Tom Flanagan and Dylan McGeouch came through the full 90 unscathed and made decent impacts. Charlie Wyke and Jerome Sinclair got vital minutes into their legs while academy graduate Denver Hume impressed playing on the right despite being a left back by trade.
As expected McGeady and Watmore remain unavailable for selection while Adam Matthews and Glenn Loovens could return after recovering from knocks. Max Power misses out as he sits out the first game of his 3 match ban after receiving a Red for a reckless tackle in the Oxford game last weekend.
What are the options?
Jack Ross has a number of selection headaches to contend with, especially with Wyke looking better with each game he plays. It would be harsh to drop Josh Maja who hasn’t put a foot wrong since being asked to lead the line as Sunderland’s only available centre forward at the start of the season. Perhaps Chris Maguire could do with a rest, he hasn’t been as effective in recent games but he is by far the best set piece taker in the squad.
Club Captain George Honeyman could drop into a more box to box role in which he has made some impact already this season. This would allow Jack Ross to give Maguire a free roaming central role which he excelled in against Scunthorpe.
But then where would Dylan McGeouch fit in?
The Scot has looked a cut above when he has came on as a sub and there isn’t another player in the squad who performs how he does in the deep lying schemer role. In short he starts our attacks and stops the oppositions, which would be invaluable for a Sunderland side who haven’t looked their most creative recently. He seems the most obvious replacement for Power.
Tom Flanagan was instrumental in Sunderland’s excellent pre-season form but was unlucky to be struck down with injury before the season began. He performed well against Stoke U21’s at the heart of defense alongside the Turkish wardrobe Ozturk, but with Loovens returning, who takes the coveted second spot at centre back alongside the ever consistent Jack Baldwin?
That brings us to full backs. Hume was widely praised for his impressive showing at right back on Tuesday night, defending intelligently and attacking aggressively. Ross singled the youngster out for his performance so could we see him make his league debut? Watching him cut in and have a shot with his left was certainly something Sunderland haven’t had at their disposal from right back for a number of seasons. With Brian Oviedo away on international duty, that leaves Reece James, Donald Love and the returning Matthews to battle it out with Hume for the starting places. James offers the most like for like replacement for Oviedo and Love has looked like an accident waiting to happen in his last few games. The fans do seem to like Matthews as he usually offers a consistent presence on the right.
Joey Barton on the other hand seems to know what his best team is and they seem to be improving with each passing game. A clear understanding of how they want to play coupled with Barton’s never-take-a-backwards-step stubbornness has allowed a cleverly assembled squad to punch above its weight.
Loaning striker Ched Evans from Sheffield United has proved a stroke of genius, he has thrived in Barton’s system scoring five and assisting three. So expect a familiar line up from the Cod Army because if its not broke don’t fix it. Wes Burns starting a three match ban for a red card picked up in his last league outing will impact the team as Fleetwood don’t have the greatest strength in depth, something Sunderland should exploit.
The team selection
All things considered, I think the team Ross will pick against Fleetwood will look something like this (let me know if you think differently in the comments!);
McLaughlin, Hume, James, Loovens, Baldwin, Cattermole, McGeouch, Honeyman, Gooch, Maja, Wyke