MATCH PREVIEW: Bristol Rovers v Sunderland

GasCast Match Previews by Simon Gray

Bristol Rovers entertain Sunderland this weekend hoping to bounce back from a disappointing defeat to relegation rivals Swindon last time out.

Rovers lost 1-0 to the Robins that saw them drop into the bottom four but the match was not without its controversies.

The Gas thought they had took the lead early in the second half after Zain Westbrooke found the bottom corner from outside the box, only for the assistant referee to raise his flag against one of Jonah Ayunga or Brandon Hanlan.

Ayunga was onside when the ball was kicked whilst Hanlan, who was in an offside position, was nowhere near the trajectory of the ball. Swindon then grabbed the winner soon after thanks to Jack Payne’s strike.

The match left manager Joey Barton disappointed at the level of officiating once again as Rovers came away with nothing from what was deemed a must win game.

“Yeah, obviously we’re disappointed,” Barton told BristolLive.

“It’s a game that we should win. But obviously we didn’t win so there’ll be an element of frustration there.

“I think everybody will be watching the goal back that we had disallowed and will be scratching their heads.

“I’ve spoken in recent weeks about officials and we’ve had the linesman today who’s disallowed the goal on the far side, basically guessing if a player is offside, when in fact he’s not actually interfering with the play.

“My mind is boggled; those guys will go back to work and back to their lives but they could’ve caused us real damage in our attempts to stay in the division because I think if we score then we’re the only side looking likely to win.

“Goals change games and unfortunately again, officials have decided the outcome of the football match.”

Both Anssi Jaakkola and Josh Barrett are nearing a return for The Gas, Barrett managed to play the first half of a development squad game this week whilst Jaakkola is awaiting specialist approval to return to action.

Barton has to pick his team up for the visit of promotion chasing Sunderland this weekend, managed by former Bristol City boss, Lee Johnson.

Johnson took over the Black Cats in early December and has managed to propel them up the league table, recalling Aiden McGeady and utilising frontman Charlie Wyke, who is chasing the league’s top scorer.

Sunderland could move into the automatic promotion places with a win at the Memorial Stadium and are in flying form, winning eight of their past 10 league matches.

On loan Rangers winger Jordan Jones is set to miss the weekend’s game after picking up an injury that ruled him out of Northern Ireland’s World Cup Qualifiers. The match may also come too soon for wing back Denver Hume who is back in training after hamstring injury.

Hume has only played around half an hour under new boss Johnson before sustaining the hamstring tear three months ago and has opened up about his injury.

“It’s not been an ideal situation for me at all, but I’m back out training fully now,” Hume told the club’s website.

“When I first got the injury, the physios thought it was going to be a little less serious than it turned out.

“I progressed quite quickly – working on the grass and doing ball work – but then it reoccurred. The scans showed a Grade 3 tear, a more significant injury than I was obviously hoping.”

The reverse fixture between the two sides saw The Gas go 1-0 up in the first few minutes on the opening day of the season, only for Max Power to level things up late on.

Lineup Predictions:

Bristol Rovers Predicted XI (3-5-2):

Sunderland Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Burge; McLaughlin, Sanderson, O’Nien, McFadzean; Power, Leadbitter; Gooch, Winchester, McGeady; Wyke.

Score Predictions:

Max: The Gas 0-2 Sunderland

Sam and Mets: The Gas 0-3 Sunderland

Simon: The Gas 1-2 Sunderland