Tony Mowbray hopes adversity of injuries has gelled Sunderland squad together
Sunderland manager Tony Mowbray is hopeful adversity has helped gel his team together as they prepare for their Championship play-off semi-final showdown with Luton.
A dramatic final day of the regular season saw the Black Cats sneak into the final play-off spot after goals from Amad Diallo, Alex Pritchard and Jack Clarke secured a 3-0 win against Preston.
Their place was then cemented after Blackburn mounted a stunning comeback against Millwall to end the Lions’ hopes of a top-six finish.
Sunderland’s path to the play-offs has been made all the more remarkable given the injuries they have faced throughout the season and Mowbray admitted it has been a “frustrating spell”.
He told a pre-match press conference: “I think because of the nature of the way the injuries have piled up, they’ve all been long-term injuries and all been one on top of one another in pretty crucial areas of the pitch.
“It’s been a frustrating spell for us, we’ve talked about losing Ross (Stewart) early in the season and losing goals, but goals haven’t really been a problem for us with the players that we’ve got.
“We’re sitting here now about to play against a pretty physical, strong, direct team who are very connected and work extremely hard for each other without really any central defenders.
“I hope it’s gelling us together, the adversity of it to bring in a team tighter together.”
Sunderland have been without Ross Stewart since February, with the striker having been absent for an early part of the season, while Elliot Embleton and captain Corry Evans also remain out.
Injuries have also affected the squad defensively with Danny Batth and Dan Ballard sidelined, but there are concerns about whether Dennis Cirkin and Lynden Gooch will be involved.
The pair were substituted off against Preston on Monday and a late call may be made as to their involvement.
Mowbray said: “Neither of them have trained, they might train tomorrow, we’ll have to see and if they train tomorrow and put their hand up after five minutes and come off, they won’t be playing.
“If they get through the session there’s a chance they’ll play, so we’ll have to see.
“We’ll have a light training session tomorrow and if they come through it, and after a one-on-one chat we decide if we’ll go with it, if that’s the case.
“In all honesty, I don’t know sitting here if they’re going to be available or not.”