Saturday 27th March 2021
(21st) Bristol Rovers v Sunderland (3rd)
Sky Bet League One
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)
Don’t forget to follow the blow-by-blow account of the game on the Roker Report Twitter feed (@RokerReport) and check out the player ratings after the full-time whistle at www.RokerReport.com!
For the first time since the opening day of the season our fate rests in our own hands.
After Peterborough faltered in midweek against Blackpool, it means Sunderland now sit two points behind Posh with a game in hand in addition to trailing leaders Hull City by five points with two games in hand.
The psychology of that change of circumstance has potential to inspire or detract from the task in hand. The Jack Ross side of two years ago seemed to crumble after achieving a similar position with a handful of games remaining, and Lee Johnson will need to guard against a repeat performance.
The squad will also be looking to show that last week’s draw was a good point gained and return quickly to winning ways. Especially with a tough Easter schedule on paper just around the corner, featuring vital quick-fire fixtures at home to Oxford United and away to promotion rivals Peterborough next weekend.
After having his focus on making the play-offs with Fleetwood Town in his previous role, Joey Barton now has very different concerns in his new role as manager of Bristol Rovers.
They currently occupy the final relegation position, sitting two points behind Northampton Town and after winning only two of his nine games so far, there is real concern Rovers could end up playing League Two football next term.
Our recent record against Bristol Rovers hasn’t been great, but the current position of the two clubs suggests that it’s going to take all of Joey Barton's motivational skills to claim points this afternoon.
League One Form Guide
Last five games...
Sunderland Team News
Sunderland will be looking to be on the front foot from the off and if a higher press is the order of the day, then it could mean the return of Josh Scowen to the starting line-up.
Charlie Wyke also looked isolated at times last weekend at the Stadium of Light which may tempt Lee Johnson into handing a start to Ross Stewart, but it will be too soon for Jordan Jones and Bailey Wright as they continue their return to full fitness.
Possible XI: Burge, Power, Sanderson, O’Nien, McFadzean, Winchester, Scowen, Gooch, McGeady, Stewart, Wyke
Bristol Rovers Team News
Joey Barton went more attacking in midweek in an effort to take maximum points from a six-pointer at home to fellow strugglers Swindon Town.
In a tight affair Rovers lost out through the only goal of the game, and there’s a fair chance they could line-up with an extra defender this afternoon and look to frustrate Sunderland for as long as possible.
Possible XI: Day, Williams, Kilgour, Baldwin, Tutonda, Grant, Oztumer, McCormick, Leahy, Daly, Ayung
Last Time We Met... at the Memorial Stadium
Tuesday 10th March 2020
Sky Bet League One
Bristol Rovers 2 - 0 Sunderland
(Clarke-Harris 39’, 75)
Sunderland: J. McLaughlin, Flanagan, Willis, Ozturk (Gooch), O’Nien, Power, Scowen (Grigg), Hume, Maguire, Semenyo, Lafferty (Wyke) Substitutes not used: Burge, C. McLaughlin, Lynch, Dobson
Bristol Rovers: Blackman, Rodman, Leahy, Kilgour, Craig, Harries, Sercombe, Clarke, Clarke-Harris (Kelly), Mitchell-Lawson (Daly), Hargreaves (Hare) Substitutes not used: Van Stappershoef, Menayese, Bennett, Matthews
Played For both
Bristol-born Marcus Stewart started his career at Bristol Rovers as a 19-year-old making 207 appearances and scoring 79 goals between 1991 and 1995. Stewart’s form at The Pirates over those five years were enough to see a move to join ex-Sunderland goalkeeper Tony Norman at Huddersfield Town in 1995, signing for a club record £1.2 million.
After almost four years, 160 appearances and 68 goals at The Terriers, another club record fee was shelled out when Stewart moved to Ipswich Town in February 2000 for £2.5 million. Promotion to the Premier League was achieved three months later via the play-offs.
In 2000/01, Ipswich would go on to finish 5th in the Premier League, qualifying for what was then the UEFA cup, and Stewart would score 21 goals in all competitions.
A year later Ipswich Town were relegated and he signed for the lads for a reported £3.25 million, going on to score 53 goals in 119 games between 2002 and 2005.
After spells at Bristol City, Preston North End, Yeovil Town and Exeter City he hung up his boots in the summer of 2011 immediately moving into a first team coach role at Exeter City.
This was followed a year later with a return to Bristol Rovers as a development coach then moving to the role of assistant manager in 2013. He left the club by mutual consent in December 2018 along with manager Darrell Clarke.
Paul Hardyman signed for his home town club Portsmouth on the same day as Kevin Ball and would go on to make over 100 appearances for Portsmouth between 1983 and 1989.
He was Denis Smith’s only signing during the summer of 1989, signing on the dotted line for £130,000. It would be the play-off semi-final against Newcastle United however, that would give Hardyman his most memorable moment in a Sunderland shirt.
After the setback of only making the bench for the 1992 FA Cup final (replacing David Rush with twenty minutes to go), Hardyman left Sunderland that summer after making 114 appearances and scoring 12 goals, signing for Bristol Rovers for £160,000.
Over the next three years Hardyman made 67 appearances for Bristol Rovers leaving in 1995 for Wycombe Wanderers, before ending his career with Barnet in 1997.
Coaching roles have followed at Portsmouth and Watford and in July 2018 Paul Hardyman joined Southampton in an academy coaching role.
Head to Head...at the Memorial Stadium
In all competitions...
Sunderland wins: 4
Bristol Rovers wins: 10
Goals for Sunderland: 20
Goals for Bristol Rovers: 30
Unsurprisingly, the bookmakers have Sunderland as favourites to take all three points this afternoon, with an away win at 8/11, a home victory is priced at 12/5 and the draw 27/10.
A 1-0 Sunderland victory is the shortest price for correct score at 5/1, followed closely by a 1-1 draw at 11/2. A convincing 3-0 Sunderland victory is a longer 11/1.
Charlie Wyke is once again favourite to open the scoring for Sunderland and is available at 5/2 for the opener and 17/20 anytime scorer, with Ross Stewart and Chris Maguire next in line at 9/2 to get the opener and 13/8 anytime scorer.
Callum McFadzean is a 33/1 shot to repeat his exploits from last weekend and open the scoring for Sunderland this afternoon.
This might just because it’s Joey Barton but I think we’re overdue giving someone a real beating.