21 October 2020 00:30
A big weekend for our League leader Jack as he doubles the lead at the top to four points after correctly predicting a 2-0 victory for The Lads at Swindon Town. It was also a big weekend at the bottom of the table as Phil lifted himself off the bottom by also correctly predicting the final score at the County Ground. The remaining four members of our panel all picked up a point for predicting a Sunderland win, although amazingly, nobody went for Charlie Wyke to grab our first goal to collect the bonus point. Sunderland have looked a polished and well-drilled side this season, what they lack in attacking flair they make up for in defensive organisation. I've already decided I'll be backing any team that includes Bailey Wright at the heart of defence for a clean sheet, and with two goals in the last game I can see a single goal victory this time around for Parky's men.
Chris Maguire played as a second striker on Saturday, and if he continues to play that high up the pitch he's sure to bag a number of goals this season. After a solid but unspectacular away victory at Swindon, I'm expecting Phil to rotate the squad and bring Danny Graham in. I'm hoping Graham sees the challenge for starting berths and grabs it with both hands. We will not go up without multiple scoring strikers, so Grigg, Graham and O'Brien need to step up to follow in Charlie Wyke's footsteps, a statement I really didn't expect to be saying this season. Hopefully we will have Denver Hume back as we missed his pace and creativity on the left, and we will have both Flanagan and Sanderson available as well to give Parkinson a nice selection problem.
Nevertheless, it was a 2-0 win where we were barely out of first gear, and yet another clean sheet with a makeshift defence. Oh, and Charlie Wyke scored! Given that we had an already depleted backline, it was concerning to see Willis forced off early on with what I hope is not a serious injury. It's another one of the new boys up next, with Crewe making the journey north with a familiar face in their squad. Former Sunderland striker Mikael Mandron has had a decent start for his new side, with five goals in seven games in all competitions. He scored twice against us for Gillingham last season, and I have no doubt he'll grab another one tonight. I'm in two minds about what will happen against Crewe, but my gut says we'll continue our unbeaten run with Danny Graham notching first for the lads. Jack Howe-Gingell predicts... It feels like a very similar situation as our previous game against Swindon, in the sense that we have to be winning these sorts of games comfortably to go up automatically. It will be a different sort of game with Crewe appearing to be more solid than Swindon, conceding only four goals so far in the League, though their form has been pretty mixed. Our old adversary Mikael Mandron has chipped in with three goals in the league, plus two in the 'whatever they're calling it this season' trophy. Ironically, he would have been a good signing for us with our style of play, and was available for nothing. Our makeshift back line performed admirably against Swindon and the availability of Tom Flanagan and Dion Sanderson can only boost that. We showed a ruthlessness last time out and it was good to see Charlie Wyke among the goals. The key factor was the return of Chris Maguire, providing some quality and guile to our front line hence my backing of him opening our scoring. Another solid win beckons, though I'm not expecting anything astronomical from the score line. We are the tightest defence in the whole of the football league, and long may it continue. Score Prediction: Sunderland 3 - 1 Crewe Alexandra Sunderland's first goalscorer: Chris Maguire After not seeing any substitutions from Parky until the closing minutes, after the forced change of Jordan Willis, I am not sure what his thoughts are going into this game with us already pretty light at the back. If Hume is ready to return and Willis is fit I don't think we will concede, however the uncertainty has led me to believe we'll register a similar result to Saturday. A game we should run, pounce on the mistakes of a young, newly-promoted team, and shithouse our way to a victory. Our team seem more streetwise this year, playing the game and not just hoping that Premier League wages means wins in this division. We haven't seen a game where we have taken all of our chances nor scored more than two in the league, but this is the game I think we can put away what we have and show what we are made of. I'm really excited by the way the team is working and is able to see out every game. With Flanagan back, Willis a doubt and Hume maybe back, we could see our normal first XI out but if not, we do have strength in depth as we showed at Swindon and new boy Dion Sanderson could get involved. This would be a shame as we would lose the influence Leadbitter has had in front of the back three controlling the tempo of our play and Dobson hasn't looked as composed with the ball at his feet so far this year. We have some momentum now, and I'm hoping we have the drive to keep that up! Score Prediction: Sunderland 4-0 Crewe Alexandra Sunderland's first goalscorer: Charlie Wyke Saturday's result – and our ability to maintain that defensive solidarity despite playing the majority of the game with only two of our back five playing (and only one of them in their regular position) – should give everyone a bit of reassurance. Against Crewe – another newly promoted team – we need to capitalise on our good start to the season; and I'm hoping that we're going to do it in style. Whether Denver Hume and Jordan Willis will be fit remains to be seen; Gooch and McLaughlin deputised well on Saturday and hopefully they'll do so again. I may be in a minority, but I'm beginning to enjoy watching Parkinson's Sunderland. The 'Parky Ball' comments are lazy and tiresome; the football we play is, in spells, pretty good (check out any of the passing maps from recent games if you still think we're playing long ball football) and it's been years since we've seen a team as well set up and structured as we are watching now. Yes, it's pragmatic, and yes, it's still a work in progress – particularly in the final third – but the signs are there that we're building a very good League One team. So, for that reason I'm going for a convincing win that will really set us up for a charge to the top of the table. Sunderland extended their unbeaten start to the League One season courtesy of a 1-0 win over Crewe at the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats got the break much of their dominant display deserved when Crewe defender Luke Offord headed Lynden Gooch's cross into his own net in stoppage time at the end of the first half. Before that Sunderland had controlled possession and created a number of chances, although not many of those were clear-cut. The best of those saw Max Power fire an effort at goalkeeper Will Jaaskelainen after some neat build-up play and linking up with Charlie Wyke. Crewe, who had not lost their previous three league games, did show some nice touches themselves but struggled to make inroads towards Sunderland's goal. It meant Sunderland goalkeeper Lee Burge, who did not have a serious save to make, can still take pride in boasting the best defensive record in the country so far this season after conceding just once. Sunderland still had more chances. The best saw Bailey Wright somehow head over from close range and Chris Maguire was denied by the strong hand of Jaaskelainen. Crewe battled away without success late on in the hope of landing an equaliser. Denver Hume has returned to the team to give unbeaten Sunderland a nice boost ahead of this evening's visit of Crewe Alexandra to the Stadium of Light. Hume is expected to return to the left flank after recovering from the knee injury that prevented him from facing Swindon Town on Saturday. That means Lynden Gooch looks set to swap flanks, with Luke O'Nien set to deputise again as part of the three-man defence because of injuries. The foot injury that forced Jordan Willis off at Swindon prevents him from facing Crewe, even though x-rays ruled out a break. His enforced absence, with Hume recalled, is the only change to the starting line-up from the County Ground. New signing Dion Sanderson is also now an alternative option at the back following his loan switch from Wolves, but he is not involved tonight. Sunderland AFC: Burge; McLaughlin, Wright, O'Nien; Gooch, Leadbitter, Scowen, Power, Hume; Maguire, Wyke. Substitutes: Matthews (gk), Diamond, Grigg, Dobson, O'Brien, Graham, Flanagan.