Phil Parkinson will be expected to name a vastly different line-up to face Mansfield Town in Saturday’s FA Cup First Round tie, with Sunderland afforded the chance to rest several key first-team regulars for their League One promotion push.
Goalkeeper Lee Burge and defender Bailey Wright have started each of the Black Cats’ 10 third-tier fixtures thus far, while Denver Hume and Luke O’Nien have opened nine matches and Lynden Gooch, Grant Leadbitter and Chris Maguire have fielded eight kick-offs each.
Burge is further the only first-team regular to have enjoyed all 900 minutes of available game time in League One this season, and is in line for a well-deserved rest when Sunderland host John Dempster’s Stags at the Stadium of Light.
Parkinson will favour drastic changes to the XI which beat Ipswich Town last time out, with the North East outfit likely to favour fielding young hopefuls and those frozen out that are eager to impress. So, with that in mind, here’s a line-up Sunderland could name at home to Mansfield…
Back-up shot-stopper Remi Matthews will be confident of earning his latest first-team appearance for Sunderland in their FA Cup clash with Mansfield, having previously featured in just two fixtures since joining from Bolton this summer – each coming in the EFL Trophy.
Matthews was unable to enjoy a clean sheet against either Aston Villa’s U23s or Carlisle United, though Parkinson will feel Mansfield present a great chance to see how the 26-year-old responds to watching each League One fixture from the bench this term.
Parkinson will also be keen to see how Dion Sanderson fares in defence following his debut against Rochdale last month, and could partner the Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee with Callum McFadzean and 20-year-old Ollie Younger to offer Hume and Bailey Wright a break.
McFadzean was brought to the Stadium of Light on a free transfer this summer following his release by Plymouth Argyle to offer competition for places, but is yet to make his first-team debut whilst building fitness in the U23s.
With Parkinson ringing the changes at home to Mansfield, midfielders George Dobson, Elliot Embleton and Daniel Neil may feel confident of featuring.
The Black Cats faced a fight to retain Neil’s services this summer with Premier League duo Newcastle United and Wolves both interested in the talented 18-year-old, per the Chronicle, but have only awarded the youngster minutes in the EFL Trophy having overlooked his services in each League One and EFL Cup tie this term.
Dobson, meanwhile, will be eager to utilise the FA Cup as his chance to regain a spot in the first-team having featured 24 times under Parkinson last season, only to lose his place following an opening-day red card and be left waiting for a second chance.
Parkinson has previously stated an intent to offer Sunderland’s young talents minutes in the cup competitions, much to Embleton’s glee after the rising star’s struggles with injuries, noting via the Chronicle: “They are going to be needed and they are going to get chances.
“The games come thick and fast with a lot of midweek matches, and I am confident that if they get their chance, they will take it.”
Parkinson’s rotation could come at the expense of forward Lynden Gooch, who the Black Cats boss has previously stated was left disappointed when omitted from the side after going four months without a League One start.
“Goochy has trained really well this week,” Parkinson said in September, via quotes by The Northern Echo. It was very hard for me not to put him in the team, but I just wanted to get the balance of the side right.
“He was disappointed, but he took it the right way. There’s going to be other players who will get left out in this long season, but you’ve got to accept the decision and you’ve got to come on the pitch and let your football do the talking.”
In place of Gooch, who has contributed five goals (two scored, three assisted) in League One this term, could enter a young up-and-comer who Parkinson has praised as a real “bonus” in 20-year-old Jack Diamond, who has offered one goal in his six senior outings to date.
“Another bonus for us as staff is that Jack Diamond has come back in this week and looked really good,” Parkinson told the official Sunderland website earlier this summer upon the winger’s return to Wearside after a successful loan spell with Harrogate Town.
Diamond’s first and only senior Sunderland goal to date came in October’s 5-3 EFL Trophy victory over Carlisle and is yet to taste defeat when fielded, and could be viewed by Parkinson as someone who can aid strikers Danny Graham and Will Grigg on Saturday.
The Black Cats would undoubtedly like to see more from the 29-year-old, while Graham’s search for further successful efforts likewise continues with blanks on the record in all bar one of the former U20 international’s nine appearances since re-joining as a free agent this summer.
Graham and Grigg must realise that Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Mansfield will be their best opportunity to impress Parkinson to warrant inclusion in the Sunderland manager’s league plans, or risk a continuing role on the bench.
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