Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers – opposition lowdown ahead of League One clash

AHEAD of Saturday’s trip to the Stadium of Light, Marc Iles caught up with Joe Nicholson from the Sunderland Echo to get the lowdown on the Black Cats.

Sunderland won at Wigan in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night. What was the game like?

Sunderland made eight changes and were still pretty comfortable. They still named a pretty strong team and some of the new signings played – Alex Pritchard, Nathan Broadhead and Niall Huggins were all in action.

I’d expect Lee Johnson will go back to the side that has been starting in the league against Bolton at the weekend, but it just shows the strength in depth they have at the minute.

The Black Cats have had a tough time but, with the new ownership and fresh signings, is the club finally on the way up again?

There is definitely some optimism this season. Last season, it was a bit stale towards the end and they dropped out of the play-offs. Even though Kyril Louis-Dreyfus’ takeover had been completed and Johnson had come in, it just felt a bit flat.

But it always felt like there was more of a plan in place for this season and I think we’ve seen that start to come fruition with the players that have come in. The football they are playing is much better than this time last year – they like to get on the front foot and pass the ball forward, whereas the fans weren’t impressed with the style under Phil Parkinson.

It can turn very quickly but, at the moment, the mood is very good and Sunderland have momentum going into Saturday’s game.

Which players should Wanderers be looking out for?

Aiden McGeady is a match winner on his day. He didn’t get on well with Phil Parkinson and was frozen out, but he is back in the starting XI under Johnson. You’ve also got Elliott Embleton who has come back into the squad following a loan spell at Blackpool.

Ross Stewart has got five goals already this season. They brought him in from Ross County in January. His movement is excellent and he holds the ball up well. Dan Neil is another young player who has come into the midfield. Before the Wigan game, he had actually started every game and he is only 19.

How did Sunderland react to the Burton defeat last month?

It is the only game Sunderland have lost this season. It was a cracking strike from Jonny Smith who cut inside from the right and curled it into the top corner. The reaction from fans and the media was that Sunderland played pretty well and couldn’t take their chances.

Burton defended well and took their chance on the break. But Sunderland responded really well and won three or four games in a row. Perhaps in the past they would have fallen away and had a few bad results.

And finally, what is your score prediction?

I think there will be some goals. The way Bolton have started, they seem to score a lot but seem to concede a lot as well. Sunderland are playing well at the moment so I think they will probably edge it. I’ll go 2-1.

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