Despite failing to grab an all-important win in their last two games, Sunderland have shown slight improvements and, if they continue to score two or three goals in each game, should be able to pick up three points sooner rather than later.
Tonight, Lee Johnson’s men face a Blackpool side who are a less formidable opponent than the side they faced just over a week ago after Neil Critchley’s team lost to Rochdale and Shrewsbury in their last two games following a good unbeaten run. Hopefully, we can make it three defeats on the spin for the Seasiders tonight.
On the injury front, since this game is coming just a couple of days after our draw on Saturday, we’re unlikely to see the return of any of our injured players in time for the trip to Bloomfield Road. This does mean that Aiden McGeady, who was 50/50 for the weekend’s game, should be available after he started against Accrington.
However, Tom Flanagan, Conor McLaughlin and Jake Vokins are all likely to miss out along with Jordan Willis and Arbenit Xhemajli - who will miss the rest of the season - and Dion Sanderson, who could return in time for the playoffs.
Here’s how I think the Lads will line up.
As I have said for the last two or three games, the long run of matches without a clean sheet for Lee Burge is becoming a worry but there still remains no real contender for the number one shirt at this moment in time.
After being suspect for the goal conceded against Charlton, I also believe Burge was to blame for Luke O’Nien’s own goal on Saturday with the former Coventry stopper getting caught in no man’s land causing O’Nien, whose eyes were firmly on the ball, to head into his own net after a hopeful punt by Accrington’s ‘keeper.
Regardless of who you see as at fault for the away side’s equaliser on Saturday, the goal demonstrated the kind of miscommunication between Burge and his defenders that simply wouldn’t have happened during our winning run.
Despite this mistake, Burge will start tonight as he looks to play himself back into form before the end of the campaign.
RB: Power CB: Wright CB: O’Nien LB: Hume
Much like in goal, there aren’t many options for Lee Johnson to change things up at the back in response to conceding three goals at the weekend.
Despite conceding three, the two full-backs actually played quite well with Hume especially reminding us what it’s like to have a professional footballer playing at left-back. Both he and Max Power on the right will start again this evening.
It was Sunderland’s centre-backs that looked shaky against Accrington, with O’Nien’s own goal and Bailey Wright generally looking unfit all afternoon. However, as I’ve already mentioned, Lee Johnson simply doesn’t have the options required to change things in this position without throwing in a youngster, and in the case of Bailey Wright the only way for the Australian to improve is through game time and increasing his match fitness.
DM: Leadbitter CM: Winchester CM: Scowen
The main question for Lee Johnson going into tonight’s game is whether to play three midfielders in a 4-3-3 formation, or whether to continue with the double pivot that started the game on Saturday and use a 4-2-3-1 or 4-2-2-2 formation.
I’m going to predict that Johnson will go back to the shape that he used against Hull City this time last week, since the 4-3-3 is said to be his preferred formation and the decision to play two strikers at the weekend seemed to be down to Accrington’s back-three, a tactic which Blackpool aren’t expected to employ.
That means that Carl Winchester and Josh Scowen, who started on Saturday, will be joined by Grant Leadbitter in midfield, with Aiden O’Brien the man to make way in order to make the formation change.
Leadbitter didn’t have his greatest game when coming off the bench at the weekend, but the match situation changed significantly soon after his introduction as O’Nien’s own goal meant Sunderland were forced to push forward in search of a third goal.
RW: Gooch LW: McGeady ST: Wyke
With the exception of Aiden O’Brien making way for Grant Leadbitter in order to change formation, I can’t see any significant changes to the forward line which started against Accrington Stanley.
Lynden Gooch was arguably our best player until he was sacrificed in order to get an extra midfielder on the pitch, whilst Aiden McGeady is our most talented individual and starts whenever he is fit to do so.
Up front, Charlie Wyke bagged his 30th goal of the season and, unless rested or injured, will continue ahead of Ross Stewart until the end of the season.