Sunderland AFC Preview – Let’s make it two from two as the fightback continues at Charlton

Jonny Lambert takes a look at both sides as Sunderland travel to Charlton Athletic this weekend

You can’t think of Charlton Athletic without feeling instant play-off heartbreak, whether it be the wandering Lionel Perez of 1998 or more recently the 2019 “lets not bother turning up” Wembley failure. To say we owe this club an absolute decade of hidings is an understatement, so lets take a look at whether some of that overdue revenge can be served up this weekend.

I last went to the Valley in 2019 on a bitter winters day in south London, where I had the displeasure of having Stewart Donald sat but a few rows behind me in a hooded parker that looked more Blazin’ Squad than Liam Gallagher. We were also treated to a first appearance from Juan Sartori, who was sharper dressed to be fair, but striding up the away end steps like Wolf of Wall Street announcing he’s staying on to save the company.

As for the game, we drew 1-1 with Luke O’Nien opening the scoring with an outstanding volley on the right hand side of the box, before an inevitable equaliser in Jack “1-1 draw” Ross’s debut season. We did have a chance to nick all three points, however Duncan Watmore jibbed a gilt-edged chance in injury time.. if only it had fell to Josh Maja.

Remarkably Fullwell 73’s perfect STID opening narrative, where Lyndon Gooch’s diving header started a new era in League One with a 2-1 win against Charlton.. was the last time we beat the south London club! Last season at the Valley we drew 0-0 with a performance from Danny Graham having every Quest viewer across the land pondering whether the striker was involved in some sort of far east spread betting syndicate for open goals missed in one game.

This season the odds were defied as a languishing Charlton side came to fortress Stadium of Light, and inflicted the lads first home loss of the season owing to a Jaydon Stockley header, and a cowardly performance from referee Darren Drysdale. This gave a new caretaker manager bounce for Johnnie Jackson who replaced the sacked Nigel Adkins the previous week.

Charlton have been owned by Danish businessman Thomas Sandgaard since 2018, who has been quite open in suggesting they have the third biggest player budget in the league, which suggests he has ambitions with the south London club. However they’ve been quite the basket case of a club over the last 10-15 years will multiple owners, failed takeover attempts, and high manager turnover, for a former Premier League team operating in League One.. sounds really familiar that?

Charlton currently sit 16th in the table, some 19 points off the play offs and eight points clear of safety, leaving their season in danger of petering out until the end of next month. They are currently on a bad run of form having lost their last five league fixtures, all against top eight sides in their defence, but a torrid run all the same.

They’ve had bad luck with injuries having been without strikers Conor Washington and Jaydon Stockley, leaving them goal-shy for the last three fixtures. Stockley is their leading scorer with 14 and he’s been missed since December, though Jackson was able to bring him off the bench last time out against Sheffield Wednesday.

Attacking threat Chuks Aneke was re-signed in January but he is also now injured, having not featured since his goal against Bolton last month. Skipper Ryan Innis is also out injured, so midfielder Alex Gilbey will continue to lead the side in his absence. George Dobson and Adam Matthews are former Sunderland players that will feature for the Addicks, though the latter may be struggling after an early bath last time out. Midfielder Sean Clare serves the last of a three match ban after seeing red against Oxford United.

The lads will be hoping for back to back wins, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Alex Neil goes with the same side that did so well at the DW Stadium last weekend. I’d imagine Arbenit Xhemajli will remain as long as he’s recovered well from his first 90 minutes, and there appears to be no sign of Anthony Patterson relinquishing the gloves anytime soon.

The only real considerations would be if Dan Neil is well rested enough to replace Corry Evans, but with the Northern Ireland international currently captaining the side, it’s unlikely he’ll be dropped. The other is whether Jack Clarke gets ago after a string of impressive performances off the bench, if so, Elliot Embleton would be most likely to make way. No suspensions or fresh injury worries, so another week closer to the much anticipated return of Nathan Broadhead.

Charlton’s form, injuries and lack of goal threat would suggest a reinvigorated Sunderland to be favourites for this encounter, but that was supposed to be the case the last time these two met, and we all know how that ended. The signs are there that Alex Neil is close to getting what he wants out of his team, so let’s be hoping it’s two from two come Saturday night.