outside the bottom five.
These statistics suggest Gillingham are a side that sets up to win and are unlikely to come to the Stadium of Light with the intention of grinding out a point.
It all points to a fascinating match-up. Will Gillingham come with a game plan that builds on the confidence gained from Tuesday’s demolition of Crewe? Or will Lee Johnson find the formula to get a performance from his team for the full 90 minutes, and register a routine victory?
Just remember... kick-off is at 1pm.
League One Form Guide
Last five games...
Sunderland Team News
After initially looking like it was more of an impact injury, there may be a late assessment required for a concussion that Bailey Wright suffered at Portman Road on Tuesday. Dion Sanderson is likely to step in to partner Jordan Willis should the Australian international miss out.
Jake Vokins joined the club on loan until the end of the season. The 19-year-old left-back has appeared in the Southampton starting XI twice in the last fortnight and is seemingly raring to go. It may be a brave decision on paper to replace MacFadzean in a performing back four, especially if Bailey Wright is ruled out, but considering how highly he is rated on the south coast it may be more of a surprise if he doesn’t feature.
After the half-time substitution of Winchester in midweek, we may see Grant Leadbitter given a rest this weekend, while Jack Diamond could come back into the starting XI to add a bit of pace in the final third.
Lee Johnson may also be tempted to hand starts to Lynden Gooch and Luke O’Nien after they both came on from the bench, as well as Elliot Embleton who was instrumental in the improvement in the second half.
Lots to ponder for the Sunderland manager as players return to fitness, and he finally has the benefit of Sunderland’s strength in depth in certain positions.
Possible XI: Burge, Power, Willis, Sanderson, Vokins, Winchester, Scowen, Diamond, McGeady, O’Brien, Wyke
Gillingham Team News
Steve Evans has been busy in the transfer market over the last week, 23-year-old centre-back Robbie Cundy joined on-loan from Bristol City and immediately slotted into the back four during the impressive win over Crewe.
Tyreke Johnson has also made a loan move from Southampton permanent in the last week to provide more flexibility for the Gills in the loan market ahead of the window closing on Monday.
Highly-rated Tom O’Connor and Callum Slattery are also on-loan from Premier League Southampton and are fixtures in the starting XI at the Priestfield Stadium.
Steve Evans appears to favour a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Vadaine Oliver spearheading the attack. He has seven goals (not including the Papa John’s Trophy) and sitting behind him is Jordan Graham who is joint top scorer with Oliver.
Possible XI: Bonham, Jackson, Cundy, Tucker, Ogilvie, Dempsey, Slattery, Graham, Lee, O’Connor, Oliver
Last Time We Met... at the Stadium of Light
Saturday 7th March 2020
Sky Bet League One
Sunderland 2 - 2 Gillingham (Lafferty 64’, 83’ - Mandron 74’, 90’)
Sunderland: J. McLaughlin, O’Nien, Flanagan, Willis, Ozturk (Semenyo), Hume (Lynch), Dobson, Power, Gooch, Maguire (Scowen), Lafferty Substitutes not used: Burge, C. McLaughlin, Watmore, Grigg
Gillingham: Bonham, Fuller, Ogilvie, O’Keefe (Akinde), Ehmer, Tucker, Graham (Lee), Jones, Mandron, Hanlan, Roberts (O’Connor) Substitutes not used: Walsh, Pringle, Wilock, Charles-Cook
Played for both...
Joined Sunderland on a free transfer in 2005 after almost 200 games for Gillingham following his debut in 1998. Signed as cover at right-back under Mick McCarthy, he became a first choice centre-half under Roy Keane as we stormed to the title 2007, picking up the Player of the Season award on the way. Left Sunderland to sign for Watford in 2012.
Spent two years at Priestfield between 1992-1994 playing over 50 times before moving to Peterborough United. Signed on a free transfer by Mick McCarthy in 2003, he would be captain as Sunderland were promoted to the Premier League in May 2005. Left in 2006 for Wolverhampton Wanderers where he reunited with McCarthy.
The current Sunderland defender had a loan spell at Gillingham during the 2012-13 season while on the books at MK Dons, making 13 appearances. Signed on a free transfer in 2018 as Sunderland were relegated to League One after he was released from Burton Albion, the Northern Ireland international is likely to miss out on today’s clash through injury.
Head to Head... Gillingham at Sunderland
In all competitions...
Sunderland wins: 4
Gillingham wins: 0
Goals for Sunderland: 16
Goals for Gillingham: 11
Sunderland are clear favourites with the bookies to take all three points at 6/10. An away win is a long 5/1, with the draw at 11/4.
No prizes for guessing Charlie Wyke is the shortest odds to open the scoring for Sunderland, and is on offer at 3/1, surprisingly followed by Chris Maguire at 7/2 – despite not appearing of late – and Aiden O’Brien at 9/2.
If your confidence in Sunderland’s top scorer is brimming over, then a Charlie Wyke hat-trick is available at 35/1.
A low-scoring game is fancied by the bookmakers and Sunderland to win with the only goal of the game for a third game running is a 4/1 shot. A more comprehensive victory to find value such as a 3-0 home win is 10/1, which the bookies think is more likely than the away side to win with the only goal of the game, which they have priced at 12/1.
I’m still not sure which Sunderland will turn up. Is it the one we saw in the second half against Ipswich and the first half against Shrewsbury? Lee Johnson will certainly hope so, as the other Sunderland we’ve seen over the last couple of games may run out of luck.
I’m being optimistic though and predicting we’ll see us focused for the full 90 minutes, leading to a routine win - without the need for any nail-biting in the later stages.
Sunderland 2 - 0 Gillingham