The story so far
Sunderland fans were left disappointed on Saturday after watching the Lads throw away a 2-0 lead away to Fleetwood in the final 10 minutes of the game.
A Ross Stewart header and an Aiden McGeady penalty saw the Black Cats head into the final minutes of the game with a comfortable 2 goal cushion.
Lee Johnson’s side seemed nailed on to be taking all 3 points back to Wearside with the end of regular time in sight.
Cue a lapse in concentration from experienced centre back Bailey Wright which allowed the tricky Callum Morton to grab a goal on the 81st minute and it was game on for the Cod Army.
The Sunderland manager brought on Fredrick Alves and changed the formation to a back tree as we’ve seen him do in all of his league games so far this season, with the exception of Burton when Sunderland were chasing an equaliser for the last half an hour.
The home side peppered Hoffman’s goal with crosses and corners as the assistant referee indicated that there would be a minimum of 5 minutes added time.
It was in the 7th minute of added time that Wright made another mistake, tugging on the shirt of a Fleetwood attacker as the two sides tussled during a corner and the referee awarded a very soft penalty.
Gerard Garner coolly slotted home, sending Hoffmann the wrong way to equalise at the death and ensure that a point remained on the West coast.
Sunderland responded to the disappointment in clinical fashion against Wigan in the Carabao Cup, the team which had just usurped Sunderland from the summit of the league on goal difference.
The Lads cantered to a well-deserved victory despite making 8 changes to the starting line up.
A first goal for Everton loanee Nathan Broadhead put the Lads ahead in the 26th minute, with Luke O’Nien finding his shooting boots to complete the scoring in the 54th.
A clean sheet and excellent performances all round, especially from debutant Leon Dajaku and new signing Niall Huggins, was well deserved on an evening where the Wearsiders dominated their opposition and promotion rivals.
It is reassuring that the Fleetwood result does indeed seem to be a blip, if the Wigan game is anything to go by.
Bolton make the trip from West to East to take on Sunderland at the Stadium of Light and Ian Evatt’s side will be looking to bounce back after suffering defeat at the hands of Rotherham.
The Trotters were promoted from League 2 last season, just pipping Morecambe to the final automatic promotion spot by a single point.
They’ve carried some of that momentum into their League One campaign this season, with notable results against Oxford, Lincoln and a 5-2 away drubbing of Ipswich.
Unfortunately for the Trotters, they followed up the Ipswich win with a 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Rotherham thanks to 2 goals inside of 3 minutes from Ben Wiles.
This has left Bolton in the very respectable position of being 8th in the table with one eye on the play off places.
What could go down?
Bolton like to play out from the back and encourage their full backs to push up the pitch to provide width.
Left winger Oladapo Afolayan is particularly dangerous due to his ability to carry the ball past defenders and has already scored 4 goals this season.
Journeyman striker Eoin Doyle is a reliable presence up front and has scored three goals and provided an assist so far.
The flipside to all of this attacking play is that Bolton often leave themselves exposed at the back and have conceded 12 goals, the joint third worst defence in the league.
Sunderland could see some personnel changes, with Cory Evans due to come back into the side at the expense of Dan Neil.
The academy product has done nothing wrong, but Evan’s cool head and experience has been missing during the last 20 minutes of matches.
Alex Pritchard was untouchable on Tuesday against Wigan and is definitely pushing for a start.
This could mean Embleton or McGeady being moved to the right wing to accommodate the former Huddersfield and Norwich man, with Lynden Gooch proving to be inconsistent and at times frustrating this season.
Nathan Broadhead and Niall Huggins deserve to be involved in some capacity as well, but they are currently behind two of the most in form and consistent players in the squad at the moment in Ross Stewart and Winiesta.
Again Sunderland will move the ball up the pitch using our wide players and try to use movement and trickery in and around the box to open up chances for our goal scorers to take advantage of.
Lee Johnson’s Sunderland side seem to perform particularly well against teams who like to keep the ball on the grass and play and Bolton certainly fit that description.
The Sunderland squad is stacked with tricky, technical players who should be able to get the better of their Wigan counterparts and the battle between Winiesta and Afolayan will be an exciting one to watch.
Sunderland 3-1 Bolton.
Due to Bolton’s leaky defence I expect the Lads to grab a few goals, Ross Stewart and McGeady providing two of them.
A clean sheet would be nice but we need to see if lessons from Accrington, Wycombe and Fleetwood have been learned and implemented.