What can Sunderland expect from Shrewsbury Town test as Lee Johnson's side look for back-to-back victories?
While Sunderland may have ended their poor run of form with a victory over Ipswich Town at the weekend, Black Cats fans should expect another difficult evening at Montgomery Waters Meadow.
Lee Johnson’s side travel to Shropshire to take on a Shrewsbury Town side struggling in the relegation zone but who have only lost one of their last six home games in all competitions, winning four.
Since the opening day of the season, only League One leaders Plymouth Argyle and promotion chasing Wycombe Wanderers have taken maximum points from Steve Cotterill’s side on home soil with Johnson and Sunderland only too familiar with how challenging a fixture this can be.
Last season Johnson’s side went down 2-1 to the Shrews, with the Black Cats having also lost on their visit in 2019.
So with the Shrews going for a hat-trick of victories over the Wearsiders, what should Sunderland expect tonight?
Looking back on February’s defeat, while a goalkeeping error from Remi Matthews can be highlighted for Ethan Ebanks-Landell’s equaliser, the source of the goal coming from the right is something the Black Cats will have to face tonight.
So far on average this season, 42% of Shrewsbury’s attacks come down their right, as per who scored. That is a concern for Sunderland given their fragility in the left back area with injuries to Dennis Cirkin, Niall Huggins and Denver Hume leaving Johnson severely short on numbers in that area of the field.
A boost for the Black Cats comes in the news that wingback Elliott Bennett is suspended for the home side having picked up a red card in the defeat to Cheltenham Town on Saturday. Bennett has provided three assists this season and would be a threat down Sunderland’s left-hand-side.
Bennett is not the only one missing, with fullback Josh Daniels and attacker Shaun Whalley also absent, meaning the Shrews may have to alter their go-to formation of 3-5-2.
In their most recent visit to Montgomery Waters Meadow, Johnson’s side faced a much more direct Shrewsbury side than they may face this evening.
On that night in February Cotterill’s side attempted 81 passes considered as ‘long balls’ to 257 ‘short passes’ in contrast to their most recent home fixture last month, a 4-1 win over Cambridge United, where they attempted 61 ‘long balls’ and 336 ‘short passes’ as per who scored.
Cotterill’s side are efficient when taking the lead, with Saturday’s defeat at Cheltenham the first time they have gone on to lose a game this season after going in front.
Cotterill’s side like to play games in the opposition half which could also prove problematic for Sunderland with Johnson enjoying his Black Cats to build-up from the back.
Goals have been an issue for the Shrews this season with just 16 scored - only League One’s bottom two club’s have scored fewer - however they are the eighth best team in the division when it comes to shots conceded per-game at 11.4 - Sunderland in contrast concede 14.1 on average.
Both sides have won just one of their last four league games and Johnson’s side arrive in Shropshire with the 12th best away record in the division taking on a Shrewsbury side with the 13th best home record suggesting it may be hard to separate the two teams.