After Sunderland’s first win at Wembley since 1973, Lee Johnson will be hoping to avoid a case of after the Lord Mayor’s show as his side gets back to League action against Accrington Stanley (who are they? exactly. etc...).
The return to league action means Dion Sanderson and Carl Winchester, who were both cup-tied on Sunday, are available once again, whilst Tom Flanagan is expected to miss out after going off injured in the first half of the cup final.
Jordan Jones and Aiden O’Brien could also make the squad tonight after just missing out on Sunday afternoon through injury, although the game is likely too soon for Bailey Wright or Denver Hume to start even if the former may make the matchday squad.
Lee Burge was the man between the posts once again as Sunderland kept a clean sheet despite fielding a weakened defensive line.
The former Coventry stopper has kept 16 clean sheets in League One, an average of better than one every two games, and a couple of decent saves when the game was nil-nil showed that despite the plaudits going to members of the back four Burge is a key reason for Sunderland’s strong defensive record.
RB: McLaughlin CB: Sanderson CB: O’Nien LB: McFadzean
With Dion Sanderson returning for this game it was certain that there would be at least one change to Sunday’s team to allow the Wolves loanee to come back into the side. Tom Flanagan’s injury means Sanderson will be partnering Luke O’Nien, who won the sky man of the match award for both of our last two games, and there’s little appetite on Wearside to break up what has become a strong partnership.
In the full-back positions, Callum McFadzean put in two solid performances over the last seven days and deserves to keep his place in the continued absence of Denver Hume.
Meanwhile, on the right, Max Power started ahead of the returning Conor McLaughlin in the cup final, but with McLaughlin performing well after replacing Flanagan at centre back and Sanderson coming into the side the former Millwall defender is likely to make his return to the side in his natural full-back role.
CM: Power CM: Winchester
The centre of midfield is the area of the pitch where we are most likely to see changes from Sunday’s duo of Josh Scowen and Grant Leadbitter. Carl Winchester was the man who dropped out for Leadbitter to return on Sunday, but since the January signing is available again tonight he should regain his place.
Alongside him, Conor McLaughlin’s return to fullback pushes the captain Max Power out of his cup final position, and Josh Scowen is likely to find his place under threat as the ball-winner in midfield.
RM: Gooch AM: O’Brien LM: McGeady
Lynden Gooch was rather fortunate to find his name on the team sheet on Sunday afternoon, Jordan Jones would surely have started if not for injury, but he made it count as his goal upgraded a mediocre performance to a memorable one for the Californian.
On the opposite flank, Aiden McGeady has rightfully gained numerous plaudits not only for the assist for Gooch’s goal at the weekend but also for his phenomenal performances since being brought back into the side under the new Sunderland gaffer. He will continue from now until the end of the season as the side’s main creator unless he misses out through injury.
In the number ten position, Chris Maguire, like Gooch, wouldn’t have started the game at the weekend if it wasn’t for an injury to Aiden O’Brien and although the journeyman attacking midfielder was lively in the first half at Wembley I get the sense that Aiden O’Brien does the off the ball work that Lee Johnson wants from his second striker. He is likely to start, if fit, in order to get the best out of Charlie Wyke.
With a return to league action, I’m expecting to see a return to the goals for Sunderland’s number nine after he graciously allowed Lynden Gooch to take the spotlight in the cup.
Aiden O’Brien’s return would likely be of benefit for the big centre forward who seems to play his best football with O’Brien’s movement in behind him and although he was quiet at the weekend if he had work some boots a couple of sizes bigger it could have been he, not Gooch, who grabbed the winning goal.