SUNDERLAND defender Matt Kilgallon stands by for his first Premier League start of the season this evening in the wake of John O’Shea’s calf injury.
It would be a rare opportunity for the 28-year-old – in the last year of his contract – to remind manager Martin O’Neill of his abilities.
The ex-Sheffield United defender shrugged off the “misfit” tag he acquired under Steve Bruce to play some important games for Martin O’Neill last season.
But he has been very much a background figure in the current campaign, only featuring in one game this season – the Black Cats’ Capital One Cup victory over the MK Dons in September.
O’Neill praised him for his performance in that match but Kilgallon has still not played in the Premier League since May and a 2-1 defeat at Fulham
That looks likely to change tonight though with O’Shea unlikely to feature, Wes Brown still on the long-term injured list, and Titus Bramble’s match fitness uncertain.
Right-back Phil Bardsley partnered Carlos Cuellar in the second-half of Sunderland’s 4-2 defeat to West Brom at the weekend after O’Shea failed to appear after the break but that will almost certainly not continue this evening.
And Kilgallon is the obvious choice if, as expected, O’Shea remains sidelined.
O’Neill admitted to the Echo: “John O’Shea is very doubtful for tonight.
“Titus hasn’t played for a little while, and Matt has been here training every day while Titus has been recovering from injury – although Bramble has been injury-free for the last couple of weeks.”
Bramble would probably still be above Kilgallon in the pecking order normally but with the former Ipswich and Newcastle defender training only intermittently in the last couple of months, that could be just enough for the fully-fit Kilgallon to get his chance in the important game against QPR this evening.
Skipper Lee Cattermole was also injured against West Brom – the midfielder suffering a recurrence of the knee problem which ruled him out of the Everton game earlier this month.
But, just like O’Shea, O’Neill has refused to rule him out, saying the news on Cattermole is more positive.
“Lee is doing OK at the moment and again ‘ll leave it as late as possible before making a decision,” he said.
“When he came off the field on Saturday, I wouldn’t have given him much of a chance of playing tonight but he has made progress and we’ll see how he is.
“We’ve got one or two other knocks too, but I don’t want to go into detail and let QPR know everything that is going on!”
If Cattermole fails to make it, Craig Gardner is expected to continue in central midfield.