SUNDERLAND will go in search of back-to-back wins for the first time in 2024 when they face Blackburn Rovers at the Stadium of Light this afternoon, but interim head coach Mike Dodds has again reiterated the need for caution regarding the return of a number of injured players.

Dodds was able to enjoy his first win of this latest period as interim head coach on Good Friday as Sunderland won for the first time in eight Championship games with what the stand-in boss labelled a 'professional' performance in the 2-0 win over Cardiff City in South Wales.

The victory eased any lingering relegation fears and, instead, provides Sunderland with a platform to build upon for the remaining seven games of the season, starting with the visit of Blackburn.


Dodds was aided on Friday by the return of a number of key players with Bradley Dack, Aji Alese and Patrick Roberts all named within the 20-man squad.

The return of the trio helped provide a little bit of balance, experience and assurance as opposed to recent weeks where the squad has been filled with several academy players.

Dack was the only one of the trio to feature as he came off the bench in the closing stages at the Cardiff City Stadium, while club captain Corry Evans also made the trip to Wales as Sunderland's provisional substitute. 

Evans finds himself back in contention for Sunderland over a year on from his last appearance for the club in the Wear-Tees derby in January 2023 where the midfielder was hit with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

The club captain underwent successful surgery and has spent the last 12-months rehabilitating - a period the Northern Irishman recently revealed as mentally challenging. 

Evans was handed an one-year extension to his Stadium of Light contract which expires this summer, the club holding an option to extend that deal should they see fit. 

That decision may be determined by how Evans fares over the course of the final seven games of the season after Dodds revealed the midfielder is desperate to make his return to first-team action in the final month of the campaign, along with the likes of Alese, Roberts and Dack.

However, the Black Cats boss has once more insisted the club has a duty of care not to rush back their returns in order to prevent additional setbacks.

"Corry is desperate to be involved but you have to make decisions that, right now, certain players probably won’t understand," said Dodds. "From a duty of care perspective you have to make those decisions.

"Corry has been out for 13 months, he’s training really well, he’s a huge part of the dressing room – hence why I asked him to travel (to Cardiff) - but he’s also only played two 45 minutes in Under-21s football. So there has to be a level of patience with that, same with Patrick.

"Pat hasn’t played any minutes, he’s been out for a period of time, he’s only had one week back in training and Aji has only played 45 minutes for the 21s. They’re training, they’re part of the group, but I’ve got to make sure I get my bit right in terms of when and where do we introduce them?

"Corry is in contention, we made him 19th man in the squad (at Cardiff) and going forward, all of those players will be in contention."

Sunderland (probable, 4-2-3-1): Patterson; Hume, O'Nien, Ballard, Styles; Neil, Ekwah; Rigg, Aouchiche, Ba; Bellingham.