Sunderland boss reveals injury update on key defender

Alex Neil says Danny Batth is closing in on a return to action at Sunderland.

Batth signed on loan from Stoke City in January and went straight into the Black Cats' XI, but an ankle injury has meant that he is yet to make an appearance under the new head coach.

Batth did return to the bench for the 1-1 draw with Burton Albion in late February but suffered a setback that meant he has again been absent from the match day squad ever since.

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Neil is nevertheless hopeful that the 31-year-old will be fit to feature again soon, having stepped up his recovery significantly late last week.

Sunderland defender Danny BatthSunderland defender Danny Batth
Sunderland defender Danny Batth

“He’s been on the grass, he’s been doing running and he’s been in better nick," Neil said.

"He’s not far away now.

“He’s not trained with us specifically but he’s been doing his own work in terms of changing direction and all that stuff."

While a timely rest for Callum Doyle and some strong performances from Arbenit Xhemajli have strengthened Neil's options in that position, another experienced figure would be a welcome addition.

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Sunderland travel to Lincoln City this weekend with Neil weighing up whether Patrick Roberts and Dan Neil should return to the starting XI.

Nathan Broadhead, who is believed to be close to returning to the match day squad, will also pose another welcome dilemma for the Black Cats head coach.

While Jermain Defoe had little sight of goal against Crewe Alexandra, Neil felt his strong performance in the second half against Fleetwood had more than justified his selection.

All the same, he now has a difficult decision as to who he picks at Sincil Bank.

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"Jermain is a player that came on and had an impact in the last game," Neil said.

“I think most people watching the last game would have started him today and unfortunately we didn’t really get good enough service up there.

"We didn’t really have enough of an impact so we took him off but then the pleasing thing is, instead of having two standing against them we wanted to try and see if we could flood that area centrally and see if it worked and it did."