Lee Johnson sets challenge for his Sunderland players - and has this message for 'brilliant' fans ahead of Oxford United test

Lee Johnson has urged his Sunderland players to seize the opportunity to go joint-top of the League One table on Saturday afternoon.

Friday, 3rd December 2021, 3:30 pm

While goal difference means climbing into the top-two positions is highly unlikely even if the Black Cats do beat Oxford United, Johnson says levelling the points tally of those at the top will show his team are well and truly back on track.

With most promotion rivals in FA Cup action this weekend, Johnson says it is a big opportunity for his side and urged supporters to create one of the loudest atmospheres of the season.

“The beauty of our scenario is that we have a chance at the weekend to go joint-top of the table” Johnson said.

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Sunderland boss Lee Johnson

“There has been a bit of negativity from our form a couple of weeks ago and rightly so, because we weren’t performing as well as we could and should have been performing.

“We’ve picked up seven points in the last week, had a really good week behind the scenes, so we go into this game full of confidence.

“If I could bank one of the top three decibel levels [across the season] from the crowd I would take one tomorrow.

“It’s a really big game for both clubs, they’ve both good players.

“Two good sides, and it’ll be a good football match. They’ve got real quality on the floor and we’ve got that ability to turn and drive at teams.

“I think we play better against teams who play good football and vice versa, so it should be a good game and one that fans enjoy.

“It’s a real goal for us to be joint top at 5pm on Saturday, and we’ll work really hard towards that goal.”

Sunderland have an outstanding record on home turf this season, winning seven of their eight league games thus far.

Johnson said the club’s support, who have regularly produced attendances of over 30,000, have been ‘brilliant’ and will be a crucial part of the game on Saturday afternoon.

“They’ve been brilliant at the Stadium of Light, you don’t win seven or eight without the fans right behind you,” Johnson said.

“They’ll be there for us on Saturday and we’ll need that, whether it’s to drive us on, to keep us honest, or to give us that noise.

“You want to get to the top of the league and then drive forward.

“This is going to be a really tough game against a really good side.

“We know we’ve had a sticky patch of form but look where we could get to, this is a real chance for us as a team to keep going.”

Johnson admitted that he could yet see his injury list lengthen ahead of the game, with a couple of his players facing late fitness tests.

However, he is confident he will be able to name an XI strong enough to take three points from the game.

“We’re waiting on a couple, though I won’t reveal who,” he said.

“Without a doubt, our XI will be strong, we’ll have two or three senior changes from the bench, and then there’ll be three or four younger players.”

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