After seeing his side secure all 3 points in a display which showed grit and determination against Doncaster on Tuesday night, can Jack Ross carry that momentum into a home game for the fans? With more than 30,000 expected to be there when the two sides clash on Saturday, it would be welcome reward for the unwavering support shown by the black cats faithful.
What's the story so far?
Doncaster proved a stern test at the Keepmoat Stadium on Tuesday night. In a cagey affair both sides worked hard but little came in the way of clear cut opportunities. Aside from Chris Maguire sending a header well wide Sunderland struggled to break down the Donny back four. But come the end of the second half it was Jon McLaughlin receiving all the plaudits, twice denying Rovers in 1v1 saves to keep Sunderland in the game.
Early in the second half Gooch rinsed his marker, weaved his way to the edge of the box and lashed a shot off the post. It came out to Matthews who put it back into the box and Maguire smashed it into the roof of the net. This was the only goal of the game despite a couple of Donny efforts to level proceedings. Sunderland showed some defensive steel to see the game out and take the points back to Wearside. Something fans will welcome seeing after too many seasons of capitulation during the Ellis Short era.
The Shrimpers are also enjoying a fruitful October with a number of wins and only one loss. Last time out they beat Walsall at Roots Hall in a resounding 3-0 victory.
In an entertaining game, Southend lost key players Harry Lennon and Tom Hopper to injury. Worryingly for Southend fans, Hopper has weighed in with a number of goals recently no doubt contributing to their good form. Harry Bunn bagged a brace, scoring in the 23rd minute with a rebound following some jostling in the box after a corner. Timothy Dienge made it 2-0 with his head thanks to a deflection off a saddlers player and Bunn scored again late in the game thanks to a deflection.
Southend are flying high since Chris Powell took the reigns in January and the revival has been impressive. Considering the former fan favourite managed to lift them from the relegation places to finish 10th last season alone speaks for itself. This season sees them in 9th and their fans will be hungry for further success and progress.
Jack Ross is desperate for his side to carry on their good form and extend their unbeaten run this weekend, especially in front of a home crowd following three recent away games.
"It reinforced the form the players have shown across the whole of the season,” he said.
“They have shown a great deal of character and resilience this season and Tuesday was another example of us dealing with the challenges of this league better.
“I suppose when you asses where the opposition are in the league and the season they have had to date it maybe just highlights how good the victory was.
“It will be nice to be back in our own stadium because we have spoken often about making it a difficult place to come for teams.
“We remain unbeaten, but I would’ve liked to turn some of those draws into wins. Importantly, our home performances have been ok and we would like to continue that.
“The belief is strengthening within the group,” he continued. “We are still adjusting to the challenges of League One and getting used to the target that is to win the league.
“Now we have put together this run in recent weeks and this record since the start of the season – we don’t want to give up these things lightly.
“We have another challenging fixture on Saturday. Just because we are at home it doesn’t make it easier than the ones we have faced.
“Southend’s form has been very good in terms of the last six games, so we know it is a tough match. Every team that has come to the Stadium of Light has produced good performances as well, so we know we have to play well to win the game.”
Blues boss Chris Powell hopes the chance to play at a ground which has has hosted Premier League football in recent years will inspire his players to continue their own good form. He wants to see his players take the challenge head on.
“It was a good display on Tuesday so we’ve got to take confidence from that and what we’ve done on the road.
“It’s another test for us and one we know that will be tricky, but actually it’s a game that should inspire us.
“We’re going to a place which has seen Premier League football. They’re trying to re-build themselves as a football club but as I say to the players bring it on and let’s get on with it.”
What could go down?
Sunderland welcome back Costa Rican international Bryan Oviedo following the completion of his ban for a red card for kicking out. It is doubtful wether he will go straight back into the squad after the excellent form of Reece James. Josh Maja should also be available for selection having trained with the team on Friday. This one comes too early for centre back Glenn Loovens who has only just returned to training after a hamstring injury. The Blue will be without Harry Lennon after he sustained a fractured leg in the Walsall game. Tom Hopper is also a doubt after he too left the field on the first half.
Sunderland will hopefully keep the ball on the grass earlier than they have been in recent games. When they are struggling in the first half they're lumping the ball up front from deep. This causes the front three to struggle, none are giants and all like to play off the shoulder. Maja is much more of a finisher than a target man and needs the ball to his feet to create chances.
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When they do play to their strengths they more often than not break teams down. Southend will provide more of a physical challenge than Doncaster but could struggle against some of the individual skill and quality in the Sunderland squad. Powell has them organised and competitive and will be hoping to catch the Black Cats out at set pieces. This isn't a problem which has reared its head for a number of games for Jack Ross now though. With Maguire and Gooch in scintillating form it will depend on wether or not Southend can stop the two flying black cats wingers.
Sunderland's form seems to be getting better with each game. With the need to keep the pressure on Peterborough and Portsmouth ever present, 3pm is an excellent chance for Jack Ross and his men to continue their assault on the automatic promotion spots. With how well Gooch and Maguire are playing and maybe if Aiden McGeady can find some consistent form it'll prove too much for Southend.
Jon McLaughlin looks imperious at the moment too with his goal staying unbreached for two games on the bounce now. I'm going 2-0 Sunderland again in front of a good home turn out. I'll back Gooch to get one too as just reward for the American international's commitment and form.
Ha'way the Lads.