SUNDERLAND will not be recalling Will Grigg from Rotherham United – even though the Northern Irishman could end up firing the Millers to promotion ahead of the Black Cats.

Grigg moved to the New York Stadium on a season-long loan at the end of August, but Sunderland inserted a clause into the deal that enables them to recall the striker to Wearside this month.

Grigg’s involvement in the first half of the campaign has been limited, with Rotherham boss Paul Warne handing him just eight league starts so far this season.

However, his importance is set to increase markedly after Rotherham’s second-highest goalscorer, Freddie Ladapo, submitted a transfer request in an attempt to force a move away from South Yorkshire this month.

Grigg has started both of Rotherham’s matches since the turn of the year - a Papa John’s Trophy win over Crewe Alexandra and an FA Cup third-round defeat to QPR – and is set to retain his place in Warne’s starting side for Saturday’s league game at Fleetwood.

The Millers currently sit at the top of the League One table, having played a game less than Sunderland, although the Black Cats will move above them if they beat Lincoln City at the Stadium of Light tomorrow.

Rotherham’s hopes of pipping Sunderland to a top-two finish would potentially be dented if Lee Johnson was to recall Grigg for the second half of the season, but the Black Cats boss does not see the 30-year-old featuring in his own plans and is reluctant to bring him back to the Stadium of Light simply to ensure that Rotherham are unable to play him.

Having already played for two clubs this season – Grigg, who is due to become a free agent in the summer, was involved in Sunderland’s Carabao Cup win over Port Vale in August – the Black Cats could not remove him from the Rotherham squad and send him to a different club for the remainder of the season.

“I spoke to Lee this week at length,” said Warne. “He reassured me there is no issue with Griggy. I wouldn’t expect him to go back on that. I trust Sunderland and I trust their manager, so I don’t foresee a problem.”

Sunderland return to action tomorrow evening when they host a Lincoln side that ended an eight-game winless run when they claimed a 2-0 victory over Oxford United at the weekend.

The Black Cats’ Covid problems continue to ease, although it remains to be seen whether any of the players that missed Saturday’s 3-3 draw at Wycombe will be available to return tomorrow.

Anthony Patterson started in goal at the weekend, with Thorben Hoffman and Lee Burge both missing, but there is a chance that at least one of Sunderland’s more senior goalkeepers will be available tomorrow.

Corry Evans will miss out on tomorrow's game, however, after he was knocked unconscious in a collision with Patterson during the second half of Saturday’s game. Aiden O’Brien could return after being sidelined due to Covid, but the game is likely to come too soon for Bailey Wright.

Lincoln beat Sunderland in last season’s two-legged play-off semi-final, but their manager, Michael Appleton, accepts his side have fallen below the Black Cats’ level this season.

Appleton, whose side have experienced similar Covid issues to Sunderland in the last few weeks, fully expects the Wearsiders to finish in the top two come the end of the campaign.

“They’re an outstanding team, they’re the benchmark that we need to get to in the coming years,” said Appleton. “They certainly look – and this is me speaking as an outsider – more of a unit (than last season).

“They’ve got one purpose, and they look motivated to try to get out of the league, and most people think they will.

“They look like they’ve got a real cohesion about them at the minute. It’ll be a difficult game.” 

Sunderland (probable, 4-5-1): Hoffman; Winchester, Flanagan, Doyle, Cirkin; Gooch, Neil, Pritchard, Embleton, Hume; Stewart.