Saturday 13th February 2021
(7th) Sunderland v Doncaster Rovers (5th)
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 Sunderland DAB, BBC Radio Newcastle and BBC Radio Sheffield (not online)
It may be the day before Valentines Day, but no love will be lost between two promotion chasers at the Stadium of Light this afternoon. Simplistically, it is the team sitting 7th hosting an opposition two places above them in 5th, but more forensic analysis reveals that if Doncaster Rovers are victors today, and in both of their two games in hand, a sixteen point gap would exist between the two sides.
If Lee Johnson has had a chance to glance at the League One table since the final whistle went at Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday, he will have noticed the top five sides are beginning to breakaway from the rest of the pack.
Chances to close the gap or simply keep in touch continue to slip through Sunderland’s fingers. Only two points from a possible nine have been collected in our last three fixtures, all against sides in the bottom half of the table.
More food for thought for Lee Johnson ahead of kick-off is the fact his side go into the game on the back of a record that reads one win in the previous eight fixtures at the Stadium of Light.
In South Yorkshire, Darren Moore appears to be working wonders at the Keepmoat. Annual rebuilding jobs in terms of the composition of the squad have not deterred Donny from being once again in the mix for, at the very least, a coveted play-off position once again this term.
Potentially unlucky to miss out last season through hitting form and having games in hand as the season was curtailed, Moore has once again built a side who are potentially serious contenders for the League One title come May. Since drawing at the Stadium of Light at the end of November, Rovers have hit their stride and won ten of the thirteen fixtures since that trip to the North-East.
The theory most heard during transfer windows is to strengthen when you’re on top and they have done just that during January. Scott Robertson, Omar Bogle, Josh Sims, Matt Smith and interestingly, John Bostock have all been added to the squad since the turn of the year. All five players have been brought in with an intention to make what they already have stronger as opposed to backing up the players who have done so well in the first half of the season.
A chink in the armour may have come apparent in midweek however, as they went down 3-1 to Simon Grayson’s Fleetwood Town, which with a bit of rare luck for Sunderland will continue into today’s fixture.
League One Form Guide
Last five games...
Sunderland Team News
I wasn’t expecting the line-up that was announced half an hour or so before kick-off on Tuesday night, or the updated one that we saw moments prior to the teams appearing onto the pitch at Shrewsbury.
Burge would surely expect to come back into the fold after the performance from Remi Matthews on Tuesday, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Patterson between the sticks either.
In the back four, news that Jordan Willis is likely to be out for six months means Dion Sanderson is favourite continue where he left off on Tuesday partnering Bailey Wright in the central defence.
At left-back Lee Johnson has the dilemma of sticking with young Jake Vokins to get him up to speed for future games, or take him out of the firing line, meaning a possible start for Conor McLaughlin who has recently returned to fitness.
In midfield, I wouldn’t be surprised if Grant Leadbitter was down for his third game in seven days. If he is rested, it could be for the inclusion of Luke O’Nien in his more familiar position, but after Tuesday there is also the potential to see him at left-back.
Who knows how Lee Johnson will shuffle his deck of cards or where his wheel of selection will land this time around.
Possible XI: Burge, Power, Sanderson, Wright, McLaughlin, O’Nien, Scowen, Jones, McGeady, O’Brien, Wyke
Doncaster Rovers Team News
Darren Moore will be forced into a change at the back, with Tom Anderson likely to miss out through suffering a concussion during the midweek defeat at Fleetwood Town. Joe Wright is likely to get the nod to partner Andy Butler.
Jon Taylor could also come into the XI to replace Jason Lokilo, but Josh Sims is ruled out as he recovers from a hamstring strain.
Possible XI: Balcombe, Halliday, Wright, Butler, John, Smith, Taylor, Bostock, Richards, James, Okenabirhie
Last Time We Met... at the Stadium of Light
Friday 24th January 2020
Sky Bet League One
Sunderland 0 - 0 Doncaster Rovers
Sunderland: J. McLaughlin, Willis, Ozturk, Lynch, O’Nien, Dobson, Power, Hume, Gooch, Maguire (Watmore), Wyke (Lafferty) Substitutes not used: Burge, C. McLaughlin, Wright, Leadbitter, McNulty
Doncaster Rovers: Dieng, Halliday, John, Sheaf, Wright, Anderson, Taylor (Coppinger), Whiteman, Ennis (Watters), Gomes, James (Blair) Substitutes not used: Lawlor, Amos, Greaves
Played for Both
Not many players in the history of Sunderland Association Football Club have had the impact in only 40 appearances as Kieron Brady, especially when only 18 of those were in the starting XI.
Tipped for great things based on the brief taste that we had of Brady after he made his debut in 1989. Injuries and a rare vascular condition forced Brady to retire at the age of 22. A loan move before that retirement to Doncaster Rovers was a final throw of the dice to regain fitness which saw the Irish winger make four appearances for Rovers.
Sunderland’s record signing from West Bromwich Albion in 1991 in an effort to replace Marco Gabbiadini after he moved to Crystal Palace, Goodman always seemed to stand out in Sunderland side that struggled in the early 1990’s.
A move to big spenders Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1994 in an effort to ply his trade in the Premier league did not go to plan, as he watched Peter Reid’s Sunderland win the title and a place in the top flight a year later.
A loan move to Doncaster Rovers late in his career saw the now Sky Sports pundit make six appearances at the Keepmoat in 2003.
Head to Head...
In all competitions...
Sunderland wins: 5
Doncaster Rovers wins: 1
Goals for Sunderland: 11
Goals for Doncaster Rovers: 5
Despite the form of Doncaster, Sunderland are favourites with the bookies to claim all three points at evens, with the away side at 11/4 and the tempting draw on offer at 12/5.
Charlie Wyke is the man the bookmakers have as favourite to open the scoring for Sunderland at 7/2, and at 13/10 as an anytime goalscorer. Aiden O’Brien is perhaps more value at 11/2 to get the opener for the home side and 21/10 to hit the net at anytime.
A 1-0 Sunderland victory is out in front for correct score at 11/2, followed by Sunderland’s favourite result, 1-1, at 24/5.
A repeat performance of midweek which would see Doncaster come away with a 2-1 victory is priced at a tempting 11/1.
Looking at the table and form guide, Darren Moore’s side may smell blood ahead of their trip north, but after the wobble at Fleetwood Ton in midweek, there may be an acceptance that a draw is a decent result.
When it comes to Sunderland, our fear of a second defeat in five days may just be enough to also be content with a draw. It is screaming out to be a 1-1 draw.