STEVE Bruce has been left sweating on the fitness of John O’Shea after fellow defender Phil Bardsley was handed a four-match ban.
Sunderland yesterday decided not to appeal against Bardsley’s FA charge after the full-back was retrospectively punished for what appeared to be a stamp on Chelsea’s Juan Mata during Saturday’s defeat to Chelsea.
Referee Lee Probert did not punish the 26-year-old at the time, but the FA decided to take action after viewing the video evidence.
Sunderland, wary of receiving an extended ban from a “frivolous” appeal, opted not to protest yesterday and they will be without the services of Bardsley for the games against Stoke, Norwich, West Brom and Arsenal.
Ordinarily, the Scotland international would have received a three-match ban for violent conduct.
But because Bardsley was sent off earlier in the campaign against Newcastle, the former Manchester United man will serve an extra game on the touchlines.
A statement from Sunderland said: “Sunderland have confirmed they will not be appealing the Football Association’s charge against Phil Bardsley following the Barclays Premier League fixture with Chelsea on Saturday September 10.
“The FA yesterday advised that the defender would be cited retrospectively following an incident involving Chelsea’s Juan Mata during the first half of the fixture at the Stadium of Light.
“The Scotland international will face a four-match suspension which comes into effect from Sunday’s game against Stoke City at the Stadium of Light.”
The loss of Bardsley will be softened if O’Shea can recover from the calf injury which ruled him out against Chelsea.
O’Shea’s injury, suffered on international duty with the Republic of Ireland, was not a serious one and boss Bruce will be desperate to have the towering defender back in the starting line-up on Sunday to combat Stoke’s aerial threat.
If O’Shea remains on the sidelines, Sunderland will be down to the bare bones against the high-flying Potters, with Ahmed Elmohamady likely to take Bardsley’s spot at right-back.