Saturday 20th March 2021
(3rd) Sunderland v Lincoln City (4th)
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 and BBC Radio Newcastle (not online)
The juggernaut that is Lee Johnson’s Sunderland side continues to pull out the results and heap the pressure on the League One automatic promotion places.
In mid-February Sunderland were outside of the play-off positions and it was all about keeping in contention, but five weeks to the day later and after a run of 7 wins in the last 8 in League One, the top two is now the target.
After negotiating a potential banana skin at Accrington Stanley in midweek with a routine win following Wembley glory, we return once again to the Stadium of Light for the first time in a fortnight where our form has seen a turnaround. Too many games were drawn on our own patch in the first part of the season, and Lee Johnson’s side have won the last four on home soil whilst only conceding one goal in the process.
Our fixture list is looking like a series of cup finals at this stage and maybe none more so than this afternoon where we are presented an opportunity to create daylight between ourselves and the teams below whilst keeping the pressure on the top two.
Lincoln City are a club in a hurry. It’s just short of four years since Danny Cowley navigated the Imps return to the Football League where they made quick work of League Two by making the first appearance in the third tier last term for the first time in over 20 years.
A finish of 16th last season will surely be bettered this season, as they currently sit in the position directly below the Lads in 4th with only a two point deficit.
Looking back at the table a month ago to the day, however, it was looking even more impressive for current manager Michael Appleton as they sat top of the pile, with a three point gap between themselves and Hull who sat 3rd and a nine point advantage over Sunderland as we were positioned 6th and clinging onto a play-off position.
A run of one win in the last six has seen Lincoln fall away, although still in a good position to finish the season strongly. No doubt Michael Appleton will see the trip to the Stadium of Light as a perfect opportunity to get back to winning ways.
They still boast the second best away record in League One (behind Sunderland...) with only two defeats this season so far on the road and only conceding 11 in 16 games, so could still be making the trip North full of confidence this afternoon.
League One Form Guide
Last five games...
Sunderland Team News
It seems like we’ve stuck on repeat with the fitness updates on certain players for a number of weeks but the likes of Denver Hume and Bailey Wright do appear to be slowly returning to training, although will miss out today.
As will Jordan Jones, Aiden O’Brien and Tom Flanagan as they return from more recent issues, but our clash today against Lincoln will again come around too quickly for them to be available for selection.
Which means it’s the same squad to pick from for Lee Johnson which provides selection headaches of its own, which is no bad problem to have. Vokins showed improved form in midweek and would be a surprise if he was hooked given the improvement at Stanley.
Scowen may come into midfield to provide more of a press higher up the pitch, and to partner Winchester who also impressed at the Wham Stadium.
The big question mark could be around Ross Stewart who helped change the game after half-time on Wednesday, it might depend on his fitness levels but after his flying start you would expect him to get the opportunity to back it up.
Possible XI: Burge, Power, Sanderson, O’Nien, Vokins, Winchester, Scowen, Gooch, McGeady, Stewart, Wyke
Lincoln City Team News
Sometimes in football when things start going wrong it can begin to snowball, and from the outside looking in, this seems very much the case at Sincil bank at the moment.
After their 0-3 home defeat to Gillingham in midweek, Michael Appleton has confirmed the loss of one of their top scorers in the form of Tom Hopper who was ruled out up to two months yesterday with a hamstring injury. This is in addition to the Imps top scorer overall, Jorge Grant, who was already ruled out with a longer term ankle injury.
At the back the manager also has potential issues where first choice centre-back pairing Adam Jackson and Lewis Montsma, who started against Gillingham, didn’t train in the build up to the clash at the Stadium of Light in the hope they would be nursed through to be available for selection.
Possible XI: Palmer, Poole, Montsma, Jackson, Edun, Johnson, McGrandles, Bridcutt, Rogers, Scully, Morton
Last Time We Met in League One... 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, Flanagan, Willis, Ozturk, O’Nien, Power, Dobson, Hume, Gooch (Leadbitter), Maguire (Watmore), Wyke Substitutes not used: Burge, C. McLaughlin, Taylor, McNulty, Grigg,
Lincoln City: Vckers, Eardly, Toffolo, Morrell, Bostwick (Bolger), Shackell, Anderson, Grant, Walker, Hesketh (Elbouzedi), Payne (Akinde) Substitutes not used: Smith, Melbourne, O’Connor, Chapman
Played For both
Sunderland-born Preece did not play a competitive game for Sunderland, but he was named as substitute goalkeeper on no fewer than thirty-two occasions.
This included twenty-two fixtures during Sunderland’s first season in the Premier League when he moved up the pecking order after Tony Coton was ruled out for the season. He also played twenty minutes in the farewell to Roker Park match against Liverpool by replacing Chris Woods between the sticks.
Preece joined Darlington in the summer of 1997 before moving to Scotland, where he signed for Aberdeen. Although he stayed at Pittodrie for six years he would find fierce competition for the number one jersey and would leave in 2005 in moves that saw him join Silkeborg IF followed by OB in Denmark.
He would return to England in 2009, joining Barnsley where he would be understudy for three years playing seven games before moving to Lincoln City as a player-coach in 2012. He’d then return to Lincoln City as goalkeeping goach after a brief spell with Keflavik in Iceland.
Born in Whitley Bay, Cornforth began his career with Sunderland and although making his debut as a seventeen year-old on the last day of 1984-85 he would not make another appearance until 1987.
In his six years at Sunderland, Cornforth would make 38 appearances and had loan spells at Doncaster Rovers, Shrewsbury Town and Lincoln City before leaving for Swansea City in 1991. He would enjoy a successful five years in Wales where he’d make 149 appearances that included winning the Football League Trophy in 1994 and also being capped twice for Wales in 1995.
His form led to a £350,000 move to Barry Fry’s Birmingham City in 1996 before moving to Wycombe Wanderers followed by moves to Peterborough United (on loan), Cardiff City, Scunthorpe United and Exeter City, ahead of hanging up his boots in 2001 when he was appointed manager of Exeter.
Head to Head...
In all competitions...
Sunderland wins: 5
Lincoln City wins: 4
Goals for Sunderland: 18
Goals for Lincoln City: 15
The bookmakers have Sunderland as clear favourites to take all three points this afternoon, despite the close proximity between the two sides in the table. A home win is 3/4, with Lincoln a 7/2 shot and the draw is priced at 27/10.
At 5/1 the bookmakers have a 1-0 home victory as the shortest price, followed closely by a 1-1 draw at 11/2. A convincing 3-0 Sunderland victory is maybe a more tempting 14/1, which also can increase to 20/1 when combined with Wyke to score at anytime.
Charlie Wyke is the obvious choice to open the scoring for Sunderland and is available at 5/1 for the opener and 10/11 anytime scorer, with Ross Stewart and Chris Maguire next in line at 11/2 to get the opener and 15/8 anytime scorer.
After trying not to get carried away over recent weeks I think this is an opportunity for one of those Saturday afternoons where we steamroller the opposition. Lincoln have form and fitness worries and we’re flying.