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The Saturday Preview

Pilgrims in Sunderland

2 March 2019

TRAVELLING to The Stadium of Light may be a daunting prospect at the best of times but, with Argyle hitting a real purple patch, the task in hand today may not be so scary after all.

For all their wealth and fantastic facilities, Sunderland still have a lot of work to do to gain automatic promotion back to the Championship at the first time of asking. 

Sunderland boss Jack Ross, having made a name for himself in Scotland firstly with Alloa, moved to St Mirren, where he saved them from dropping into League One and then took them to the top flight as Champions the following season. 

He was appointed manager of Sunderland in the summer but they have not had it all their own way. The Black Cats currently sit third, on 65 points, having played 33 games but five points off the automatic promotion places behind Barnsley and Luton, who have both played a game more.

In February, Jack Ross’ side played six times, yielding 12 out of a possible 18 points but the only top-half team they faced in that time were Blackpool in ninth, who they failed to beat. Three of their last four games have ended all square: Accrington (2-2), Blackpool (1-1) and a disappointing draw against relegation-threatened Oxford United (1-1).

Taking the last eight games into account for both sides, Sunderland actually have three points fewer than us (14), with Argyle being three points short of the top of the form table ourselves, (Luton on 20).

It is testimony to how well we have done and is stark evidence that, even though Sunderland are yet to lose at home this season, returning from Wearside with a point, if not more, is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility for Derek Adams’ Pilgrims.

A largely unchanged team has been a major factor in a string of positive results this year but, unfortunately, Argyle will embark on the longest trip of the campaign without the services of midfielder Antoni Sarcevic, who picked up his tenth booking against Rochdale and will serve a two-match suspension, so at least one change will be out of necessity, as opposed to preference.

There is a very thin line between confidence and over-confidence, today will be tough, make no mistake about it. Sunderland have yet to be beaten at home this season, they have 35 points from those games, and have scored in every one so far.  

Despite their league position, they do have a very strong squad and the £4m January acquisition of Will Grigg shows their financial might.

Josh Maja, who has since departed for Bordeaux scored 15 times for Sunderland, while winger Aiden McGeady is a close second on 11, so there is no shortage of goals.

It is going to be a major test for Argyle but, remember, the last time we visited Wearside in 2006, we made the long journey home with a 3-2 victory.

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