Stadium of Light

Sunderland v Reading Preview

by Stuart Vose

Match preview ahead of tonight’s action.

Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill feels his side will have a good chance of victory over Reading tonight if they can replicate their second-half performance against Chelsea.

The Black Cats found themselves 3-0 down in the early stages of the second period but mounted a spirited fightback with Adam Johnson reducing the arrears.

Now O’Neill wants to see his side kick on against a Reading outfit who are one place below them in the table.

Ironically, tonight’s game falls exactly a year to the day since O’Neill saw his Sunderland side defeat Blackburn in his first game in charge.

The Black Cats entered that game with 11 points from their first 14 outings and grabbed a vital 2-1 victory thanks to late goals from David Vaughan and Seb Larsson.

That win sparked a remarkable run of form which saw Sunderland shoot up the division on their way to a comfortable mid-table finish.

And O’Neill will be looking to channel some of that ahead of what he admits is a huge game.

Reading have taken nine points from 15 games since making the step up from the Npower Championship in the summer.

They have tasted victory once in the league this season, beating Everton 2-1 at the Madejski Stadium last month.

McDermott’s side have taken two points from eight away games so far and have lost each of their last four games following their win over the Toffees.

The latest defeat came last weekend when Jason Puncheon’s goal secured a 1-0 win for Southampton, who moved out of the relegation zone in the process.

But while the Royals have conceded goals  - 28 in 15 league games – they are dangerous at the other end, scoring 19 in all to lead clubs in the bottom five.

They hit three goals against Manchester United in a recent defeat and scored five times against Arsenal in the Capital One Cup only to lose an incredible tie by a 7-5 margin.

McDermott is contending with injury problems ahead of the game with Sean Morrison, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Jimmy Kebe and Chris Gunter all carrying knocks.

Alex McCarthy and Jem Karacan are also likely to miss out.

Sunderland drafted Connor Wickham into the starting side for the first time in almost a year against Chelsea last time out, and the 19-year-old performed admirably.

He will likely to be in pole position to spearhead the attack again should Steven Fletcher – absent against Chelsea through injury – again miss out.

Tonight’s game is just the 18th meeting between the sides in all competitions.

The teams last met back in the 2007-08 season, with both registering 2-1 victories on home turf.