Sunderland AFC Preview – Let’s make the best of home advantage against Fleetwood Town

Jonny Lambert takes a look at both sides going into Tuesday's clash at the Stadium of Light

It’s the return of Tuesday night lights this week as Sunderland host the Cod Army themselves Fleetwood Town, as we enter those championship rounds of this seasons promotion fight. And if we forget the Lincoln game, the lads have been excellent once the sun goes down serving up multiple 5-0 drubbings on home turf.. lets look and see how likely that is this time around.

Well the good news is Fleetwood’s new year form has been as repugnant as ours, and unlike us, they are still stuck in a rut of losses and draws. Randomly, Fleetwood beat league leaders Rotherham on 15th January but it’s all be downhill since then. It’ll come as no surprise that wins have been impossible for Fleetwood to find since they kindly sold Jay Matete to ourselves on deadline day, and much like Luton selling Carlos Edwards back in 2007, we thank very much.. very very very much.

Unsurprisingly the latest version of Fleetwood Town have very little honours to their name, just the League Two Play-Off Final trophy to be exact. They achieved this in 2014 when they clinched promotion at Wembley owing to a Antoni Sercevic free kick to beat Burton Albion 1-0. Since then they’ve stuck around in League One, and in the Covid-19 season benefited from an early finish to land a play-off place. They eventually lost out 6-3 on aggregate to Wycombe, who were the main beneficiaries of the ridiculous decision to call a halt to the season so early.. a small consolation being that Gareth Ainsworth is slightly more palatable than scouse convict Joey Barton.

This season Fleetwood currently sit in 15th place under manager Stephen Crainey who replaced former Sunderland manager Simon Grayson at the back end of 2021. The previous season the club let their all time league leading goal scorer Paddy Madden go, in a financially led decision to free up budget, as the frontman went to conference outfit Stockport County.

Their leading scorer is currently Gerard Garner with just eight goals, followed by captain Danny Andrew with six from full back. Paddy Lane and Ellis Harrison are striking options, supported by midfielder Josh Harrup on loan from Championship outfit Preston North End. Dan Butterworth will be a player to watch if he gets a start for the Cod Army, the forward has come in on loan from Blackburn Rovers, as is Carl Johnston who is a lively operator. Joe Garner will miss the game as he is still serving a suspension following his red card against Wigan for reaching second base with James McClean.

For the lads it was another clean sheet last time out at Charlton, which shows signs that Alex Neil is making us harder to beat. I can’t see the back four changing, as Arbenit Xhemajli and Bailey Wright are forming a decent partnership together, and there aren’t many other full back options as Neil has gone on record to say that Trai Hume is very much not a senior player at this stage.

The positive from Saturday was the welcome and surprise early return of Nathan Broadhead, marred only by the injury to Alex Pritchard owing to the clumsy floppy-haired excuse for a midfielder, George Dobson. Pritchard left the ground on crutches and it doesn’t look good for him playing the rest of this season. But let’s not drown in negativity, we have attacking options as the aforementioned Broadhead is back, there is Patrick Roberts, Jack Clarke.. and dare I say it Aiden McGeady. We may also have Luke O’Nien back in contention.

I’d like to see Neil release the handbrake and give wingers Clarke and Roberts a go, especially as the latter has been requesting game time in the U23’s to be ready. We know Neil likes to have defensive qualities in all his players, and maybe these two are a little too attack minded for him to play from the start. Wins are very much needed now, but wins on home soil are a must.

Neil has already shown he can organise a team, and from selection it is already clear he has a group of players he trusts. I expect a good win for the lads here, and hopefully a few other results going our way.