Sunderland boss provides encouraging update on Everton loanee Nathan Broadhead

Alex Neil is hoping that Nathan Broadhead and Alex Pritchard will be able to start increasing their workload after making successful comebacks against Gillingham last weekend.

Pritchard played for an hour on a return from an ankle injury, while Broadhead completed 30 minutes and scored a crucial 95th-minute winner after another spell on the sidelines with a hamstring problem.

Neil says he will tread carefully with both players to ensure they can last the course of a month in which Sunderland's

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The head coach added that he has, at this stage at least, no new injury concerns to contend with ahead of the trip to Oxford United on Saturday.

Nathan Broadhead is back in contention following a hamstring injuryNathan Broadhead is back in contention following a hamstring injury
Nathan Broadhead is back in contention following a hamstring injury

"With every day and every game that becomes a step closer [them being able to step up their involvement]," Neil said.

"Equally, we don't want to rush them too quickly. The last time we brought Broady back he played 70 minutes at Charlton and then we didn't see him for four or five games, which was disappointing.

"So last weekend he had 30 minutes and hopefully we'll see more of him in the remaining games.

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"Alex again, he came off after 60 minutes to protect him and hopefully moving forward we can see more of him.

"We'll obviously need to see what happens in the remaining matches and how their body stands up to it.

"We should be as we were for last weekend in terms of availability, though of course we're still two days away from the game."

Following Jermain Defoe's surprise retirement Broadhead's return is particularly key in giving Neil another goalscoring option.

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With Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke now close to full match fitness, the head coach's options in the final third are much improved.

"It gives us a lot more options in terms of the squad, and much better options in terms of guys who can affect the game in certain areas and score goals," Neil said.

"We want everybody available and firing because it makes my decisions more difficult, but the squad much stronger.

"Nathan coming back and having that impact in the last game can only be a good thing for us."