Manager Stuart McCall is relishing the opportunity of a tough test when high-flying Sunderland visit Glanford Park this weekend, but he believes his team are more than capable of getting a positive result come the final whistle on Saturday afternoon.
Sunderland tickets on sale now! Save money and time by buying in advance19 January 2019
The Iron go into the game on the back of a fantastic run of form, as they look to make it five consecutive victories in Sky Bet League One, and McCall has no new injury concerns, leaving him full of choice when it comes to team selection and tactics ahead of the fixture.
Glanford Park is gearing up to host its biggest gate of the season, with the anticipation heightening around the ground ahead of kick-off.
The manager told iFollow Iron: “Thankfully we are in a good run of form and everyone is looking forward to it and it’ll be great.
“Obviously, we know Sunderland travel in great numbers, and they have fantastic support, but our support has also been really good recently.
“Away from home down at Peterborough and Walsall and at home to Coventry in the last game at Glanford Park, there were a lot of noise, with the fans getting behind the players which was great. So everyone is really looking forward to it and it’s got the makings of a tough game, but one that we are ready for.”
The old footballing cliché states you have to play the game and not the occasion, and McCall believes this weekend will be one of those instances. However, it’s the sort of fixture that brings the best out of the players.
He went on to say: “I think the players from our point of view will be used to it. Sunderland will be used to the occasion as well because they had about 8,000 fans travel to Blackpool.
"It’s games like this which is what being a player is all about because you want to play in front of the biggest crowds.
“It should be a great atmosphere and as long as we put the same effort and endeavour into it like we have done in recent weeks, then we’ve got a good chance.”
Sunderland currently sit third in the Sky Bet League One table and they are also unbeaten in their previous six matches in all competitions, and McCall has nothing but praise for fellow manager Jack Ross and his impact since his arrival at the Stadium of Light in the summer.
He said: “Jack (Ross) came in over the summer and they have had a big change at the club. They sent a lot of players out and brought a lot in, so they have recruited well in most areas.
“They have got good attacking threats in the wide areas, with four wide men, who on their day are as good as anything. (Aiden) McGeady, (Chris) Maguire, (Lyden) Gooch and (Duncan) Watmore all have good pace and ability. Then Charlie Wyke up top, I remember well from my days at Bradford, so I know he will also be a big threat.
“However, we are at home and we are going to look to carry our own threats as well. So, as much as we are aware of what they possess, we have also got good belief and we want to keep this run going.”
Speaking about how preparations are going ahead of the Sunderland encounter, McCall continued by saying: “It’s been really good, and I’ve got to say, I’m delighted.
“In Tuesday and Thursday's sessions, we’ve had 20 players training, with the standard and the quality being great. You can see everyone is pushing each other and it’s a battle to start the game. If we can play as well as we have trained this week, I’ll be more than happy.”
McCall is also pleased with the selection dilemma he faces ahead of the game, as he looks to impose his tactics onto the match, which will hopefully see the Iron get a result on Saturday.
He added: “We’ve got similar personnel to choose from, but what was right at Peterborough, when we went with three centre halves, in my mind wasn’t quite right for Walsall away. Likewise, what was right at Walsall away, might not be right for Sunderland at home.
“I’ve watched a lot of Sunderland, there are a few tweaks we could make both in terms of personnel and tactics, or we could keep it the same, so it’s nice to have food for thought."
Black Cats boss Jack Ross also has his own selection headache as Lee Cattermole returns from suspension and George Honeyman may be in the frame to start following injury.
Talking about the Sunderland team news, McCall stated: “(Lee) Cattermole will be back from suspension and he’s a great servant for them. I know he gets his criticism in certain areas, but he’s in their engine room and he’s a leader, so he’ll be a big bonus for them.
“(George) Honeyman, their captain may also be available, but they’ve got a big squad and they have plenty of quality to choose from. We’ll concentrate on what we can do, but we always give respect to the opposition and we do our homework on them.”
See much more from Stuart McCall, Tony McMahon and Cameron Burgess on iFollow Iron. Click here to sign up.