Sunderland will be hoping to get their promotion hopes back on track when they travel to relegation-threatened AFC Wimbledon on Saturday.
It’s been a tricky start to life in the Stadium of Light dugout for Lee Johnson, whose managed just one victory from five League One matches.
However, the Black Cats did collect a confidence-boosting victory in the midweek, and are unbeaten in six games in all competitions since losing Johnson’s first match against Wigan.
Quiz: Did these 20 things happen to Sunderland in 2020?
But in Sunderland’s most recent League One outing – the draw with Hull City last Saturday – they suffered an injury blow after right-back Conor McLaughlin was forced off at half-time against the Tigers.
And Johnson confirmed that the former Millwall defender is now facing a spell on the sidelines with a hernia problem.
He told Sunderland’s official website: “Conor is potentially going to be out now for a while because he needs a hernia operation, and has done for a while. He can’t sprint at the moment as a result.
“He’s another one that has shown top character to put in the performances that he has while in pain.
“I’ve had a hernia myself and sometimes it does get a bit too much and you just can’t sprint like you used to be able to.”
Whilst injuries are far from ideal at any time, Johnson should be able to cope with McLaughlin’s absence.
Sunderland are generally well-covered in the right-back position – with Max Power covering there in the EFL Trophy win over Port Vale, whilst Luke O’Nien is also capable of playing on either side.
Meanwhile, with no fewer than nine centre-backs on their books, the Black Cats won’t be too concerned by McLaughlin’s setback.