Date: 24th July 2013 at 12:22pm
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Tonight sees Lincoln’s first home friendly of what has been a mixed pre-season so far. Of course, very few conclusions can be drawn from friendly matches, however, the personnel that they’ve had to put out has spoken volumes about potential weaknesses that could impact the season proper. Jake Sheridan, a winger, has been a mainstay at right-back in the absence of Tom Miller, and both Mo Fofana and Todd Jordan have had to fill in at centre-back. With Jordan himself now injured, Gary Simpson#s chosen back four tonight will be an interesting one. Encouragingly for the Imps, they’ve managed to score in every game they’ve played so far, including seven in a rout against City-neighbours Lincoln United. Goals have been readily conceded, however, with Miller and Nat Brown absent – two defenders that are almost certainly first-choice in their respective positions – that’s perhaps understandable.

Sunderland’s development side are the opposition for tonight’s game, and with their senior counterparts in Asia participating in a pre-season tournament, it is unlikely that any ‘big names’ will grace the Sincil Bank turf, except, perhaps, Phil Bardsley; the former Manchester United youngster who fell out with Paolo Di Canio after an incident last season. The full-back, who has been capped for Scotland 12 times, has been unable to shine so far this pre-season, featuring in a development squad friendly with Southampton that ended goalless, and a 3-2 defeat against Darlington’s first-team. The former Rangers, Aston Villa and Sheffield United loanee will be looking to impress, in order to find a team willing to take him on and end his Sunderland nightmare.

Jordan Pickford, Sunderland’s highly-rated young goalkeeper who should be familiar to Lincoln fans having played against them for Alfreton last season, is in Hong Kong with the senior squad. As such, Joel Dixon is expected to start in goal for the Black Cats. The young stopper played eight times on loan in the Conference North with Workington Reds last season, so has experience of senior football. Sunderland’s development side has used the same starting lineup in both of their friendlies so far: Dixon, Marrs, Ferguson, Gorrin, Harrison, Bardsley, Mitchell, Laing , Trialist, Knott and Lynch, and it wouldn’t be a surprise for them to be unchanged again. Marrs is the development side captain, and the right-back featured several times in Sunderland’s first-team matchday squad last season. Ferguson played six times for Darlington’s first-team before they folded, and was snapped up by Sunderland after a successful trial. The defender was on the bench for Sunderland’s last game of the season. Scott Harrison had a similar route to Sunderland, having featured 10 times for Darlington before their financial collapse, and joined Ferguson as a substitute for Sunderland’s final game against Spurs. Louis Laing is a classy centre-back who missed much of last season with injury, however, before that he had featured from the bench for Sunderland’s first-team, and played 11 League One games for Wycombe at the beginning of last year. Adam Mitchell’s a striker who came off the bench to play against Spurs last season, as did Billy Knott, a midfielder with first-team experience from a loan at Woking last season. Gorrin is a Spanish midfielder capable of scoring screamers, and Craig Lynch is a forward with first-team experience with Sunderland, and a loan spell at Hartlepool under his belt.

Many of Sunderland’s expected side have experience senior football, and as such tonight should be a difficult test for the Imps. A clean sheet would be a welcome boost, and may begin to allay the fears of some Lincoln fans that a leaky defence could hamper their chances next season. It is likely that Ben Tomlinson will make his first appearance since signing for the club, whilst the rest of the side seems to pick itself.

Expected Imps lineup:
Sheridan Boyce Foster Newton
Nolan Fofana
Power Rowe Tomlinson