Lee Johnson reacts to Sunderland win and explains Luke O'Nien, Bailey Wright and Josh Hawkes' absence

Luke O'Nien's Sunderland return has been stalled by a shoulder injury picked up in pre-season, though Lee Johnson hopes that the midfielder will be fit to face Harrogate Town next week.

Saturday, 17th July 2021, 5:37 pm

O'Nien had a recurrence of the shoulder injury that sidelined him for a significant spell last season, though Johnson believes the damage is nowhere near as severe on this occasion.

Nevertheless, he admits the situation is one that will have to be closely monitored.

O'Nien went through an extensive fitness drill before the game at Tynecastle, ahead of his return to action.

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Ross Stewart is fouled ahead of Sunderland's first goal

Bailey Wright also missed the game as a precaution, while Johnson also explained that Josh Hawkes' absence so far in the pre-season campaign has been due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Ollie Younger and Alex Pritchard have also tested positive for the virus in pre-season, though Younger made his return in the second half of the 2-0 win at Tynecastle.

None of the trio are believed to have picked up the virus from within the Sunderland camp.

"Luke O'Nien has been out, he popped his shoulder," Johnson explained.

"It wasn't the same in terms of the timescale from the last one, which led to quite a lengthy absence.

"This time the ligaments are fine, not too stretched.

"It's a long-term worry because you don't like to see it, but at the same time I expect him to probably be back for the Harrogate game.

"With Bailey it was just precautionary, he felt some tightness in his groin.

"Josh Hawkes has been out due to COVID-19."

Johnson said it had been a positive week for his team, as they concluded a week-long training camp in Edinburgh with the win over Hearts.

Two Aiden McGeady goals in the first half secured the win, with the first sparked by an outstanding through ball from debutant Callum Doyle.

The Manchester City loanee made an excellent first impression and Johnson said supporters can expect to see more of that forward play from across the group this season.

"We started really well, especially with the intensity of the press because that isn't something we've really worked on yet," he said.

"That was just the senior players stepping up and setting that.

"On the ball we were comfortable and created some good chances, scored two good goals.

"There's a lot of positives from today and the week as a whole. Hearts are probably ten days ahead of us in their pre-season and fitness, so I was happy to see some fluid movements.

"It was a major contribution from Callum and we will have that quick passing this year, no doubt about that.

"Embleton, McGeady, Pritchard, we have the players with the ability to do that.

"It's so important our forwards are ready for that this season. Ross did it for the penalty and I expect fans to see a lot of that from us this year.

"It's so hard to defend against that, when players have the ability to disguise passes and play through the lines. You see the first goal, two quick passes and you're in."