Following a 1-1 home draw to Lincoln City, Sunderland head to Bristol Rovers for a 15:00 kick-off. I was joined by Rovers’ fan Charlie Hayne, here's what he had to say...
"He's changed it around a little bit, such as playing three strikers in our last game. We've struggled with injuries, too, such as Sam Nicholson, who we've had to rely on for most of the season. The football is better, but we've witnessed so many errors in the past three games. I think everyone agrees it's not really his fault, though."
"Brandon Hanlan, who caused Bailey Wright a lot of problems the last time we played you, has been good up-front this season; Jonah Ayunga has been playing well despite not scoring. He's good at holding the ball up and got some pace. Zain Westbrook has really improved under Barton; under previous managers he was being played as a defensive midfielder, but Barton has let him play in his natural position (just behind the striker) and he's been quality since Barton came in."
WHERE'S IT ALL GONE WRONG?
"The problem in the last few games has been that there's no confidence in the players and we've been playing too much hoof-ball. The recruitment has been awful, too. Ben Garner, our initial manager, went on an awful run but was still backed in the summer to sign players."
"I'll go with one from my head and heart; my head says 4-0 to Sunderland, Charlie Wyke has a great record against us, he even scored a hat-trick against us when he was at Bradford! As for my heart, I'll predict a draw as we seem to have a decent record against you."
Lee Johnson confirmed there is a 'Covid situation' but did not comment further. Tom Flanagan and Bailey Wright will miss this game through injury and Jordan Jones has a reported 30% chance of featuring. After completing 45 minutes in a behind-closed doors friendly against Gateshead in mid-week, Denver Hume is still not ready to return meaning left back is between Callum McFadzean and Jake Vokins, both of which have experienced improved performances recently.
If Jones has to miss the fixture through injury, an option still needs to be found on the right; with neither Jack Diamond nor Lynden Gooch impressing of late and Chris Maguire's inconsistent tendencies, it appears Johnson may struggle to settle on a forward line.
Whilst we've never been able to defeat a side managed by Joey Barton, The Gas are off the back of three consecutive defeats and sit 21st in the table. The lads have also enjoyed the first week without a mid-week fixture since the week commencing the 4th January meaning we can expect to see a re-energized squad. I back us to get back to winning ways and run out 3-0 victors.