Sunderland AFC Match Preview – Could Lynden Gooch do a job up front for Black Cats?

We take a look at who's in and who's out as Sunderland entertain Hull City on Good Friday

The Easter double fixture weekend brings massive decisions for Tony Mowbray this weekend as he has to decide which Easter Egg to eat first.

I jest, he’s clearly had his running order worked out for months, I think he’s going old school KitKat.

The bank holiday fun starts with Hull City visiting the Stadium of Light on Friday for the late kick off provided by our biggest fans, Sky Sports, then on to Cardiff City Monday.

Hull City has some famous supporters which bizarrely includes the late Dr Zhivago actor Omar Sharif, former Deputy Primer Minister and egg hating MP John Prescott, and 80s So Macho pop myth Sinitta.

Hull has also been the origin of some famous bands over the years such as Paul Heaton’s Housemartins, and The Beautiful South. So lets be hoping they’ll be no Happy Hour for the travelling fans, with the Black Cats being Good As Gold, and the Tigers Stupid As Mud.

The last time we faced Hull there was drama as Elliot Embleton managed to end his season with a broken leg while getting a red for a ninja-inspired tackle towards the head of Ryan Woods. It was also the game where the Lads welcomed the return of Ross Stewart who wasted no time in scoring following a delightful long ball from the classy Patrick Roberts.

There was a missed penalty for Hull and a trademark injury for the Lads, this time in the form of Danny Batth. Eventually the game ended 1-1 following an Ozan Tufan equaliser, which at the time, with ten men, wasn’t the worst result on the road.

Albeit improved under Liam Rosenior, the Tigers have somewhat struggled in their last ten outings and have been finding it difficult to maul anyone with their goal-shy approach to games of late. There have also been defensive errors that have gifted teams points, most notably against Reading when Geordie sick note Andy Carroll pounced following a defensive clash.

Rosenior will be hoping their top scorer Óscar Estupiñán (13 goals) will be available for selection after returning to training this week (back on grass no doubt). Behind him is no.10 Adama Traoré (not that one) who brings Champions League experience to their ranks and of late has been their most consistent player.

Undoubtedly a warm welcome will not be given to Hull goalkeeper Karl Darlow, who came in on loan from them lot up the road in the January window. The player to watch, who may threaten our youthful midfield is Jean Michaël Seri, who is the string-puller in the middle of the park that will look to open us up.

Fulham once shelled out 30m Shahid Khan fun tokens for the Ivorian international, but he subsequently arrived on Humberside last summer for gratis, which may suggest his best years are behind him.

For the Lads it’s very much a case of seeing who is fit on a game by game basis, as the injury crisis both short and long term continues, with the news that it looks like Niall Huggins season is over before it even began, adding the hamstring to his list of broken body parts.

After a game for the U21s and a sub appearance against Burnley, it’s with relief that we welcome back a fit and healthy Dennis Cirkin to resume his duties at left back. I wouldn’t expect to see Dan Ballard before the Huddersfield game at best, so expect the impressive, happy to be here, Luke O’Nien to continue alongside captain Danny Batth.

Dan Neil is absolutely goosed, so it’ll be interesting to see whether Mowbray trusts Pierre Ekwah to get his second professional start, and maybe bring Eduard Michut back in to play in that defensive midfield role. Mowbray may have accidentally let slip that the club are signing Michut after suggesting he has plans for the compact Frenchman and Abdoulah Ba next season.. or it may just be that our Tony is getting a little old and forgetful about his loanee.

And with tired legs in mind it feels like Mowbray is starting to use his subs more effectively, notably in the recent draws against Luton Town and Burnley, where the introduction of Isaac Lihadji, Ba and Amad Diallo stretched the opposition in the quest for three points.

Lynden Gooch has returned to the side looking really sharp, and if the open training session this week is anything to go by, our Tony may want to take a punt on him up front as an alternative to the out of sorts Joe Gelhardt. Call me a cynic, but it’s about this time of year that Gooch starts to play out of his skin, as summer contract negotiations draw closer.

Either way he is coming good when we need him most, and is our longest serving player in the current squad. With no recognised no.9, Gooch maybe that Perfect Ten we need.

Although I had personally written off promotion this season, six points this weekend would reinstall that dreaded hope.. you know, the one that hurts the most, the one that kills you.

I’m backing us to win, though I think it will be tight, maybe a 1-0, which will do just fine, leaving the Tigers fans wanting in their rainy bank holiday Caravan of Love. Ha’way the Lads!