Sunderland Preview: Accrington have started well but we have nothing to fear

Sunderland face Accrington Stanley this weekend in a top of the table clash - Richard Easterbrook previews the action

We haven’t kicked a ball in two weeks and we’re still top of the league.

Either we’re great, or this league is an absolute clown car this season, or it’s somewhere in the middle. We’ll take it anyway.

As a result of our early-season domination, Lee Johnson has been crowned Manager of the Month so, as football folklore dictates, this instantly results in the recipient having incredibly bad luck and the form crashing to an end.

Luckily for us, Johnson has an excellent reputation for consistency across a season, so I’m confident this will be totally fine.

Somehow, Accrington Stanley have started well too, and find themselves level on points with us. Victory for either side will cement a place at the summit of the embryonic League One table with at least a point advantage over the chasing pack.

Compared to Sunderland, Accrington have played one more game, and arguably had an easier run of fixtures to get where they are.

After losing their opening-day fixture at Wycombe Wanderers, Stanley picked up victories over Cambridge, Doncaster, Crewe and Shrewsbury, with a defeat at MK Dons in the middle of those. They’ve scored six goals but shipped five.

Of course, that’s not to say it won’t be a tricky fixture. Accrington are well-organised under long-term manager John Coleman and they have some decent players, including top scorer Matt Butcher and Colby Bishop, whose name reminds me of a service station on the M5.

For Sunderland, there’s some big decisions for Johnson to make. Our deadline-day signings Ron-Thorben Hoffmann and Leon Dajaku will both be available for selection, while Denver Hume’s new contract will put him into contention for the first time this season.

What we do have now is competition for places across the squad and two options for every position, without us having to change our shape or way of playing. We’re moving the ball from back to front with a zip not really seen under either Jack Ross and certainly not Phil Parkinson. We’ve strengthened our weakest points and on the face of it, it looks like we’re capable of dealing with the rigours of a long old slog in League One as autumn changes to winter and midweeks start stacking up.

The only concern is that after two weeks without a game, the momentum we’ve done so well to generate might not be there. But it’s a small concern and I doubt it’d be enough to derail our chances this weekend.

Richard Easterbrook