MATCH PREVIEW: Sunderland v Bristol Rovers

Bristol Rovers head to Wearside this weekend to face Sunderland having won their first match under manager Ben Garner at the 14th attempt.

The Gas came from behind to beat Blackpool 2-1 last time out with a screamer from Alfie Kilgour before Josh Ginnelly netted the winner five minutes from time.

A player that has performed well even during the winless run has been goalkeeper Jamal Blackman. The Chelsea loanee was signed after it was confirmed that number one Anssi Jaakkola would be out for some time with a shoulder injury and the goalkeeper has stated that he can see a lot of similarities between Garner and one of his former managers, Chris Wilder.

The goalkeeper was a deputy to Blades number one Dean Henderson in their promotion winning season last year and has said that it would have been hard for Garner to come into the job when he did.

“That’s the hardest thing for the manager,” Blackman told Bristol Live.

“Everyone expects a manager coming in to do well straight away.

“But when you look at the bigger picture you’re not just looking at the here and now, you’re thinking of building a team and trying to compete for the next three or four years.

“It’s the same way as when I was at Sheffield United. The manager, Chris Wilder, was the same way, building a team from League One, and now they’re in the Premier League, so at the end of the day it’s about the long term.

“That’s what I liked. It’s a team trying to build an identity, so when you come to Bristol Rovers you know what you’re going to see and expect.

“I liked the idea of being part of that and having my input on a team trying to show everyone what they can do. We are Bristol Rovers and we are here to compete.”

Team news for Rovers is that the match at the Stadium of Light may be just too soon for Liam Sercombe who is close to returning from a shoulder injury.

Sunderland go into the game having the best defensive record in League One and in the play off spots, a place that they looked like missing out on through the end of 2019 but a run of 8 wins in 12 games since Christmas has seen the Black Cats sky rocket up the table from 15th to 5th in League One.

Team news for the home side is that Bristol City loanee Bailey Wright will mis the match, and at least two months after picking up an ankle injury in the win at Oxford last time out.

The game may come too soon for fellow centre back Joel Lynch who has been out with concussion and bruising to the ribs.

With Wright out injured, it means that Alim Ozturk should return to the side. Ozturk has not started since Wright’s arrival but manager Phil Parkinson has praised the centre back for his professionalism since being dropped.

“I think that’s why he’s popular in the dressing room and I think the fans identify with that as well,” Parkinson told the Sunderland Echo.

“We had a couple of conversations when I left him out but they were conducted in the right way and since then he has trained really well.

“I’ve stressed quite often, that’s what we need.

“You’re always going to be disappointed when you’re not in the team but there’s a way of conducting yourself and he has been great.”

Jack Scowen could be in line for his home debut. The midfielder, signed from QPR in late January has been named on the bench in the four matches since Deadline Day, coming on for his debut in the 1-0 win at the Kassam.

Sunderland Predicted XI
Bristol Rovers Predicted XI