Sunderland manager Lee Johnson has suggested that he does not know if the injury that kept Conor McLaughlin out of the defeat against Wigan will settle down or require more treatment. While he also revealed Dion Sanderson is struggling with a back issue.
The Black Cats suffered a potentially crucial defeat at relegation-threatened Wigan on Tuesday night, which leaves their automatic promotion hopes no longer within their own hands. Their chances of picking up a vital three points were impacted by the news that McLaughlin was forced out of the game after having a hernia issue during the warm-up.
Bailey Wright came into the side as the late change, and Sunderland struggled defensively at times as they failed to build on the lead given to them by Charlie Wyke in the first half. Johnson’s side are now going to have little room left for error in their remaining games. They are also going to have to hope Hull City or Peterborough United slip up now in the last few matches.
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Speaking to Chronicle Live, Johnson revealed that McLaughlin had an issue relating to his hernia that has previously required an injection and that he does not know how serious the issue will be at this stage. While he also revealed that Sanderson at the moment is playing through struggles with a back problem.
He said: “It was a late shout. In an ideal world, Bailey would have had a couple of 90 minutes for the U23s but it wasn’t just that, there were two or three on the pitch who weren’t quite right.
“Dion Sanderson’s back was an issue and has been an issue all week, and we are a little bit light in that area.
“At the same time, I don’t think that’s any excuse because it wasn’t really the central defensive part that cost us.
“He (McLaughlin) had a hernia problem on one side and an injection in that, and that has left a weakness on the other side.
“I don’t know whether it will settle down or whether he will have to go again, but it was pretty frustrating because there were no warning signs, just as soon as he started warming-up he said ‘I can’t run’.”
This is a concerning update from Johnson and it will be interesting to see how the Black Cats will be able to cope if they are without McLaughlin and potentially even Sanderson in the next few weeks. Sunderland are approaching the period in the campaign where they need all of their players fully fit and firing especially after losing ground on the top two by losing at Wigan.
It is looking like it could now have to be the play-offs for Sunderland this term, and if so then Johnson will need to work out whether it is best to risk Sanderson’s issue any further or let him have some recovery time ahead of the play-offs. While it might also be wise to bring McLaughlin out of the fold and make sure that he is properly recovered ahead of the potential play-off clashes as well.
It is understandable that McLaughlin’s late withdrawal through injury in the warm-up might have affected the performance at Wigan defensively, but that is still not really an excuse to have lost to a side fighting relegation at this stage in the campaign. It is a loss that with or without the defender and Sanderson they will have to put right in the remaining games.