When you look at the results since we last started a game with a striker – won one, drawn three, lost three, seven goals scored, 11 conceded – you can instantly see how much the loss of Ross Stewart and Ellis Simms has affected us.
It doesn’t tell the whole story, of course. Last Saturday’s defeat to Burnley came as a result of the team running out of steam, we were robbed by the officials at Blackburn and both Preston and Blackpool came to the Stadium of Light to strangle the game.
So, it’s nice to have Ellis Simms back at least today – but will he be thrown straight back into the starting XI? Here’s what we think Tony Mowbray might do today.
Goalkeeper: Anthony Patterson
Patterson will probably feel he could have done better last weekend with one or two of Burnley’s goals, but will rightly continue between the sticks today.
Defence: Trai Hume, Luke O’Nien, Danny Batth, Dennis Cirkin
Hume got his first start of the season on Saturday, and did well in the first half before going a similar way to everyone else after half time. O’Nien and Batth will most likely continue in defence, supported by Cirkin on the other flank.
Midfield: Dan Neil, Corry Evans
Given the manager doesn’t think Ba or Michut are ready for a start, then we’ll see the same again in the centre of midfield. This is becoming a bit of a frustration for me – Ba, in particular, has looked excellent when he’s come on, and had been playing regularly at first team level before we signed him. Dan Neil and Elliot Embleton have struggled for any consistency this season, but Mowbray’s persevering with both rather than give the new lads a chance.
Attackers: Amad, Alex Pritchard, Elliot Embleton, Jack Clarke
So, Ellis Simms to start? Not for me – but I would expect to see him get a 30-minute cameo from the bench, regardless of how the game’s going. I think we need to be sensible with him, and chucking him straight back in there isn’t smart. With question marks over Roberts’ fitness, too, I suspect we’ll see the same as last weekend, with Jack Clarke spending most of his time centrally, and Amad doing his thing on the right-hand side. I’d like to see Bennette start out on the left-hand side rather than Embleton drifting out there – with five subs available the risk of giving someone a start is far less than it was previously – but again, Mowbray seems to have ruled that option out, in the short term at least.