SUNDERLAND will monitor Steven Fletcher and Danny Rose over the next few days in the hope that both can be fit for this weekend’s crucial trip to Southampton.
Fletcher was substituted at half-time against Manchester United at the weekend after suffering a back injury while, pre-match, Rose failed a fitness test on the ankle damaged in the win over Reading last midweek.
Manager Martin O’Neill appreciates the importance of both for a battle at the bottom which will have a big say in how the Premier League basement looks over the Christmas period.
The Black Cats won a six-pointer against Reading last week and this Saturday’s game at St Mary’s carries equal significance – defeat could see Sunderland drop into the bottom three; a win would give them breathing space before of a trio of games against Premier League heavyweights.
O’Neill revealed: “Steve actually hurt his back in the warm-up at Old Trafford.
“He twisted it in some way and it got more painful towards the end of the first half.
“He just about go to half-time with it, but it was clear he couldn’t continue in the second half.
“We’ll have to see how it goes, because it’s a different injury to the one he’s had in recent weeks when he hurt his ankle.”
The manager will now look to strengthen in the January transfer window after admitting every injury is taking its toll.
“In truth, we didn’t have too many options in terms of selection,” he said.
“We don’t have fantastic options, so we will have to see what happens.
“We have to see if we can get one or two players fit again and soon.
“If not, then we’ll just have to look at things next month.”
It’s not all doom and gloom though – Adam Johnson was at least able to shrug off the dead leg sustained against Reading to contribute against Manchester United.
And Fraizer Campbell grabbed his first goal of the campaign when he came off the bench to nod home a Stephane Sessegnon cross.
“Frazier had a chance to get on in the game and he did fine,” said O’Neill.
“We will need him around here over the festive programme because we’re trying to strengthen rather than let players go.
“As for Adam, I don’t think he was fully fit against United but he is showing signs of improvement and I think he is showing a little bit more of the skill and contribution that first attracted Man City’s interest.
“He genuinely wants to do well for us and I think that by the time the season finishes he will have proved his worth.”