After a hard-fought 1-0 away win to Bristol Rovers, Sunderland host Oxford United for a 15:00 kick off this Good Friday. I was joined by the Vital Oxford fanzine, here’s what they had to say...
It's difficult to pinpoint any particular reason. We've struggled recently which has probably been the main reason over the last six games. When it comes together (3-0 win over Doncaster) then it looks fine but when it comes unstuck (1-0 defeat against Northampton) it highlights the problems.
TACTICS AND FORMATION
4-1-2-3 - We play with four at the back, one holding midfielder and two just ahead. We then line-up with two wide men with one striker. It's rare that Robinson changes formation but if he does on Friday, it will be with two defensive midfielders instead of one with the third midfielder playing in the number ten role. Depending on who is selected at full-back, both do like to get forward but our defensive midfielder(s) cover in the event of that happening.
Matty Taylor, top goal scorer with 14 goals. Real poacher and manages to get himself in the right position. Cameron Brannagan in midfield is key. He hasn't hit the form we saw last season, but he is more than capable of picking a key pass or getting in a last-ditch tackle. Brandon Barker and/or Mide Shodipo on the wings. Both are pacey and like to run at the full back. Also have an eye for goal.
Our full backs have come under scrutiny more than any other position this season, but I think that is largely down to the quality of some of the wingers in the division. Also, down to the fact they like to get forward.
CAN YOU MAKE THE PLAY-OFFS?
Yes, we can, but we need more consistency in our final nine games. We have been fortunate that other sides have dropped points when we have so we have always been within touching distance, but we need to push on and pick up points. I think we can only afford one more loss (at a push) and Sunderland are the strongest team we have to face in the run in. That said, it's been a remarkable turnaround considering we lost seven of our first ten league games.
The first four meetings ended 1-1 and I would snap your hand off for that result before kick-off, especially as Sunderland have won the last two meetings and are the in-form team in the division.
Denver Hume could feature after coming through an U23s game unscathed on Tuesday against Burnley. Jordan Jones should also be on the team sheet after Bristol Rovers trip came a game too soon for him. Connor McLaughlin is also due to return from international duty with Northern Ireland on Thursday, but should make the bench at least…
A vital game awaits us on Friday. The U’s sit eighth in the league despite losing seven of their first ten games meaning they should pose an entirely different threat to the likes of Bristol Rovers. With Peterborough away on Monday, this Easter weekend may dictate where it is we finish come the end of the season. A huge test is expected, but I’ll back the lads to win 2-0.