Lee Johnson’s Sunderland have been dealt what is potentially a huge blow ahead of their upcoming League One play-off semi-final.
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That’s according to the Sunderland manager himself, who – speaking following the Black Cats’ 1-1 draw with Northampton Town on Sunday – revealed that Ross Stewart was ruled out of the fixture due to a hamstring injury, something which casts doubt over the centre-forward’s availability ahead of the play-off semi-final against Lincoln City on 19th and 22nd May.
As cited by Chronicle Live, Johnson said: “Ross suffered a grade two hamstring tear – or tweak, or strain, depending on how you want to look at it. In saying that, he is presenting very well, he feels good, and that’s one of the reasons why potentially we can chuck in a friendly on Friday to give him another sharpener. Next week it will be time for the players to be honest about what they need.”
While Sunderland’s first-choice striker, 25-goal Charlie Wyke, has undoubtedly been the club’s star of the League One season so far, the news of Stewart’s injury is still likely to infuriate Johnson.
Indeed, with Wyke having only just returned to action following his own thigh injury, the potential loss of Stewart for the play-off semi-final is a “big blow” for the club, as described by Sunderland Echo journalist Phil Smith.
Should the 24-year-old be ruled out against the Imps, a reoccurrence of Wyke’s knock would leave Johnson incredibly short of centre-forward options. Even if the Black Cats’ top scorer stays fit, the loss of Stewart significantly reduces the options that the manager can utilise up front.
As such, it would seem a very likely scenario that Johnson is desperate for the 24-year-old’s return ahead of the clash with Lincoln, with anything other than securing promotion via the play-offs likely to render the Black Cats’ season a failure.
In other news: Forget Wyke: Lee Johnson may have found Sunderland ace’s heir in gem who could be worth £10m – opinion