Sunderland welcomes Swindon Town to the Stadium of Light, as the Black Cats look to overtake their League One rivals. The Robins haven’t beaten Sunderland since 1995, but they are unbeaten in their last three league games, winning two.
Lee Johnson’s side are currently in fifth place in the standings, just six points behind Lincoln in second, while John Sheridan’s side sit lower in 18th, three points above relegation spots.
Before the game, I spoke to Swindon fan Richard Pullen about the Hated strangers podcast, to discuss if he thinks his team can beat the drop, as well as what Sunderland fans can expect from the game.
MC: Shortly after your loss to Sunderland earlier in the season, Richie Wellens left Swindon to take over from Salford in League Two. How did this decision go with the supporters?
PR: You try not to let your guard down when it comes to managers and lower league players as they tend to leave as soon as you buckle up but, despite that, the majority were big Wellens fans and absolutely drained when he is. left.
Wellens helped reconnect many fans with the club, spoke of a very good game and, for the most part, that was reflected in the performances on the pitch. He took us out of Ligue 2 after three seasons and we did it by playing good football with popular players.
MC: His replacement, John Sheridan, had a very difficult start to his tenure, but the Robins came out of the relegation zone – is he a popular figure with the fans?
PR: Not really. Early in his tenure in the city he somehow guided us towards our first victory against Oxford United in around 4,000 years. It was a full “Hail Mary” as he stuck a center-back up front and it worked (he tried again against Crewe a few days later and it didn’t work)!
This win could have / should have been the start of something good, but since then (and until a week ago) it felt like we were soaring. The only good thing was that we didn’t get away from the peloton on the bad descent.
MC: The club are currently in 18th place, just three points above the relegation zone. Are you sure Swindon can avoid relegation this season?
PR: A week ago I would have said ‘we are at 100%’ but football is a finicky sport, isn’t it? Now we’ve been three undefeated and there is hope / optimism that there will be four teams worse than Swindon.
MC: There was a big player turnaround in January at Swindon – which areas of the squad got stronger and which weakened?
PR: January has been horribly awful! We lost our most creative player when Diallang Jaiyesimi joined Charlton and felt we no longer needed loaner Matt Smith (Arsenal) who was arguably our best player of the season (he also joined Charlton) .
The positive signings to Keiron Freeman and Mark Travers were brief romances as Freeman left for Swansea after three weeks and Travers was recalled by Bournemouth.
Christopher Missilou has arrived from Northampton but is currently warming up the bench despite having a fairly decent start to his career at Town.
MC: The Swindons haven’t had consistent goal scorers this season, but attacking midfielder Scott Twine has scored three since returning from a loan at Newport in League Two – is he a player who could change your season ?
PR: Newport manager Michael Flynn has done a great job developing Twine to be a more complete attacking player. His return was much needed and now Sheridan has finally figured out that in order for Twine to have an impact, he has to play it!
Thinking about football at its most basic level, Twine could easily keep up with us on his own with his long-distance efforts.
MC: Swindon has made the fewest Ligue 1 games this season with four – is it fair to suggest that your games are still open and start to finish?
PR: The lack of draws is weird, because a lot of the games we’ve played haven’t exactly been mutilations. Maybe it’s because the clubs didn’t need to step up and relax after scoring? I will be doing a draw on Tuesday!
MC: Archie Matthews, 19, made his debut in goal on Saturday, what’s going on with your goalie serve that forced an academy player to step in?
PR: The goalkeepers’ situation is far from ideal …
We started with Manchester United’s Matej Kovar but frankly he wasn’t ready for League One football. Cost us points.
Town brought in former Middlesbrough goalkeeper Joe Fryer as cover and he conceded six goals in two games (including a huge blunder after 6 minutes against Accrington) and was never seen again.
Mark Travers came in for 8 games and was a huge improvement but was later called up by Bournemouth to cover Begovic.
So, with 18 (eighteen) season games remaining, Town was forced to enter the 7-day emergency loan market as we only had rookie goalie Archie Matthews at the club.
Town brought in Jojo Wollacott from Bristol City and he performed well but suffered a knee injury so Matthews played against Northampton.
We signed Connal Trueman on an emergency loan from Birmingham so I would expect him to start.
MC: Who do you think are the eleven Swindons that John Sheridan will choose and what style of play can Lee Johnson’s men expect to meet?
PR: I expect Swindon to try to play with a bit of freedom as we won’t go down on the basis of a loss to Sunderland. Town played against Lincoln which we thought was a bit of a ‘free pass’ so I’m expecting half the same with Sunderland on Tuesday.
GK. Connal Trueman, RB. Rob Hunt, LB. Jonathan Grounds, CB. Dion Conroy ©, CB. Tom Broadbent, CM. Jack Payne, CM. Matty Palmer, RW. Jordan Garrick, LW. Dom Thompson, FC. Scott Twine, ST. Brett Pitman.
MC: Sunderland beat Swindon 2-0 in October, what’s your honest prediction for the final score at Stadium of Light on Tuesday?
PR: I predict Sunderland 3-1 Swindon Town with the away team taking the lead.