Sunderland host eighth-placed Oxford United on Saturday, in the only fixture affecting the top half of League One, due to a rearrangement following international commitments. Imaginatively known as the U’s, much like their varsity boat race rivals Cambridge the lads played last time out, Oxford are seeking a play off status come full-time.
Managed as always by everyone’s favourite wannabe supergrass, Karl Robinson, who bucked the trend of his native Liverpool by threatening to call “the bizzy’s”.. until he realised half his team may get potted for affray.
This is of course in reference to the same fixture last season where there was alleged tunnel flare-ups at both half and full time. Lee Johnson warned Robinson to “be careful” as “.. there’s always two sides to any story”, which was some firmness I quite admired at the time from wee Lee.
Ironically, only the FA got involved, where at a hearing both sides were fined and Robinson got a six-match touchline ban for throwing his toys out of the pram over his player failing to con the ref for a free kick, and his part in the tunnel saga.
So what do we know about Oxford? Well they don’t travel very well, with only two wins on the road this season, at Sheffield Wednesday and Burton. Midfielder James Henry and striker Matty Taylor are their top scorers to date with six goals apiece, however the latter has not been in the last two matchday squads.
They will have no known left-backs available (sound familiar?) due to the suspension of Steve Seddon, which may force a reshuffle across the back. Potentially going to a back three, or maybe move over Sam Long from right back and keep their preferred shape.
As for the lads, I’d be loathed to change the team and shape that set up against Cambridge last week. Leon Dajaku is a risk learning on the job, and could be ousted by Elliot Embleton, however, in terms of shape, left wing back is not likely to play to Embo’s strengths.
He’s more likely to be used as a replacement for Alex Pritchard, who is forever being subbed off by Johnson. It’s another chance to see Nathan Broadhead and Ross Stewart up top together, a formula which surely yields the lads the most goals moving forward. And with a back three of Callum Doyle, a back to form Bailey Wright, and Tom Flanagan, things will hope to be tighter defensively in this relentless promotion campaign.
On paper there is not a lot between the two teams, but for the aforementioned cracks in the U’s away form, up against the leagues’ most comprehensive PPG performers on home soil (missing some grass of late). For that reason, despite the known injury limitations, I’m backing the lads for another home win, and Stewart to be back in the goals.
If any further motivation was needed to beat evil Karl Robinson’s men, lest we forget this is Stewart Donald’s boyhood team, and current county of residence.. you know what to do lads.