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Blues Continue Search For End to Top Side Hoodoo as Sunderland Visit
Tuesday, 26th Jan 2021 06:00

Town host Sunderland live on Sky this evening again trying to end their hoodoo against teams in League One’s upper reaches (KO 7.45pm).

The Blues have beaten only Accrington of the sides currently above them - Crewe were well down the table when they were defeated 1-0 at Portman Road in October - having only recorded two wins against the 10 sides who finished above them during the curtailed 2019/20 campaign.

Town dropped to ninth in the table following Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Peterborough United, their fifth home defeat in six games.

Having topped the division after winning five and drawing one of their first six matches, Town have won just six of their subsequent 15.

As well as their winless form against teams towards the top of the division, the Blues will be looking to improve on a poor record in front of the Sky Sports cameras which has seen them win just once – 2-0 against Wigan in August last year – in their last 18 appearances on the satellite channel.

Already-under fire boss Paul Lambert has come under increased pressure since the defeat to Posh with Blue Action again calling for his departure via a poster on the Portman Road gates and then a local newspaper editorial similarly backing his exit.

Having been pleased with his side’s display against Peterborough, if not the result, Lambert believes the Black Cats will have a tough evening if Town put in a similar performance tonight.

“Any game I’ve played, whether I was a player or whether I was a manager, I always go and try and win,” he said. “I never sit back and wait for a team to come at us. I’ve not been brought up that way.

“I don’t want to sit there, I want the lads to go and express themselves and try and win. If we do what we did on Saturday, then Sunderland will have a hard game.”

Lambert is likely to make one or two changes to his team with the Blues having three games in eight days and with a number of players having only just returned from injury.

Tomas Holy will continue in goal not having face a single Peterborough shot on target at the weekend with skipper Luke Chambers and Stephen Ward once again set to be the full-backs.

Lambert could look at bringing Luke Woolfenden back at the centre of the defence for Toto Nsiala, who conceded the penalty that Posh striker Jonson Clarke-Harris blazed over in the first half on Saturday, next to Mark McGuinness, whose own goal decided the weekend match.

In midfield, Andre Dozzell seems likely to continue in his midfield role, with Flynn Downes or Jon Nolan alongside him.

Alan Judge could be in line to move into the more advanced midfield role with Teddy Bishop perhaps rested having played two games since returning from two months out with an ankle problem. Recent loan signing Josh Harrop is out of tonight’s match and Saturday’s visit to Crewe having tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday.

Luke Thomas seems likely to make his debut on the right of the front three with Gwion Edwards on the left, while Lambert’s central striker choice will depend on the fitness of James Norwood and Kayden Jackson.

Norwood was absent from the 18 on Saturday as he had felt some fatigue in his hamstring in the previous game at Burton, while Jackson had missed training early in the week due to thigh and hip issues. If either are fit then one of them is likely to start with Aaron Drinan dropping to the bench. Oli Hawkins is out for around six weeks as he is to undergo knee surgery.

Sunderland, seventh, a point ahead of Town, beat Shrewsbury 1-0 at home on Saturday and have lost just once in their last seven in League One, once in nine in all competitions.

The Black Cats are yet to lose on their travels in the league this season having won five and drawn five of their 10 away games.

Manager Lee Johnson took charge in December and has a record of played 10, win five, drawn three and lost two.

Sunderland are expected to have USA international midfielder Lynden Gooch available again after 10 days away from the club having tested positive for Covid-19.

Striker Danny Graham was back in the squad for the Shrewsbury game at the weekend after a knee problem, but defender Tom Flanagan is getting closer to a return from a broken foot.

Boss Johnson hints that he could shuffle his squad with games coming thick and fast and his team having looked a little tired in the latter stages on Saturday.

"I've got the option to [freshen team up for Ipswich],” he told the Sunderland Echo "We're not a million miles away from having Tom Flanagan back, which is good.

“Lynden Gooch comes into contention for that game, although he only comes out of isolation on Tuesday. He might be able to be on the bench if we needed him to.

"We're getting a set of players who are fit. It's a tough league and a tough team. You saw against Shrewsbury that as the pitch cut up, everyone was leggy.

“Sometimes the entertainment factor falls away a bit but at the same time, everyone will have had that nice feeling of three points on a Saturday night."

Historically, the sides are closely matched with Town having won 23 of the games between the teams (23 in the league) and Sunderland 22 (20) with eight (eight) having ended in draws.

The teams met most recently at the Stadium of Light in November when Dozzell was controversially red-carded as the Blues were beaten 2-1 by the Wearsiders with former Blues skipper Grant Leadbitter winning the game with a late penalty.

The Black Cats took the lead on eight via Charlie Wyke but Jack Lankester levelled for Town seven minutes before the break and the Blues were on top on the second half until Dozzell was harshly dismissed for a 72nd-minute challenge on Leadbitter, who netted the winner from the spot 12 minutes later after McGuinness had handled.

The teams last met at Portman Road in August 2019 when they drew 1-1 in an entertaining game.

