Well I did okay last Saturday. In the sense that I called that we would actually score a goal (our first in ten league games, no less) and that ex-Crystal Palace youngster Freddie Ladapo would hit the back of the net for Rotherham (he managed it twice, in fact).
Please ignore my 2-1 to Bolton prediction, an unhinged moment of daft optimism, brought on by all the hoopla of Hillcroft’s appointment and the frenzied madness of transfer deadline day. It was a toss up between Crawford or Verlinden for our goal, so shame on me for plumping for the wrong man in the end.
This weekend we go into our clash with the Mackems in good spirits once again after our encouraging display in the goalless draw with Oxford United at the UniBol on Tuesday night. With no real change to the line-up in the offing, except for perhaps a potential place on the substitutes bench for 36 year-old Irishman and ex-Wearsider Daryl Murphy, we’re looking at the same suspects as a goalscoring punt for the Whites.
Putting my optimistic hat on for this section, Will Buckley had a great opportunity to open the scoring on Tuesday, springing the visitors’ flimsy offside trap only to guide a measured effort against the crossbar.
If, as seems likely, he is to reprise his starting role in the middle of a fluid front three with the starlet EU talents of Belgian Thibaud Verlinden and Romanian Dennis Politic either side, he may well get some opportunities to make amends. At 14/1 to score first or last this offers some good value for me. A slightly left-field punt would be to back him to score last. This gives you two opportunities, firstly of him scoring the first goal but also the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win, therefore also counting as the last goal. This on top of him being a decent pick for a late consolation or equalising goal in a draw.
Any score draw, so a standard 1-1, a lively 2-2 or a crazy 3-3 is priced at 9/2 which I think is a distinct possibility, if I’m still donning my flat cap of positivity.
Looking at the game in a more realistic and pragmatic manner, Sunderland are lying in 4th place in the League One table, with a game in hand on a couple of teams above them. They have suffered only one away defeat this season, a humbling 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Peterborough United on the last day of August. Their other trips have been impressive though, none more so than an excellent 3-1 away win at an admittedly second string Burnley side in the EFL Cup. A 2-1 victory at Spotland to overcome Rochdale and two 3-1 wins at Accrington, one in the Leasing.com trophy and the other in the league last Saturday make up the rest of their extremely solid portfolio of away form. Another fruitful trip to the North West could beckon in reality.
Bolton have tended to ship most of their goals in the second half of games so maybe a HT draw, full-time Sunderland shout at 3/1 would be a canny punt here. As 3-1 seems to be a favourite score of theirs, this may be worth contemplating and is priced up at 10/1.
Scottish striker Marc McNulty has edged to the front of the pecking order in recent weeks, ahead of both ex-Parky target Charlie Wyke and big-money signing Will Grigg, who has certainly been well short of combustible this season. McNulty has hit the net in both of his last two starts and is 10/3 to bag the first goal of the game, representing a pretty generous price in my humble opinion.
If you fancy him to score anytime in the game in a Sunderland win, this comes in at odds of 21/20, not fantastic value but a potential choice for a single leg in a larger accumulator.
Good luck if you decide to go with any of my choices or if you plump for some of your own thoughts. Here’s to another step in the right direction at the UniBol and a rousing display to send the Wanderers faithful home happy! COYWM!!!