SUNDERLAND face a trip to resurgent Reading this Saturday as they look to build on a point against Swansea City in midweek.
After a slow start to life in the top-flight and a worrying seven-game losing streak through November and December, the Royals look to have come out the other side and have given themselves a real chance of staying up.
Danny Graham pre-Reading:
“It will be a difficult game. Reading coming back from 2-0 down [against Chelsea in midweek] shows what great character they`ve got.
“We expect to face a good team but we are going there to win.
“I`m glad to get going straight away, training with the boys and then travelling for that first game.’
Reading Team News:
Jason Roberts (hip) & Alex McCarthy (shoulder) are both out. Striker Noel Hunt is a doubt with a knock.
Federici; Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa, Harte; Leigertwood, Guthrie; Kebe, Karacan, McAnuff (c); Pogrebnyak.
Player to watch: Adam le Fondre:
Central to their recent upsurge in form is former Stockport County, Rochdale and Rotherham United hot-shot, Adam le Fondre.
The 26 year-old has struck late in each of the Royals’ last three league games to help rescue seven points during those games.
Snapped up last summer from League Two Rotherham, the forward has been far from a regular starter, making just 25 league starts in his season-and-a-half at the Mad Stad.
However, an envious record of 22 league goals in those games (plus a further 29 substitute appearances) make him something of a ‘super-sub’ for boss, Brian McDermott.
Former Arsenal midfielder McDermott, now in his third full season as Royals’ boss, has today (Friday) tipped the Stockport-born poacher for an England call-up after his 12 top-flight goals from 24 appearances this term.
Sunderland Team News:
Wes Brown (knee), Lee Cattermole (knee), Carlos Cuellar (knee) and Danny Rose (knee) are all sidelined.
New-boy Danny Graham will start his Sunderland career from the bench in all likelihood.
Mignolet; Gardner, O`Shea (c), Bramble, Colback; Larsson, N`Diaye, Vaughan, Johnson; Sessegnon; Fletcher.
Player to watch: Danny Graham:
The club’s £5m Transfer Deadline Day capture will likely start his Black Cats’ career from the bench with Steven Fletcher preferred up front.
However, the 27 year-old Gateshead-born goal-getter will be keen to get off on the right foot with the Sunderland supporters owing to his Geordie roots.
Match Facts & Stats
– Still precariously perched in 17th, the Berkshire outfit have won five of their last eight in the Barclays Premier League and F.A Cup, losing just once in that sequence.
– Late goals in each of their last three top-flight outings have helped them maintain upwards momentum, the result of which is renewed vigour with which to attack the final third of the season.
Mr L Mason
Refereed: 20 games
Red cards: 0 (One of only two elite-group officials to not have sent anyone off!)
A tough game against a side bang in form, but a 2-1 win for the Lads no less.
A visit from Arsenal next weekend.