Scout report: Why Sunderland must learn from Portsmouth and Peterborough but can be encouraged ahead of Bristol Rovers clash

Sunderland will make the trip to Bristol Rovers this afternoon - but what should they expect?

Saturday, 23rd February 2019, 08:21 am
Updated Saturday, 23rd February 2019, 08:37 am
Graham Coughlan was appointed permanent manager of Bristol Rovers last month.

The Gas may be languishing just one point above the relegation zone but have lost just two of their 11 league games under new manager Graham Coughlan.

We take a closer look at the Black Cats' next opponents ahead of the game at the Memorial Stadium.

What system will Bristol Rovers play?

Despite their lack of goals this season, the Gas have predominately played with two strikers in a 4-4-2 system this season.

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Coughlan has regularly rotated his two forwards following his permanent appointment at the Memorial Stadium last month.

But while Rovers are the second lowest scorers in League One this season with just 31 goals (only AFC Wimbledon, 27, have netted less), the Gas have kept things tight at the back this term.

Despite sitting 19th in the table, The Pirates have let in just 35 league goals this campaign - only Luton, Barnsley, Sunderland, Charlton and Blackpool have conceded less in the league.

Who are Bristol Rovers' key players?

Captain Tom Lockyer and centre-back partner Tony Craig have provided a solid backbone throughout the campaign.

Midfielder Ollie Clarke has also been influential this campaign and is Rovers' top scorer with five goals in all competitions.

Up front, Jonson Clarke-Harris, who arrived from Coventry in January, has added pace and power to the side's attack.

Do Bristol Rovers have any injury worries?

After missing his side's 1-1 draw with Portsmouth,winger Alex Rodman remains a doubt following an injury in training.

Clarke is available again after missing two games through suspension, while Lockyer should be available after allegedly being punched by Pompey striker James Vaughan on Tuesday night.

Who is Bristol Rovers' manager and what can we expect from them?

Following the departure of Darrell Clarke in December, defensive coach Coughlin took charge of the Gas on a temporary basis.

Despite losing 2-1 to the Black Cats at the Stadium of Light, Rovers then picked up 10 points out of 12 in their next four league games, before appointing Coughlin on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

Rovers have kept their defensive solidity under Coughlin, though several draws have kept them in a relegation battle.

What form have Bristol Rovers been in?

The Gas were 1-0 up against Portsmouth on Tuesday night, courtesy of Clarke-Harris' first-half penalty, but weren't able to hang on.

The 1-1 draw at Fratton Park was Rovers' fourth draw in their last six league games, while Coughlin has also guided the side to the semi-final of the Checkatrade Trophy - where they'll face Sunderland next month.

Rovers have taken points of Pompey and Peterborough in recent weeks and shouldn't be underestimated by the Black Cats.

However, Sunderland can be encouraged by Rovers' terrible home form this season.

The Gas have won just three of their 16 league games at the Memorial Stadium - only AFC Wimbledon have a worse home record in League One this season.

Last six league games: DLDWDD