Lincoln City out to claim another promotion pushing scalp as Sunderland visit Sincil Bank


Sunderland travel to Sincil Bank this weekend as they look to secure promotion from League One following an encouraging start to life under new manager Alex Neil.

The former Preston North End man has made a solid start to life at the Stadium of Light having lost his opening fixture against MK Dons. Sunderland have remained unbeaten since and recorded a 3-0 win over Wigan Athletic, as well as back to back victories against Crewe Alexandra and Fleetwood Town coming into the business end of the season and going into Saturday’s fixture.

Sunderland will have the chance to further increase their playoff credentials with games against rivals Plymouth and Oxford United on the horizon. With league leaders Rotherham also on the roster, mixed in with fixtures against sides towards the bottom of the table, there is certainly all to play for.

The Scot’s appointment by the club hierarchy would certainly have been made with an eye on securing a playoff spot at the end of this campaign, as well as the ambition of mounting a serious promotion challenge next season if the initial objective cannot be achieved.

The first opportunity lies immediately head and whilst Neil has not long been in the hot seat to implement his ideas, there will have to be sacrifice going into the final weeks of the campaign if fans are expecting free-flowing football.

“I certainly think we have to be more substance over style at the moment. The result is the most important thing.

“That doesn’t mean we want to be poor in our play, we want a level that is acceptable and to build on that and improve it, but the simple fact is that we have eight games remaining and we need to pick up as many points as we can. 

“If it means being a bit more pragmatic in terms of getting those points, then that’s what I’ll have to do.”

Sunderland will be looking to avenge a three-one defeat at the Stadium of Light at the turn of the year, with the Black Cats being thoroughly humiliated on the evening following a masterclass from ex-striker Chris Maguire.

Lincoln’s experienced forward put in a superb individual performance in the victory, bagging a hat-trick as Lincoln claimed a much needed three points. The former Sheffield Wednesday forward certainly hammered a nail in Lee Johnson’s Sunderland coffin, with him being sent to the stands on an infamous Lincoln City night.

Maguire was rested for the midweek trip to Rotherham United but is expected to return to Saturday’s lineup to complete the double over his former club.

For the hosts, Lincoln still have work to do in securing League One football next season despite being eight points clear of the relegation zone.

Michael Appleton’s man will be looking to pick up from their second-half performance against Rotherham, with The Imps coming agonisingly close to earning a point in their 2-1 defeat at The New York Stadium on Tuesday evening.

Appleton took away positives and was delighted for his returning striker Tom Hopper, to score his first goal of the season against The Millers since returning from a long term injury that has blighted his season.

An excellent target man, Hopper was an integral part of Lincoln’s success last season that saw him link well with Brennan Johnson and Morgan Rogers. Losing the quality of those loan players, it has been a difficult season for Hopper who has only managed 13 appearances.

Lincoln’s form still remains a mystery at home and to quote Forrest Gump’s ‘life is like a box of chocolates’, Imps fans certainly do not know what to expect from one weekend to the next at Sincil Bank this season.

On paper, their squad has an array of talent that has plied their trade higher up in the leagues but injuries and large changes to personnel in both transfer windows have led to a stuttering campaign.

What is for certain is that all those connected to the club will be relishing the opportunity to claim a scalp of another big side in the division. Having beaten Sheffield Wednesday comprehensively in front of a full house in their 3-1 victory, Appleton is looking forward to the fixture.

“It’s a great game and everyone’s looking forward to it. From an atmosphere point of view, it will be like Sheffield Wednesday.

“They’ll bring a lot of fans down from the north-east and they’ve got a newish manager in Alex. They massively need to points to keep themselves in the play-off positions.

“We’ve got to dust ourselves down and try and reproduce something similar to the second half (from midweek). If we do that, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”

With Regan Poole and Conor McGrandles in contention for a return to the lineup alongside Maguire, it is only in goal where Appleton will be short of options as he tries to bring in a loan backup keeper after Josh Griffiths’ season-ending injury against The Owls.

Follow us on Twitter @ProstInt


About Author

Comments are closed.