Loanee left-back Luke Garbutt netted his second goal in two games for the Blues on the quarter-half mark but Lynden Gooch levelled for Sunderland in the second half.

Garbutt shot low under Wearsiders’ keeper Jon McLaughlin in the 15th minute as the Blues dominated the first half but Gooch profited from Town captain Chambers’s error on 64 to claim an undeserved equaliser for the visitors.

Former Blues skipper Grant Leadbitter rejoined his boyhood club from Middlesbrough in January 2019.

Leadbitter, now 35, signed for Town from the Black Cats in September 2009 for £2.65 million and went on to make 120 starts and six sub appearances before leaving for Boro on a Bosman in the summer of 2012.

Keeper Remi Matthews spent time training with the Blues last summer and was understood to have been offered a contract but ultimately joined the Black Cats.

Striker Danny Graham was also believed to have spoken to Town in the summer following his release by Blackburn but was always expected to sign with a club in the North.

Blues keeper-coach Jimmy Walker was at Sunderland before joining the Town staff in November 2018.

Tonight’s referee is Charles Breakspear from Surrey, who has shown 77 yellow cards and four red cards in 20 games so far this season.

Breakspear’s last Town match was the 2-0 Papa John’s Trophy victory over Gillingham at Portman Road in October in which he yellow-carded Armando Dobra, Liam Gibbs and three visitors.

Prior to that he was in charge of the Blues’ 4-1 home victory over Burton in February last year in which he booked Nolan and Luke Garbutt.

His previous Blues match also ended in a 4-1 victory to Town, over Accrington Stanley a month earlier in which he booked Chambers and one of the visitors.

Before that he was the fourth official on the end of Cardiff defender Sol Bamba’s outburst which led to his red card when the Bluebirds visited Portman Road in December 2016.

Breakspear refereed the 1-0 Carabao Cup defeat to Stevenage at Portman Road in August 2016 in which he booked Tommy Smith and two visiting players.

He was also in charge of the 1-0 defeat at QPR in February of the same year in which he yellow-carded Kevin Bru and two home players.

Before that, he officiated in the 0-0 home draw with Wigan in January 2015 in which he booked Smith and three Latics.

He also took control of the 1-0 home victory over Bolton in February 2014, the winning goal a 55th-minute David McGoldrick penalty awarded after the striker had been hauled back by Trotters’ keeper Andy Lonergan, who had dropped a high ball.

Breakspear also refereed Town’s 3-0 pre-season friendly victory at Colchester in July 2013 in which he also awarded the Blues a spotkick, which Daryl Murphy scored after he was fouled by U’s keeper Sam Walker.

Squad from: Holy, Cornell, Chambers (c), Ward, Kenlock, McGuinness, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Dozzell, Downes, Nolan, Judge, Bishop, Huws, Lankester, Thomas, Bennetts, Sears, Edwards, Norwood, Jackson, Drinan.

Photo: Matchday Images

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Sir_Bob added 06:12 - Jan 26
3 points and Lambert shown the door. That would be a terrific day.

herobobby added 06:34 - Jan 26
Lambert is the tip of the iceberg with what is wrong with town
Yes he needs to go we all agree
You can bring in the best mangers in the world but it still isn’t going to make any difference until Evans isn’t owning the club, it’s taken me all this time to see it
There are people on this forum who will point out how he bails out the club every year and be careful what you wish for.......
Surely it’s worth the risk because I don’t wish for this current state of affairs
I am a town fan through and through but I am so fed up with it I’m hoping there is something else on TV tonight why watch the game and ruin another evening

warktheline added 07:00 - Jan 26
Hoodoo! Plain truth is we are already a mid table side at best! Last season was the same, we aren’t good enough to challenge sides in and around top eight positions in division season the decline will continue as we fall into bottom ‘half bracket’ and thereafter our next relegation !

Suffolkboy added 07:38 - Jan 26
A doom laden atmosphere surrounds almost everything ITFC right mow ; that’s a pity ,and won’t actually help .
There is a really desperate need to move onto the front foot ,put a real sense of perspective on the circumstances — including ,dare one say , accepting that PL ( of indeed anybody in that position ) will be personally struggling through the days ,and well below par ,especially over a 24 hr period !

In such circumstances we need and expect the remainder of the management team to more than compensate, truly earn their crust and bring optimism ,enthusiasm and direction to all.
Nobody should be afraid to take the reins , pressuring PL if needs be to accept his own performance will be less than too notch for a while : indeed in match day team selection he’d probably be lucky to make the bench !
So come on lads ,show you can step up ,do the business ,give us all hope !Best of good fortune !

ArnieM added 07:39 - Jan 26
I’d disagree with the we’re not good enough stance. If you saw this squad at any other club you’d expect them in that top six minimum. It’s how they are deployed that’s the problem . And that’s Lambert , end of.

shakytown added 07:47 - Jan 26
No chance with Lambert in charge.

tractorboybig added 07:48 - Jan 26
its not a hoodo its a crap manager

MrJase_79 added 07:50 - Jan 26
It's not hoodoo, it's a useless, clueless manager who is completely unable to get the best out of his players, and is too stubborn to play to our strengths and is more worried about keeping the ball than doing anything with it.

