Chris Young’s big-match vedict: Attack the Royals!

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KENWYNE Jones marked his Stadium of Light bow with a sizzling opener on Reading’s last visit to Wearside.

Now that the Royal’s five-year exodus from the top flight is over, Martin O’Neill needs his striking recruits to follow suit and fulfil their remit of curing Sunderland’s ills in front of goal.

At Arsenal last weekend, Sunderland’s lack of firepower wasn’t necessarily an issue.

Although Sunderland mustered a brace of efforts in the opening 20 minutes at the Emirates, the emphasis was almost entirely on Martin O’Neill’s men maintaining their defensive shape and concentration.

Tomorrow is the polar opposite.

This was always the deadline by which Sunderland’s desperate search for attacking reinforcements needed to have produced some sort of success.

Although O’Neill remains eager to boost Sunderland’s ability to carve out chances – with a bid for Adam Johnson still on the table – at least he is now presciously close to bringing in two players capable of taking them.

Neither Louis Saha or Steven Fletcher – if registered in time – will be match fit tomorrow, nor will Stephane Sessegnon after the Benin international barely broke out of walking pace for the final 20 minutes or so of his hour against the Gunners.

But the adrenaline of a first Stadium of Light outing of the season will doubtless kick in, while Saha and Sessegnon will have seen their fitness boosted by appearing in the sweltering heat of North London last weekend.

Saha and Sessegnon look the most likely strike partnership to start tomorrow, as Fletcher begins his Sunderland career on the bench.

Despite only joining Sunderland two days previously, Saha looked sharp on his debut at Arsenal and did keep himself in shape during the summer at a fitness camp in France.

Fletcher meanwhile, had his pre-season disrupted by both a minor ankle injury and the continued uncertainty over his future, and was still short of match sharpness when he played in a training ground 11-a-side game earlier this week.

The Scotland international’s chance in the starting line-up will come, possibly in Tuesday’s League Cup clash with Morecambe, but Saha is in line to get the nod with Fraizer Campbell likely to make way as Sunderland revert to a more familiar 4-4-1-1 system.

Reading’s frontline will also be boosted tomorrow, with former Wigan and Blackburn striker Jason Roberts returning after a three-game ban.

But the 34-year-old is likely to be a substitute as Brian McDermott persists with the 4-3-3 system that almost produced a tangible reward at Chelsea.

A solitary point from the opening two games has slightly masked Reading’s start to life back in the top flight.

Lady Luck has not been smiling after a clanger in each encounter by goalkeeper Adam Federici, a stoppage time breakaway goal when the stopper was in the opposite area and a blatantly offside goal from Fernando Torres.

In former Sunderland transfer target Pavel Pogrebnyak, McDermott has managed to land a powerful, natural finisher and the well-paid Russian is well complemented out wide by the craft of Jobi McAnuff and impressive summer signing Gareth McCleary.

Although fellow winger Jimmy Kebe remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, Sunderland’s defence must be as fiercely resilient as they were on the opening day.

But that point at Arsenal, coupled with the signing of Saha, marked a sea-change in Sunderland’s summer.

At the final whistle last weekend, Sunderland’s flat pre-season was a distant memory, replaced by an air of optimism of what can be achieved this season if O’Neill strengthens further before the transfer deadline.

The acquisition of Fletcher and the pursuit of Johnson have only intensified that positivity and it’s a timely buzz for the Stadium of Light’s entrance onto the Premier League stage.

Reading will doubtless present a stern challenge, but the Royals will have suffered from their efforts at Chelsea and Sunderland should have enough to secure a first win since March.

Verdict: Home win