Sunderland boss reveals fitness update on Everton loanee Nathan Broadhead

Alex Neil is hopeful that Danny Batth will bolster his defensive options when MK Dons visit the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon.

Batth missed Neil’s first game in charge after rolling his ankle, with Bailey Wright returning from a calf problem to take his place.

The 31-year-old has played a part in training through the latter part of this week, with Neil hopeful that he will return to give his squad some welcome additional experience.

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Lynden Gooch, who has missed the last two games with a calf problem, remains a major doubt.

Sunderland striker Nathan Broadhead

“Danny has been joining in this week, and has trained the last couple of days,” Neil said.

“Goochy is touch and go at the moment.”

Neil also offered an update on Sunderland’s longer-term injuries, admitting that the trio of Luke O’Nien, Aiden McGeady and Nathan Broadhead are still ‘weeks rather than days’ away from a return.

It’s understood that the Black Cats are hopeful that Broadhead may be available sometime in early March.

“Luke is doing non-contact work but he is on the grass,” Neil said.

“Aiden has been on the grass but because it’s a medial-type injury, it lingers on a bit. There’s a niggly period in between getting fully fit and being able to play, and that’s where is.

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“Nathan Broadhead is still at Everton getting treatment on his hamstring injury but I’m led to believe that he’s on the grass as well and is making good progress.

“Unfortunately, they’ll be weeks rather than days.”

Neil also admits that he is facing a challenge in getting the best out of Jermain Defoe, who is lacking match fitness and has only made substitute appearances since his return to the club.

“I think it’s probably frustrating for Jermain,” Neil said.

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“We need to keep in mind his age, he’s a fine specimen, he looks after himself and he’s not carrying an ounce of fat but naturally, he’s not got that game sharpness.

“That’s not his fault at all, he’s played limited football.

“We’ve got limited time between now and the end of the season and he’s playing catch up.

“It’s difficult for him to show what we know he’s capable of at the moment, and that match sharpness is difficult.”