Michael Duff has held his pre-match press conference ahead of the Robins’ clash against Sunderland tomorrow night at the Jonny-Rocks. He confirmed an unfortunate, long term injury for forward Dan Nlundulu, who is in on loan from Southampton.
“Dan Nlundulu is not good news,” Duff admitted. “He’s got significant damage in the hamstring and could be out anywhere between six and 10 weeks. So that could be him done unfortunately.”
Nlundulu had enjoyed a bright start to life at Cheltenham after signing in January, scoring against Charlton in his second appearance. He was forced off in the 35th minute against Wigan after pulling up and holding his leg.
Duff also spoke about the prospect of facing iconic forward Jermain Defoe, who completed a return to the Black Cats after leaving Rangers in January.
“Ultimately, he (Defoe) doesn’t need me to tell him he’s a good player!” Duff said. “His goal scoring record speaks for itself, he’s 39 but it doesn’t matter, you don’t lose that eye for goal.”
Sunderland dominated when the sides played in the reverse fixture back in September, easing to a 5-0 victory at the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats have since dipped in form since, and sacked manager Lee Johnson last week.
“They’re still fourth in the league, they’ve lost back-to-back and they’re still in fourth so that shows you the good position they’re in,” Duff said.
“They beat us 5-0 earlier in the season so we know what they’re about. We can’t worry too much about them, we know they’re a really good team, we know the size of their club but we just have to implement what we do on them. We have to be better than we were against them earlier in the season.”
However, Sunderland remain without a manager after sacking Lee Johnson. Popular pundit and Manchester United legend Roy Keane has been tipped to take the job, and could even make an appearance at the Jonny-Rocks tomorrow night.
Duff went on and emphasised the importance of putting in a better second-half performance than they did last week against Wimbledon. They led through a first-half Alfie May brace but Aaron Cosgrave equalised in the 80th minute for the home side.
“We didn’t come out in the second half as we wanted to, we never cane out of our shape and it was disappointing,” Duff said. “It’s something we’ve definitely had a conversation about.”
Some positive injury news for Duff’s side came in the form of Liam Sercombe, who is back in training after some issues with his calf.
“Yeah he (Thomas) is back on the grass so hopefully he’ll be involved in some aspect.,” Duff said. “We don’t want to push him into coming back and throw him into the game because you have to be careful with muscular injuries at the moment, and he’s an important player for us.”
Cheltenham’s Ben Williams is also back after suspension, and will likely take back his spot at left-back. The 22-year-old impressed on his debut against Wigan despite being sent off in the dying moments.
“We think Ben’s a good player, I think Reece (Hutchinson) did an okay job the last week, but Ben is now 100% fit.”
The Robins will be looking for their first victory of 2022 tomorrow evening, having not secured all three points in a game since November. A win would lift them further towards safety in League One, but Sunderland will be desperate for a result after consecutive losses.