Lincoln vs Sunderland | Wednesday 19th May 2021, 18:00 | Sky Sports
Its debatable if the move to replace Phil Parkinson with Lee Johnson has worked. Sunderland were 8th when he took over and may have well qualified for the play-offs without the change of manager.
Johnson has a record of W14-D11-L7 which is a win rate of 43.7% whereas Parkinson had a win rate of 42.3% over a smaller sample.
There is no doubt that Sunderland should have pushed the top two harder, at one point they had games in hand but defeats to Wigan and Charlton ended any hopes of automatic promotion and since those defeats they ended the season with one win in nine with the one win against 10 men Plymouth with two late goals.
Away from home they have impressive underlying metrics with the best xG ratio, most shots and shots on target and despite keeping no clean sheets in their last eight games, they have conceded the fewest goals.
I do wonder if the contract situation for so many players at the club is part of the reason they have been struggling, but injuries and covid have also been an issue for them with midfielders having to fill in a centre back. Tom Flanagan could come back into the side, but he has hardly played since the turn of the year and probably won’t be match fit. Maybe a playoff semi is too important to throw him in?
You would imagine that they will look to get balls into the box from wide positions to leading scorer Charlie Wyke and this won’t be missed by Lincoln manager, Michael Appleton. He has said that he already knows everything about them and how he plans to stop them.
Lincoln have got all their key players back at just the right time, winning five of six games over April to secure a playoff place. Their record against top six isn’t great with W2-D5-L2 and at home W1-D2-L2.
Over these home matches they have conceded an average of 1.654 xG whilst creating 1.084, which mainly came from the Peterborough game (2.39 xG). They average 3.4 shots on target whilst allowing 6.2. It’s hard to see Sunderland not getting some joy from the game.
Lincoln sit 23rd for home xG ratio sitting 20th for shots conceded and I think this will be their downfall. They had the 14th best home record this season on points per game, something that is not good enough for a promotion winning side.
No side hits more crosses than Sunderland and with the number of balls hit into the box we should see the visitors rack up the corners especially if Sunderland dominate the ball and potentially concede like they have in the last eight games and then are forced to chase the game. Wyke will be handful in the air and with the ball being swung in, Lincoln may struggle to defend the delivery.
Under Johnson Sunderland have racked up an average of 6.35 corners and away from home its 5.94. This includes his first two away games where he was changing the style of play and the players were getting used to his demands. If we remove his first away games, we get 6.43 corners per game. They have hit five or more in 10 of 14 games, with them failing to hit this count in his first three away games.
Lincoln concede an average of 4.6 corners per home game this season with even AFC Wimbledon hitting eight there last time and relegated Rochdale managing 12.
This should be a tight game and I don’t see the game opening up into some kind of basketball match with the action going end to end. Sunderland will look to control the game and settle down to what they do best, get the ball wide and then into Wyke. Under 2.5 goals is far too skinny to get involve with and neither side is great for cards, so looking at Sunderland to rack up corners seems a good way in.