Blackburn Rovers Vs Sunderland, Mon 28 Dec 2009

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Blackburn midfielder Brett Emerton could return from injury to feature against Sunderland at Ewood Park on Monday.

The Australia international's groin problem kept him out of the Boxing Day draw at Wigan but manager Sam Allardyce is hopeful Emerton will be fit for the visit of the Black Cats.

Allardyce may decide to change things up front as on-loan Chelsea striker Franco Di Santo, with one goal all season and none in his last nine appearances, was a virtual spectator against the Latics.

Allardyce is also eager for Benni McCarthy to get among the goals again as squandered chances are currently costing Rovers valuable points.

The South Africa international scored his first Barclays Premier League goal of the season with the 30th-minute opener at Wigan.

However, he also saw a close-range overhead kick brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Chris Kirkland in the second half.

With a number of other opportunities going begging, Allardyce is keen to halt a run of just one win in their last seven matches, starting against the Black Cats.

"My message to the players is to continue to play like that and keep creating those chances and eventually we will put enough away to win a game," said the Rovers boss.

"Benni scored his first (league) goal and it probably would have been two had we had more fortune in front of goal.

"His overhead kick 99 times out of 100 would be a goal and that would have been 2-1 but it hits Chris in the face and it goes down as a great save but I don't think he knew much about it.

"It was more like a home performance from Benni, which is very important because he is a very talented link player for us."

Allardyce knows McCarthy is desperate to feature at next summer's World Cup and hopes that can be a motivating factor.

But the Blackburn manager is just concentrating on getting the 32-year-old - and his other goal-shy forwards - to score more as they have recorded just two goals in their last seven league matches.

"He needs to feature for South Africa in the World Cup because, one, it is his last chance, and, two, it's in his own country," said Allardyce of McCarthy.

"It would be ludicrous to think he didn't want to play for them but I'm not interested in that. He might be but I'm not."

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce is facing a fresh injury crisis.

Central defender John Mensah, who is due to head off to the African Nations Cup with Ghana after the game at Ewood Park, limped out of the 1-1 home draw with Everton on Boxing Day after damaging his hamstring.

With Michael Turner serving the second instalment of his four-match ban and Anton Ferdinand (ankle) still sidelined, Bruce has big decisions to make at the heart of his defence.

Midfielder Lee Cattermole missed the Everton game after tweaking his hamstring in training on Christmas Day and remains a doubt, while Kieran Richardson was also unavailable with a calf injury.

Striker Kenwyne Jones ended the Everton game with a calf problem, and will be assessed today, while keeper Craig Gordon (broken arm) remains on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, Nyron Nosworthy has urged his Sunderland team-mates to be more ruthless at both ends of the pitch if they are to get their season back on track.

The Black Cats have won just one of their last 10 Premier League games and collected only six points in the process.

Eighteen of their haul of 22 points to date have been secured at the Stadium of Light and they have lost seven of their nine away games to date, including each of the last five.

However, they are without a win anywhere in six league games and the home form that propelled them into the upper reaches of the table during the early months of the campaign has deserted them.

Nosworthy, who could find himself thrust back into the team at Ewood Park amid a fresh selection crisis, admits Sunderland need to be more clinical in both penalty areas if they are to arrest their decline.

He said: "It's a bit of both - it's being ruthless in front of goal and defending as a team, as a whole.

"You can't always rely on the boys up front to be putting away loads of goals to ease the pressure on us.

"Sometimes, we have to take a 1-0, whether it be home or away and, if it gets ugly, just make it ugly as long as we get the result we need, which is three points."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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Brett Emerton
Michael Turner
Chris Kirkland
Blackburn Rovers
Lee Cattermole
John Mensah
Anton Ferdinand
Kenwyne Jones
Premier League
Nyron Nosworthy
Steve Bruce
Franco Di Santo
Kieran Richardson
Craig Gordon

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