Saturday will be one hell of a test for the Lads and gives our team a chance to cement their promotion credentials in front of a home crowd.
The story so far
Sunderland will be full of confidence after despatching Championship outfit Blackpool 3-0 on Tuesday night down at Bloomfield Road.
Lee Johnson fielded a much changed side with fringe players and new arrivals given a chance to show what they can bring to the squad.
Aiden O’Brien was in majestic form, bagging himself a hat trick for his efforts but he could easily have scored even more.
New recruits Niall Huggins and Fredrick Alves were given their first starts and acquitted themselves well, while Jack Diamond attempted to prove to Lee Johnson that he should stay on Wearside rather than loaning him out.
Huggins looks to be a real player and he caused Blackpool all sorts of problems down the right hand side. The Wales youngster has pace to burn and is comfortable taking on players in front of him, despite a few defensive wobbles in the first half.
The Tangerines opened the scoring through Shayne Lavery following some clever interplay down the left hand side.
But the lead didn’t last long with O’Brien latching onto a wonderful through ball from Dan Neill and finishing smartly to the keepers left.
Sunderland took the lead midway through the second half, O’Brien again the scorer after his shot took a deflection off a Blackpool player and into the net.
It looked like that would be enough to win the game until Blackpool substitute Josh Bowler levelled the scores in the 87th minute.
Many fans, myself included, thought that we would be put through a nerve shredding penalty shootout against a team that had done the double over us last season.
Cue Aidan O’Brien. The big man finished what was an entertaining bit of play from Diamond on the right.
The young academy product carried the ball up the right hand side of the pitch before skinning his man and cutting inside.
He then lifted a cross over the top of the scrambling opposition defence to find O’Brien who calmly struck the ball into the back of the goal, much to the devastation of the onlooking home fans.
Overall it was O’Brien’s night and he was a joy to watch. He intelligently cut in from the left and his work rate was outstanding, the man just relentlessly roams around the pitch looking for space and making runs. He was such a nuisance to the Blackpool back four and has certainly staked a claim for his inclusion in the first IX.
Special mention must go to Dan Neill whose perfect through ball pass to O’Brien for the first goal can only be described as a piece of footballing beauty. Hopefully there’s more to come from the young starlet.
Wycombe have started the season well and remain undefeated in all competitions.
Gareth Ainsworth’s side have only dropped two points thanks to a draw at Wigan and remain a point ahead of the Black Cats in the table.
They beat last seasons defeated playoff finalists Lincoln by scoring the games only goal in the 3rd minute and then followed that up with a penalty win over Stevenage in the Carabao Cup.
They will be looking to make it as difficult as possible for the hosts this afternoon and Ainsworth’s side know every trick in the book to make that possibility a reality.
What to expect
Wycombe play some of the most frustrating football you ever will see. They slow the game down, are masters at the tactical foul and will try to beat the opposition up using their physicality.
They play a back 5 with two up top and will attempt to dominate the midfield while they look to go direct to big target men like Sam Vokes, Gary Mcleary and club stalwart Adebayo Akinfenwa.
Former Sunderland player Josh Scowen also returns to the Stadium of Light after joining the Chairboys following his release in the summer. He will be tasked with pressing Sunderland and attempting to break up our possession based gameplay.
Sunderland need to be ruthless as they were against Blackpool and we cannot be sucked into Wycombe’s niggly, stop start style of play.
Getting our best passers on the ball such as Embleton, Pritchard and Neill will be essential if we are to give our attackers the space they need to cause some damage.
Ross Stewart will hold the ball up which will give a chance for our wingers to find some space and look to receive the ball from our midfielders.
It is integral that Lee Johnson’s side play with pace and guile in order to combat the Wycombe back 5. If play in the final third is slow and ponderous it will be difficult to break the Chairboys down at the back and create decent scoring opportunities.
We must be aware of the threat the pose on the counter and Sunderland will need to be diligent and organised if we lose possession.
Captain Cory Evans could well be fit enough to return and if he does his intelligence and experience in the middle of the pitch will bring a huge boost to the team.
I’m going for 2-0 Sunderland.
We’ve certainly struggled in the past against Wycombe, but there was also the wonderful 4-0 win on the 11th January last year which gives us plenty of hope and proof that we can triumph.