Wednesday 17th February 2021
Sunderland v Lincoln City
Papa John’s Trophy
Stadium of Light
TV/Stream: Full live match coverage available via Sky Sports.
Radio: Full live match commentary available via BBC Sunderland DAB and BBC Radio Newcastle (not online)
After three appearances at Wembley in the previous 26 years, Sunderland are one game away from our third appearance in two years – and yet a question mark remains against how much we want it.
In a season scattered with weirdness, there’s an odd feeling that we might as well while we’re here. League form at the time of any given cup-tie also influences that equation, and with Sunderland riding high after Saturday’s result against Doncaster Rovers, the current feeling is that it is something to push for.
Lee Johnson will no doubt be eager to claim a trophy in his first season in charge of the club, and with a potential side-effect of improving consistency in the bread and butter of League One, it makes perfect sense.
The ex-Barnsley manager does have a pedigree in the competition after taking the Tykes to the EFL Trophy final in 2016, but left to take up the reins at Bristol City before the fixture and Paul Heckingbottom took charge to finish the job off for the South Yorkshire club.
Another with an impressive history managing in the competition is the manager of our opponents, Michael Appleton, who took Oxford United to Wembley in back-to-back EFL Trophy finals in 2016 and 2017.
Lincoln City have taken the competition as seriously as anyone this season, and they have continued their form in League One – that has them currently topping the table – into the cup-ties.
Qualifying first out of a group that contained local rivals Scunthorpe United, in addition to Mansfield Town and probably the better of the under-21 sides in the competition in the form of Manchester City wasn’t an easy task, as demonstrated by the fact penalties were needed against their local neighbours and City’s finest young guns to claim victory.
Convincing wins over Shrewsbury Town and Accrington Stanley set up a top of the table clash at Hull City in the quarter-final, which required another penalty shoot-out for Lincoln to squeeze through to face Sunderland tonight.
League One Form Guide
Last five games...
Sunderland Team News
A tough one for Lee Johnson, does he stick or twist? Does he take the opportunity to gather momentum with similar personnel as the weekend or freshen it up and give a rest to the likes of McGeady and Wyke?
Dion Sanderson and Jake Vokins are cup-tied, which will result in a reshuffle at the back, while Carl Winchester is also cup-tied.
Possible XI: Matthews, Power, McLaughlin, Wright, McFadzean, Leadbitter, O’Nien, Scowen, Diamond, Jones, O’Brien
Lincoln City Team News
Michael Appleton takes this competition seriously, so major changes aren’t expected in the Lincoln starting XI.
Regan Poole and Morgan Rogers are cup-tied and ex-Sunderland midfielder Liam Bridcutt will miss out through injury.
Possible XI: Palmer, Eyoma, Walsh, Montsma, Edun, Jones, Grant, McGrandles, Johnson, Scully, Anderson
Last Time We Met... at the Stadium of Light
Saturday 4th January 2020
Sky Bet League One
Sunderland 3 - 1 Lincoln City
(Flanagan 19’, Gooch 23’, 29’ - Walker 66’)
Sunderland: J. McLaughlin, Willis, Ozturk, Flanagan, O’Nien, Dobson, Power, Hume, Gooch (Leadbitter), Maguire (Watmore), Wyke Substitutes not used: Burge, C. McLaughlin, Taylor, Grigg, McNulty
Lincoln City: Vickers, Eardley, Toffolo, Morrell, Bostwick (Bolger), Shackell, Anderson, Grant, Walker, Hesketh (Elbouzedi), Payne (Akinde) Substitutes not used: Smith, Melbourne, O’Connor, Chapman
Played for Both
Sheffield-born Chris Turner started his career at Sheffield Wednesday in the late 1970s, and he had a loan spell at Lincoln City as a 20-year-old, making five appearances. He joined Sunderland in a move worth £80,000 and helped us win promotion to the First Division in his first season.
Turner was signed by Manchester United for a fee of £275,000 in the summer of 1985 after being voted player of the year as Sunderland reached the League Cup final but were also relegated back to Division Two.
Although Harford was born in Sunderland he started his career at Lincoln City in 1977, before moving to Newcastle United in 1980 after 41 goals in 115 appearances for the Imps.
Spells at Bristol City, Birmingham City, Luton Town, Derby County and Chelsea would come next before he finally move to his hometown club in 1993. Unfortunately it was as a 34-year-old at the end of his career that Terry Butcher had signed in the hope of giving us a boost against relegation from Division Two. He scored 2 goals in 11 games as Sunderland survived by the skin of our teeth.
Head to Head...
In all competitions...
Sunderland wins: 5
Lincoln City wins: 4
Goals for Sunderland: 18
Goals for Lincoln City: 15
The EFL Trophy does seem to have a strange effect on the odds – a combination of league form going out of the window and punters not having a clue what teams are going to be put out adds an element of confusion.
Sunderland are favourites with the bookies to win during normal time at 11/8 though, with the away side at 2/1 and the draw over 90 minutes on offer at 21/10.
In terms of qualification to the final itself, Sunderland are 8/11 to be arranging a trip to Wembley while Lincoln are evens and both sides are 11/2 to win on penalties.
With uncertainty over who will start for Sunderland, Charlie Wyke is available at 16/5 to open the scoring, with Chris Maguire next at a much longer 6/1. Aiden O’Brien, who was on the bench on Saturday, is on offer at 13/2.
If, like me you fancy a Sunderland win with both teams to score, this is priced at 4/1.
With the reshuffle at the back for Sunderland, I can see Lincoln scoring, but there’s a feel-good factor after the weekend’s demolition of Doncaster Rovers.