“Tis the night—the night of the grave's delight,
And the warlocks are at their play;
Ye think that without, the wild winds shout,
But no, it is they—it is they!”
Those words of Arthur Cleveland Coxe, in his poem Halloween: A Romaunt, ring true of tonight’s scariest of Halloween events - 18-games without a win at home Sunderland playing host to 32-games without a win away in The Championship Bolton Wanderers.
A truly terrifying prospect far beyond the realms of imagination of Alfred Hitchcock, Stephen King, M Night Shyamalan or Bram Stoker. Oh yes, on the traditional holiday of celebrating the dead it’s the battle of the winless. Bottom of the league Bolton make the trip north-east to next to bottom of the league Sunderland - who combined have won just two matches and earned a total of 16 points from a possible 84 this season.
And if you’re looking for positive slants then Bolton’s recent form against tonight’s opponents will not help you. We haven’t beaten Sunderland in the league in seven attempts going back to 2008 and lost five in a row between 2009 and 2011 before a 2-2 draw at the Stadium of Light in April 2012.
But tonight that could all change as Sunderland, who were relegated from the Premier League five months ago, haven’t won a home game in 2017 since a 1-0 victory over Watford last December.
Phil Parkinson makes one change from the side that drew with Fulham on Saturday, with Antonee Robinson coming in for the injured Andrew Taylor. Josh Cullen fills his place on the bench, while Will Buckley returns from injury to be on the bench against his former club.
Looking at Sunderland’s side you wonder how they’re in the position they find themselves in. Only two of their 18 man squad haven’t previously played in the Premier League, most are experienced internationals and they have Lamina Kone, as recently as last season linked with a multi-million pound transfer to the likes of Everton, sitting on their bench.
They also appear to be lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Lewis Grabban leading the line, wide threat from Callum McManaman and Aiden McGeady, and former Manchester United veteran John O’Shea marshalling the defence. An interesting battle could be Karl Henry and Darren Pratley going up against Darron Gibson and Didier Ndong providing the bite in Sunderland’s midfield. Disappointingly for anyone who fancied a bit of gore this Halloween, Lee Cattermole is only named on the bench.
Here are tonight’s starting lineups. You can follow all the action from the Stadium of Light in the Comments section below, where you can also let us know your thoughts on all things Wanderers or Halloween - whatever floats your boat.
Sunderland (4-2-3-1): Robin Ruiter; Adam Matthews, John O’Shea, Marc Wilson, Bryan Oviedo; Darron Gibson, Dider Ndong; Callum McManama, Jonny Williams, Aiden McGeady; Lewis Grabban
Substitutes: Luke Steele, James Vaughan, Paddy McNair, Lee Cattermole, Lamina Kone, George Honeyman, Duncan Watmore
Bolton Wanderers (4-2-3-1): Ben Alnwick; Mark Little, David Wheater, Mark Beevers, Antonee Robinson; Karl Henry, Darren Pratley; Shola Ameobi, Josh Vela, Adam Armstrong; Gary Madine
Substitutes: Adam Le Fondre, Craig Noone, Will Buckley, Josh Cullen, Derik Osede, Stephen Darby, Mark Howard