Friday 2nd April 2021
(3rd) Sunderland v Oxford United (9th)
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 Radio Newcastle (not online)
It’s the first part of a quickfire double over the bank holiday weekend, and two games in quick succession always provides an opportunity to vastly improve a position or lose ground in a very short space of time.
The impact of a six point haul across today’s fixture at the Stadium of Light against Oxford United, and then Monday’s clash with Peterborough United, would place Sunderland in pole position to claim one of the two automatic promotion spots with only eight games remaining.
Lee Johnson’s Sunderland side are undefeated on home soil since the visit of Plymouth Argyle way back on the 19th January, where we have since won five and drawn two of the previous seven League One fixtures at the Stadium of Light.
Today’s clash is important in it’s own right, but this is amplified with the prospect of the bank holiday Monday trip to Peterborough United in front of the Sky cameras just around the corner, where a victory today would be yet another boost ahead of another huge game.
After missing out on promotion through defeat in last season’s play-off final to Wycombe Wanderers, the Oxford United board had to hold their nerve this term when The U’s got off to a disastrous start.
Looking back to the beginning of November, with eight games of the season played, Karl Robinson’s side were at the foot of the League One table with only six points on the board.
A steady recovery followed that meant they were within three points of the play-offs by the beginning of February, where a lack of consistency and a price of playing catch-up, is where they have stayed.
Oxford’s away form has been patchy throughout the season, and more recently they have lost three of the last six on their travels, including a defeat at Hull City last month.
Having recovered from their surprising poor start to the season to now find themselves only two points from a play-off position, Robinson will be looking to finish strong and achieve successive finishes in the League One play-offs.
League One Form Guide
Last five games...
Sunderland Team News
Jordan Jones and Denver Hume could potentially play a part over the weekend, and we are likely to see Lee Johnson take full advantage of his large squad by rotating between today and Monday.
Jake Vokins, Bailey Wright and Tom Flanagan are ruled out through longer term injuries.
Possible XI: Burge, McLaughlin, Sanderson, O’Nien, McFadzean, Power, Scowen, Maguire, McGeady, O’Brien, Wyke
Oxford United Team News
Sunderland fan and Oxford defender Sam Long may be risked, but Oxford’s fixture at home to Accrington Stanley on Monday may be a more realistic date for him to return to the fold.
James Henry returned unscathed last time out, despite being replaced on the hour mark during their 2-1 victory over Lincoln City at the Kassam Stadium last weekend and will continue in midfield. Elliot Lee could also make a return to the squad after a knee injury.
Possible XI: Stevens, Hanson, Moore, Atkinson, Ruffels, Chambers-Parillon, Brannagan, Henry, Sykes, Taylor, Barker.
Last Time We Met... at the Stadium of Light
Saturday 3rd August 2019
Sky Bet League One
Sunderland 1 - 1 Oxford United
(Gooch 49’ (pen) - Fosu 14’)
Sunderland: J. McLaughlin, C. McLaughlin, Flanagan, Willis, Hume, Gooch (Maguire), Dobson, McGeouch, Embleton (Watmore), Grigg (McGeady), McNulty Substitutes not used: Burge, Ozturk, Leadbitter, O’Nien
Oxford United: Eastwood, Cadden, Ruffels, Gorrin, Dickie, Mousinho, Brannagan (Moore), Henry, Mackie, Woodburn (Hanson), Fosu (Hall) Substitutes not used: Stevens, Long, Sykes, Napa
Played For both
Melville started off at Swansea City, spending four years at Vetch Field before moving to Oxford United in the summer of 1990 for £275,000. It would be three years before Terry Butcher signed the Welsh international for an initial fee of £500,000, which also included Anton Rogan in exchange.
Melville would spend a successful six years on Wearside making over 200 appearances. The Welsh internationals final season at the Stadium of Light would see him miss only two League games as Sunderland won the second tier with 105 points in 1999.
Spells at Fulham, West Ham United and Nottingham Forest followed Sunderland before retirement in 2005.
Starting his career at York City under Denis Smith in the early 1980’s, he would end up following his first manager to Sunderland via Queens Park Rangers and Brighton & Hove Albion in 1991 after the sale of another player who played for both clubs, Marco Gabbiadini.
His time on Wearside only lasted a year, but included an FA Cup final appearance that ended in defeat in 1992, with Byrne missing at least one great opportunity in the first half that would have resulted in him scoring in every round.
The ex-Republic of Ireland international moved to Millwall soon after the Wembley final, and would lead to Denis Smith signing the player for a second time at Oxford United in 1993. Byrne retired in 1996 during his second spell at Brighton & Hove Albion.
Head to Head...at the Stadium of Light
In all competitions...
Sunderland wins: 10
Oxford United wins: 2
Goals for Sunderland: 28
Goals for Oxford United: 8
For the first clash of the Easter weekend, the bookmakers have Sunderland as favourites to take all three points at the Stadium of Light, with a home win at evens and an Oxford victory priced at 29/10 and the draw 23/10.
A 1-0 Sunderland victory is the shortest price for correct score at 24/5, followed closely by a 1-1 draw at 5/1. A more convincing 2-0 Sunderland victory is on offer at 7/1.
Charlie Wyke is of course favourite to open the scoring for Sunderland and is available at 14/5 for the opener and 21/20 anytime scorer, with Ross Stewart and Chris Maguire next in line at 5/1 to get the opener and 2/1 anytime scorer.
If you fancy a repeat of last weekend where Aiden O’Brien wins us the game with the only goal of the game, this is on offer at a tempting 25/1.
We’re due a game where we completely hammer someone, and I’m hoping we’re saving that for Monday.