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Bolton Wanderers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Starting XI: So... will Mike Dodds pick the right team at the second time of asking?

Saturday’s team selection stuffed up our automatic promotion chances... will we get it right tonight?

Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images

It’s been well documented over the past few days, but Saturday’s line up was just wrong. Every single supporter thought ‘what?!’ when the starting XI was announced at 2pm, and surely the temporary management team have cottoned on and don’t give people yet another chance to try to rectify the situation.

Here’s how I hope we’ll line up today.


Goalkeeper: Thorben Hoffmann

Hoffmann has been pretty dodgy recently – I thought he should have done better with both Doncaster goals – and in an ideal world you’d take him out of the team for a few weeks.

However, with Burge unfit our choices are limited.

Patterson showed in his recent outings he’s miles off too, so it’ll be Hoffmann to start.

Doncaster Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One - Keepmoat Stadium
Hoffmann is fortunate there’s no viable alternative at present
Photo by Isaac Parkin/PA Images via Getty Images

Defence: Trai Hume, Danny Batth, Callum Doyle, Dennis Cirkin

You could make a valid case for dropping all of the back five that played on Saturday, but given we decided it would be a great idea to flog a defender and rely on two centre backs with injury records as long as your arm our selection choices are limited again – especially given Batth’s poor displays and Doyle looking in need of a rest.

I’ve heard people say ‘we never win with a back four’, which is nonsense - we only started deploying something resembling a five as a result of injury just before Christmas.

Five certainly doesn’t suit Dennis Cirkin – and it didn’t suit Carl Winchester on Saturday either. So, rather than shoe-horning players into positions that don’t suit them, I hope we revert to a four, and get our only fit, recognised right back, Trai Hume, in from the off.

Sunderland v Doncaster Rovers - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light
Cirkin isn’t suited to playing wing back
Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Midfield: Jay Matete, Corry Evans

Matete was a rare shining light on Saturday, and simply has to start.

We’ve lacked the ability to get on the ball regularly and Matete showed a willingness we’ve not seen all season to dictate play. Dan Neil’s gone right off the boil, and he could benefit from a spell out of the team – it’s understandable, given the amount of football he’s played.

With Matete paired with Evans it should – in theory at least – give us a bit more solidity in midfield. Evans has been disappointing – he’s not showing himself to be the leader we need as yet, and you could make an argument for Winchester starting against his former club, but I suspect that would be a change too far.

Sunderland Unveil New Signing Jay Matete
Will Matete start?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Attacking midfield: Patrick Roberts, Alex Pritchard, Jack Clarke

It’s the attacking trio that should have started on Saturday, and will surely start tonight.

Gooch and Embleton were off form again on Saturday (I think Gooch actually did a bit better than some of his critics suggest, while Embleton is looking more and more like a luxury we simply cannot afford).

Roberts and Clarke simply have to play. Pritchard was the only starter to emerge with any credit on Saturday, and he’s vitally important to how we play.

Bolton Wanderers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Will Jack Clarke get a start today?
Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images

Striker: Ross Stewart

Rumours are he’s carrying a knock, but fingers crossed he’s fit enough to start today – Defoe is more than capable of playing up front by himself, as we’ve seen before, but fitness will be an issue for him at present.

Again, we failed to bring in a like for like replacement for Stewart in the transfer window, so if he is out it’d likely be Clarke or Dajaku who’d get a run out in the number 9 position tonight.

Sunderland v Doncaster Rovers - Sky Bet League One
Stewart should have been given a goal on Saturday
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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