League One is back to full strength this weekend after 3rd round FA Cup action last time around.
Sunderland, though, were one of the sides in league action as they drew 1-1 in a big game at Charlton Athletic.
The significant matches keep coming for them, too, as they face Luton Town in a huge clash at the top of the league.
As usual, then, we caught up with We Are Wearside’s Gary McLaughlin to talk all things Black Cats ahead of the weekend…
1. What have you made of the Josh Maja situation?
It’s hard to know exactly what is going on.
Apparently, he wants to stay, but his agent has told him not to, so he’s in a bit of limbo. I’m not sure if I completely buy that – after all an agent works for the player not vice versa – and I don’t expect Maja to sign a new contract.
In his defence, there have been three or four Premier League clubs linked, why wouldn’t he leave? They will offer more money and a chance to prove himself at a higher level. If he works on his all-round game, he is absolutely good enough as there are not many better natural finishers than him in the Football League.
2. A game of two halves at Charlton last weekend, how do Sunderland go about killing off games they are dominating?
We need to be more direct. We use the wings a lot, which is fine, but crosses are few and far between. We spend too much time passing in little triangles near the byline, dribbling into blind alleys or passing in front of the 18-yard box rather than doing anything meaningful.
I think we need to utilise the runs made by our fullbacks a lot more, they are always on hand and usually in a good position to drive into the box or put a cross in. We are missing George Honeyman’s energy in midfield too.
3. Luke O’Nien seems in good form – how impressive has he been of late?
Really impressive. He’s got a fantastic attitude on and off the pitch and has finally been given the opportunity of a lengthy spell in the side.
He’s out of position (he’s a central midfielder at full back), and is still putting in man of the match performances. I’d love to see his energy and enthusiasm in the middle, but fear he may well have nailed full back as his own position for the rest of the season.
4. A massive game against Luton this weekend. How should the Black Cats approach this one?
It’s a huge game for the auto-promotion race. We still have a game in hand, so a win this weekend would be a massive, massive step towards promotion.
We should try and impose ourselves on Luton early doors, like we usually do, but pass the ball quicker and get Charlie Wyke involved much more. I think he is the key to unleashing the potential of our attack because he’s the kind of player you can run off and will create plenty of space for the likes of Maja, Aiden McGeady etc.
5. Score prediction
I wonder how the manager situation will affect Luton? A draw wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it feels like game we can’t afford to lose. It’ll be tight either way, so I guess it makes sense to predict a 1-1 draw.