The Big Preview - Four ready to return after final & Jimi's prediction

Sunderland make the trip to Lancashire to play Accrington Stanley at the Wham Stadium (fantastic name) for the first time this season.

by James_Hall Wednesday, 17 March 2021 04:22 PM Comments

The Black Cats are riding high after tasting victory at Wembley for the first time in 48 years and will be hoping to keep their promotion push on track on Wednesday night with a win against John Coleman’s side.

 

The story so far…

Sweet, sweet overdue victory is the positive feeling lingering around the Sunderland faithful currently. After waiting 48 long years and having 8 cracks at the chance of emerging victorious at the national stadium, the Black Cats won on their 9th attempt.

It was far from a vintage performance and Tranmere were right in the mix throughout the 90, playing good football and keeping Sunderland on the back foot for long periods.

Both sides toiled away and created half chances, but neither goalkeeper was really tested in the first half and the players went in all level after 45 minutes.

The second half was a different affair all together. Charlie Wyke and Tranmere fullback Otis Khan both spurned opportunities to open the scoring, the latter driving a powerful shot at Burge who parried the danger away to keep things level.

It was the mercurial talents of Aiden McGeady which broke the deadlock after 55 minutes. The Republic of Ireland international threaded a beautiful, defence splitting pass through to Lynden Gooch. The Californian Messi seized his golden opportunity and calmly smashed the ball past Tranmere captain and goalkeeper Scott Davies to put the Black Cats 1-0 up with plenty of football left to play.

Tranmere did not let their heads drop and enjoyed the lions share of possession after going a goal down. The boys from Birkenhead, prodded and probed at the Black Cats defence and forced a couple of good saves out of Lee Burge, but overall the back four stood firm.

Resolute defending and calm heads helped Lee Johnson’s side to manage the remaining minutes of the game, with Sunderland fashioning a couple of attacks following the introduction of attacking outlet Jack Diamond.

Ultimately Tranmere could not find the goal which would have forced extra time. The referee blew his whistle and Sunderland were lifting a cup as champions and despite no fans being in attendance, it’s safe to say that a fair few North East living rooms were alive to the sounds and scenes of jubilant celebration.

We’ve waited long enough and wasted enough chances to achieve this in the past, we’re certainly going to enjoy this one.

 

Stanley…

Accrington were looking like the surprise package of the season. They have won 14 of their 33 games so far and find themselves within touching distance of the playoffs, something which many would not have considered possible at the start of the season.

John Coleman has made consistent progress at the Lancashire club during his second stint in charge and is hoping that his players can kick on and achieve the playoffs this year, something well within his grasp with the gap between Accrington and sixth placed Charlton standing at 5 points.

Accrington find themselves in a bit of a rough patch and have only managed a solitary win in their last 7 games, a 2-1 victory over Swindon Town.

They went head to head with MK Dons in their previous fixture and threw away a point in injury time during what was a high scoring game.

The Dons grabbed the opener in the sixth minute and followed this up with a second after half time. Stanley striker Dion Charles replied two minutes later and then saw an individual error gift them their second, Dons player Andrew Surman slicing a clearance into his own net from a corner.

Agonisingly for Accrington, they could not see the game out and the Dons scored the winning goal in injury time through an O’Riley header to put the game to bed at 3-2 for the hosts.

 

What might happen…

I suppose the first topic of discussion should be the injury issues facing both teams. Sunderland’s appear to be easing somewhat and we could see the return of Bailey Wright, positive news after losing Tom Flanagan to injury yet again after he played bit part roles in the last two games. We should see Jordan Jones and Aiden O’Brien back in contention after they missed out on Sunday, while Winchester and Sanderson are available after being cup tied for the final.

Accrington have a number of injury issues throughout the team including captain Seamus Conneely, striker Colby Bishop, and defender Ross Sykes whose absences are giving John Coleman a headache. Top scorer Dion Charles is available and he has notched an admirable 16 goals for Accrington this season. Midfielder Matt Butcher is the next most dangerous player available but he has only contributed 2 goals and 3 assists, nothing to write home about in the grand scheme of things.

After watching Stanley’s last few games the biggest thing that stands out is just how poor their defence is currently. It is ponderous and panicky and is easily dragged out of shape by a little bit of skill or pace. They are particularly vulnerable to crosses into the box, conceding a number of times against Mk Dons from balls coming in from out wide. Against Bristol Rovers they failed to close the opposition down when they were in or around the box which allowed them to get shots off with ease. The goalkeeper is prone to an error when dealing with anything aerial and there is a general lack of cohesion throughout the team at the moment, something which is exemplified by a pass accuracy of 62% and 59% in their last two games.

We all know how Sunderland play and what we’re best at. If we supply McGeady and Jones with the ball in space we know they cause chaos with their pace and trickery. McGeady has actually scored in his last four games against Accrington and Sunderland have scored 3 goals in each of their last three visits to the Wham Stadium. A statistic that Lee Johnson will surely be hoping continues on Wednesday night.

Charlie Wyke needs no introduction and his form has rightly brought admirers from the league above he has been so good. Expect the big forward man from Boro to relish the opportunity to create himself space and scoring chances against a defence which has leaked 10 goals in its last 4 games.

 

H2H - Accrington 1-3 Sunderland (Sep 2019), Accrington 1-3 ( League Cup Aug 2019), Accrington 0-3 (Apr 2019), Sunderland 2-2 Accrington (Feb 2019), Accrington 1-1 Sunderland (Dec 2018 - Abandoned due to a waterlogged pitch midway through the second half)

 

Jimi’s prediction

Another Sunderland win of course. We are a hard team to score against at the moment and we have the best defence in the league. Our front three are on fire and should enjoy some space and time against a defence which has taken a pasting in their last two fixtures.

I’m going for a 3-0 win with big Charlie to get on the score sheet and McGeady to maintain his scoring record by grabbing a goal as well. The Scot that plays for Ireland has looked hungry to get back amongst the scorers the last few times he’s played and he’s due a goal. The Sanderson/O’Nien partnership seems to go from strength to strength with every 90 they clock up together and they should stand firm against an attack which is missing two of its best players in Colby Bishop and Joe Pritchard.

Ha’way the Lads!