Lee Johnson gets defensive injury boost but explains a Sunderland selection dilemma for Plymouth game
Lee Johnson is hopeful that his defensive options could soon be bolstered by the return of experienced campaigners Conor McLaughlin and Tom Flanagan.
Sunderland were rocked earlier this week by the news that Dion Sanderson would not be able to play again this season due to a back injury, but there has been more positive news elsewhere.
McLaughlin had not been expected to feature again in the regular season but is well ahead of schedule as he recovers from a second hernia operation.
Tom Flanagan is not as close to a return from a foot problem but he is nearing being able to join full training, which would be a significant step forward ahead of a potential play-off campaign.
“Conor has been amazing really in terms of his progression with this one compared to the last hernia operation he had," Johnson said.
"He potentially could be involved this weekend, if we need him to be, which I think is a real positive.”
“Flanno is looking quite good,” said Johnson.
“He’s not quite ready to join in with the boys yet, but certainly he looks like he’s moving well. He’s holding himself a lot happier, he’s a lot more confident in himself."
Jake Vokins is also closing in on a first-team return after recovering from COVID-19.
Vokins completed 45 minutes for the U23s in a 2-1 win over Reading on Monday.
Johnson has a couple of other injury concerns to weigh up in the coming days, with Sunderland's place in the play-off places still not mathematically secure as a result of their 1-0 defeat to Blackpool on Tuesday night.
“We’ve got a couple of other considerations for the game this weekend, although I don’t really want to reveal too much at the moment,” Johnson said.
“There’s a couple where we’ll have to see how they recover. It’s a couple of niggles from the game [against Blackpool), and it’s a difficult one.
“If you guaranteed me a ticket for the play-offs, then there’s a couple that I wouldn’t play, and they’re good players.
"Potentially, they may be ruled out anyway, but that balance is a very difficult one to strike given that knife-edge that we’re on at the moment.”