After managing to secure all three points in their previous League One game against Cambridge United, Sunderland are back in Papa John’s Trophy action on Wednesday with a clash against Oldham Athletic.
In terms of who Lee Johnson could select in his starting XI in midweek, it seems as though the Black Cats are in the midst of an injury crisis at the moment, particularly with a number of defensive players ruled out of action.
With this in mind, one defensive figure that Johnson will be able to rely upon and who should be in the starting XI to take on Oldham is Tom Flanagan, who is currently earning £3.6k-per-week according to Salary Sport.
After being named as an unused substitute in Sunderland’s league games against Ipswich and Shrewsbury, the centre-back played the full 90 minutes in their recent 2-1 win at Cambridge.
In that game, the 30-year-old proved to Johnson how useful he can be for the team by racking up seven clearances, three tackles and two interceptions, with one shot blocked and six of his eight duels won.
Praised in the past by Michael O’Neill for being a “leader” for Northern Ireland, this latest performance for Sunderland earned the defender a solid overall match rating of 7.4/10, making him the joint-highest rated player on the day according to SofaScore.
With this in mind, it would make sense for Flanagan to keep his place in the team to take on Oldham and give the Black Cats the best chance of overcoming the League Two side and getting into the next stage of the competition.
However, if Johnson thinks it would be better to keep the 30-year-old fresh for their next league outing against Oxford United at the weekend, perhaps he could sit out their midweek fixture and hope that the team can cope without him against a Latics side who are currently battling relegation in League Two.
Either way, with their current injury issues, it’s safe to say that Flanagan could act as a catalyst to keep Sunderland strong at the back for the remainder of the season, which is what they’ll need if they are to have any chance of getting promoted to the Championship.