I do wish headlines like that would stop being run because magic has absolutely nothing to do with it.

itfcserbia added 07:56 - Jan 26
“Any game I’ve played, whether I was a player or whether I was a manager, I always go and try and win,” he said. “I never sit back and wait for a team to come at us. I’ve not been brought up that way.“

Just watch his games as Stoke manager. Complete bus parking.

warktheline added 08:12 - Jan 26
@arniem , there’s no getting away from the fact Lambert is a woeful manager but the bigger picture points blame at Evans.....example, beginning of last season Lambert used to flying wing backs, Garbutt and Vincent Young , this campaign he’s having to make do with two ‘grandads’! Please don’t point at injuries etc, the fact of the matter is, Evans in slowly but surely reducing the standard of player any Town manager can obtain !!!

heathen66 added 08:20 - Jan 26
So those that were really poor on Saturday (Chambers, Ward, Judge) play no questions asked.
Tactics and formation exactly the same again but this time we are hoping (again) for a different result.
I will be honest, I am hoping... however I am sure Lee Johnson will have done his homework and will have a plan to beat us !!!
Attack down the wings and get un-opposed crossed into the !!!

EuanTown added 08:23 - Jan 26
Oh Town at home on the tele, defeat written all over it. First shot on goal after 70 minutes. And the stat that Sunderland have not lost in the last 7, oh make that 8, town won 1 in 6. No hope anymore.

BettyBlue added 08:39 - Jan 26
Don't worry Evans and Lambert, we're not bothered either now.

The fans have left the building.

dirtydingusmagee added 08:49 - Jan 26
OOOOOOOH NOOOOOOOO , Not another hoodoo .

ChrisFelix added 09:01 - Jan 26
So much truth already mentioned. Clearly i want us to win tonight but if we lose as i expect surely its the end of Lambert. And we all know that a new man would see a big improvement with this a squad

spanishblue added 09:04 - Jan 26
No hoodoo we are just not good enough,can the last person out turn the lights off

chepstowblue added 09:13 - Jan 26
A more than predictable and ultimately very comfortable 2-0 defeat.

dirtydingusmagee added 09:17 - Jan 26
we will prob go a goal down early, and our shot at goal will be usual time around 75th.Lambert will be pleased that we played really well ,really really well, some incredible football, and he was really proud of them, couldnt ask for more. There you go lads save your tenner for when pubs reopen

Radlett_blue added 09:41 - Jan 26
Town's poor form against the better sides is no "hoodoo"; it's simply a reflection of where the club is right now & Lambert's lack of competence as a manager. It also largely explains the Sky TV "hoodoo" as most of our televised games have been against either the better teams in our league or higher division sides in Cup games.

Nobbysnuts added 10:04 - Jan 26
What i predict up shots on goal...defeat again...shambert saying we played really really really really really well...just p#ss off shambert....

Sixto6 added 10:12 - Jan 26
We’ll probably win tonight with a really scrappy 1-0 playing dreadfully (great, really good, top performance from the lads- in Lambert lingo) and then lose to Crewe, with Lambert saying we just didn’t turn up..... talking like that’s an acceptable reason !

All this adding up to Shambert keeping the job for another month or two !

Karlosfandangal added 10:18 - Jan 26

I agree with you, However the club need Evans money more than ever now.
We are in the same position as we were with McCarthy, again careful watch you wish for as all that’s happened is we have gone from mid table of the Championship to mid table Division 1 playing a different type of boring football.
McCarthy would have kept us in the Championship but going nowhere.

Lampard is free and he was offered the job the first time around but was told there was no money to spend.

If Lambert goes the new manager will have to work with what we have as time to bring anyone in now so close to the transfer window shutting.

We are stuck with Lambert till the end of the season at least.

Razor added 10:27 - Jan 26
Lambert just does not help himself-----if he had just said we prevented their forward line from having a single shot on goal, made another stupid mistake for theie goal and had a good one of ours chalked off wrongly no one could have disagreed------but no!!

Tonight must start with Thomas from the start and if we play Drinnan or Sears then no chance-----how are the expensive sick notes doing?

And what has happenned to Wilson and Skuse?

norfolkbluey added 10:44 - Jan 26
Its simple, if we lose tonight Lambert just has to go. I don't believe we haven't the players, its down to tactics and the ability to adapt to injury enforcement. The fact we have the highest injury list in the league must also be down to the way training is producing these injuries or are we not thorough enough when we look at the health of players before they come to the club. I suspect the latter is the more likely.

TimmyH added 10:45 - Jan 26
'Hoodoo' - doesn't this word mean a curse or bad luck?...that hasn't been the case, we've just not been consistently good enough against the main contenders in this league.

I remember when we beat the mighty Fleetwood away 1-0 last season and think they were in the top 6 at the time...but other than that a joke.

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