Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Welcome Relief for Cats as Duo Back

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Welcome Relief for Cats as Duo Back

Article excerpt

Byline: By Stuart Rayner

SUNDERLAND'S creaking back four should soon be receiving much-needed reinforcements after two of their most experienced defenders successfully came through a reserve team fixture yesterday.

Kenny Cunningham and Stephen Wright both had longer-than-scheduled run-outs as they made their return to fitness in yesterday's 3-2 victory over Gretna at the Academy of Light.

The news will come as a welcome boost to manager Roy Keane, who had three players out of position in the back four which kept Ipswich Town at bay in the Championship at the weekend.

Midfielder Dean Whitehead filled in at right-back, allowing Nyron Nosworthy to cover in the centre. Ross Wallace, also a midfielder by preference, was needed on the left-hand side of the defence.

As well as Cunningham and Wright, the Wearsiders also have Steve Caldwell (thigh) and Stanislav Varga (groin) on their injury list. Keane's inability to date to recruit a new right-back has been compounded by the loss of left-sided defender Lewin Nyatanga, whose loan spell from Derby County has expired, and the decision to release the versatile Robbie Elliott. Central defender Cunningham has played just once since September while injury-prone right-back Wright has been out injured since before Keane's August arrival as manager.

It is especially important for the Merseysider to get back into first-team contention as soon as possible. With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Wright will be hoping to earn a new deal or at least prove his worth to would-be suitors elsewhere.

Keane's failure to persuade youngster Phil Bardsley to join on loan from Manchester United could give the 26-year-old Wright, who joined from Liverpool in 2002, his chance.

Wright and Cunningham were both due to play for 45 minutes against the Scottish League side but were feeling so good they remained on for an hour. The Black Cats' medical team will now be closely monitoring their reactions in the coming days. …

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