'Too good for League One': The Wycombe Wanderers attacker Sunderland will have to stop plus verdict on former Cats man Josh Scowen

Sunderland are set to face promotion rivals Wycombe Wanderers this weekend – but what can the Black Cats expect from Gareth Ainsworth’s side?

Friday, 7th January 2022, 10:00 am

The Chairboys are fourth in the table, four points behind Sunderland having played the same number of games.

To find out more, we caught up with Wycombe reporter James Richings from The Bucks Free Press to get the inside track:

How has Wycombe’s season gone so far?

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Garath McCleary of Wycombe Wanderers celebrates after scoring their side's second goal during the League One match between Wycombe and Burton at Adams Park.

JR: “I think the season has gone very well for Wycombe.

“After 24 games, they’ve won 13 and have only lost five, and they are only four points off the play offs.

“This month will be a testing one with home matches against Sunderland, Oxford and MK Dons, and with the latter two being derbies, I can certainly expect two battles at Adams Park.

“The Chairboys had a brilliant start with only two defeats in their first 15 league matches (one of those losses came against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light), before a sticky patch arrived in November.

“Home defeats to Ipswich and Portsmouth in the league, an FA Cup draw and defeat against Hartlepool, and a 5-0 thrashing by Burton in the EFL Trophy at Adams Park saw the Chairboys fall off the tracks a bit.

“But, important wins against Bolton, Plymouth and Burton in the league soon followed, with two 2-2 draws against AFC Wimbledon and Sheffield Wednesday also taking place.”

What system are they likely to play?

JR: “Wanderers love to play with wing-backs so expect Jordan Obita and Jason McCarthy bombing down the touchline on Saturday. I think they will go for a 3-4-1-2 formation as Wycombe love to use the wide areas.

“This worked well in the win against Charlton and has been beneficial to them so far this season.”

Who are their key players?

JR: “The players to look out for will be at the attacking end of the field, with Garath McCleary, Anis Mehmeti, Sam Vokes and Brandon Hanlan being the main names.

“McCleary, who has played Premier League and international football, is too good for League One level, which has even been said by manager Garath Ainsworth.

“He, along with Mehmeti, worked well together to set up Vokes’ winner against Charlton on New Year’s Day, and with Hanlan also getting in on the goals in recent matches, Wanderers are not short of attacking options.”

How has former Sunderland midfielder Josh Scowen fared since his return?

JR: “Scowen has been tremendous since returning to Adams Park after six-and-a-half years. He is one of the first players Gareth Ainsworth puts on the team sheet and it’s clear to see why.

“He is tenacious, he wins the ball back, and he is the perfect partner for Curtis Thompson as the two sure up the defence in the centre of midfield.

“The two have got a good understanding as if one goes up, the other stays back and vice versa.

“He covers every blade of grass and like most centre/defensive midfielders, they are unsung heroes in the team, but once they’re missing, you really see the work that they do.”

What’s your predicted line-up?

JR: “Gareth Ainsworth is known to change the team a fair bit, but, this is what I think he might go for: Stockdale; Stewart, Forino, Jacobson; McCarthy, Scowen, Mehmeti, Obita; McCleary; Hanlan, Vokes.”

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