Race for places starts to hot up

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SUNDERLAND coach Fraser Kennedy had to make some difficult decisions this week for the away trip to Guisborough, with just about a full squad to pick from for the first time this season.

With long-term absentee Jamie Maclennan the only person unavailable, there were choices in just about every position and after last week’s win, those not selected are bound to be disappointed.

The biggest decisions came in the back line, with Matt Goforth available again.

Kennedy has chosen to break up the Townend/Bellon partnership in the centres down in Cleveland, with Goforth taking over at outside centre and Bellon moving to the wing.

That meant there was no place in the starting lineup for the unlucky Dan Abraham and Michael Walton drops from the bench into the twos.

With Gregg Littlewood and Sam Vaughan making up the back three alongside Bellon, the backline looks to possess a threat it has lacked for much of the season.

In the pack their were more decisions to be made, with Ross Finch available again, but Kennedy decided not to break up the back row which functioned so well last week.

Finch comes into the second row alongside Pete Carter. Jake Belfield is expected to recover sufficiently from a toe injury picked up last week to take a place on the bench.

Dave Robson returns to the front row, so Ryan Buckley drops to the bench.

The inclusion of Robson and Finch means their is no place in the matchday squad for Andy Hall and Andy Wordsworth, who both drop to the seconds.

With more than 25 players training on a regular basis, Kennedy is hoping these selection headaches become a regular occurance as it will mean the club is in an extremely strong position on the pitch.

Those players missing out on first team action mean Rob Stormont is able to name his strongest second team squad of the season for the visit of Bishop Auckland.

He will be looking to get a reaction out of the likes of Wordsworth, Hall and Walton to help the seconds pick up their first victory of the season.

Alongside those players, Stormont is also able to name several promising young players who have recently arrived at the club via the university, a number of whom will, hopefully, be pushing for a first-team jersey in the coming weeks.

Tony Watt’s third team also benefit from the influx of new players in being able to name a squad of 22 players for their trip to Winlaton.

Any players not named and wanting a game, please let one of the team captains know as soon as possible.

Sunderland away to Guisborough; meet 12.30: Robson; Harrison; Arrowsmith; Carter; Finch; Drummond; Black; Watt; Francis; Dobson; Bellon; Townend; Goforth; Vaughan; Littlewood. Reps Buckley; Belfield; Abraham.

Sunderland II at home to Bisop Auckland; meet 1pm: Summers; Hall; Geehan; Bengochea; Elstob; Wordsworth; Reynoldson; Reay; Mackie; Dogoda; Smith; Edmundson; Henry; Fotheringham; Roberts; Heffernan; Jermy; Hinder; Hands; Dickin.

Sunderland III away to Winlaton; 1.15 meet: Marshall; Wright; Deighton; Fish; Gaul; Jackson; Marshall; Harrison; Brace; Grainger; Gallimore; Simpson; Graham; Ditchburn; Richardson. Brown; Belfield; Weatherburn; Pablo; Watson; Green; Clinton.