WITH their current run of cup matches having exposed deficiencies within the squad, Sunderland will attempt to use the January transfer window to ensure they have a strong enough group of players to mount a viable promotion push in the second half of the season.

The Black Cats head to Scunthorpe United for their final group game in the Leasing.com Trophy this evening knowing that last week’s defeat to Leicester City Under-21s means only a victory will guarantee their progress to the knockout stages.

As well as losing to Leicester’s youngsters, Phil Parkinson’s side also failed to see off Gillingham in the first round of the FA Cup at the weekend, and having made a number of changes for each game, the Sunderland boss has been forced to accept that his squad is not as deep as he would like.

There will be further alterations this evening, with Brandon Taylor and Bali Mumba having been promoted to the first-team group, but as well as negotiating a run of four successive cup games, Parkinson is also beginning to turn his thoughts towards January.

Funds will be made available once the transfer window opens, and strengthening a somewhat threadbare attacking department will be a key priority.

“We’ve been able to look at what we’ve got and what we need (in the last few weeks), and I think a few things have hit home to us,” said assistant manager Steve Parkin. “We lost Charlie (Wyke) as soon as we came in, and then (Lynden) Gooch too, and we were already without (Alim) Ozturk and (Laurens) de Bock, and I think that showed that the squad is a bit light on the ground.

“That’s our feeling. To sustain a challenge to get promoted, you’ve either got to be very fortunate to keep everybody fit or you have to have a really strong squad. I think we could maybe do with strengthening a little bit in January, just to make sure that if we do pick up these injuries or suspensions, we’re strong enough to deal with it.”

There is also a desire to give the club’s youngsters an opportunity to progress, and having selected Benji Kimpioka is the starting line-up for last week’s game against Leicester, Taylor and Mumba are in the frame for a starting spot tonight.

Conor McLaughlin and Tom Flanagan are unavailable because of international commitments, and Joel Lynch is set to be rested despite the lack of a league game this weekend. As a result, Taylor could start at centre-half with Mumba lining up at right-back.

“I think Brandon will be travelling,” said Parkin, who also confirmed Lee Burge has been passed fit to start in goal in place of Jon McLaughlin, who is on international duty with Scotland. “We’re still to make a final decision, but I would have thought three or four of the Under-23s will travel, even though some of them played (on Sunday). Bali Mumba would probably be one of those.

“I think it was always in our minds to play some of the lads we’d not seen against Leicester, and then with not having a game at the weekend, take a strong squad to Scunthorpe. I think that was always in our thoughts, and that will remain the same.

“With no game at the weekend, while there might be a few changes, I think it’s important we pick a strong team. We want to win the game and we want to go through.”

This time last year, Mumba was being touted as a first-team regular after featuring in Sunderland’s opening three league games under Jack Ross. He made two further starts in the Checkatrade Trophy, but was frozen out of the senior picture as he returned to the Under-23 fold for the second half of the season.

Now 18, he has impressed both Parkinson and Parkin in the last few weeks, and after starting last month’s EFL Trophy game against Grimsby, he is likely to get another chance to impress at Glanford Park.

“Phil went to the game (on Sunday) and said he (Mumba) played well,” said Parkin. “I did ask the guys (yesterday) morning, the academy staff, and they said he played well.

“I’ve got to say that when he’s trained with me, he’s been great. He’s been really good. Technically, he can handle the ball, and he is sharp and bright. Obviously, I’ve not seen him play, eyes on, in a match as yet, and I’m looking forward to that, but he seems a good player and a nice kid.”

Last season, Mumba played in the first team as a central midfielder, but in the last nine months, he has spent most of his time on the right of defence. Parkin feels he can handle himself in either position, but senses right wing-back could end up being his optimal role.

“I think it’s important that, at some stage, he nails down a position,” he said. “He’s played right wing-back and I think he’s ideally suited to that type of position because he looks as though he can cover the ground.

“Defensively, I’ve not seen him properly in training because we’ve not had a lot of 11v11s. They’ve just been small-sided games with all the matches we’ve had. But he looks a good player and I’m looking forward to seeing him play.”

Sunderland (possible, 4-2-3-1): Burge; Mumba, Willis, Taylor, Hume; Leadbitter, McGeouch; Watmore, O’Nien, Maguire; McNulty.