Injuries leave Sunderland short
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce fears he will be without a recognised striker for the remainder of the Premier League season.
The club lost both Danny Welbeck and Asamoah Gyan to hamstring injuries in Saturday's 4-2 win over Wigan. The former has returned to parent club Manchester United for treatment while the latter is unexpected to feature in the remaining four games of the season.
Sunderland are seven points clear of relegation with four games remaining so despite a recent slump they are still expected to retain their top-flight status, but the loss of both players has still hit Bruce hard.
"Danny has gone back to Man U, because they want to assess him and he won't come back to us unless they can get it 100% right - say in time for the last game of the season against West Ham," Bruce told the Sunderland Echo. "But I've got to say that's unlikely given how close to the end of the season we are.
"It was a big relief to get the win at the weekend and put an end to the horrible run we were on, but, for me, the most disappointing thing was the collateral damage that came with it. It looks like we will be without the both of them for the rest of the season now, which is a massive blow."
Teenager Ryan Noble could now earn his first Premier League start, although Bruce says he may well field Steed Malbranque and Stephane Sessegnon in advanced roles after Sunderland scored three times against Wigan when they worked in tandem in attack.
"The problem with Ryan is that he hasn't played a lot of football," Bruce said. "It's a situation I will have to look at, but earlier in the season we played well with Steed playing off the front and certainly once Welbeck and Gyan had gone off against Wigan, we went on to score three more goals with Sessegnon and Malbranque playing further up the pitch. Maybe that's the way I will decide to go, we'll have to see."