How Sunderland, Hull City and Peterborough United's run-ins compare as the League One promotion race is assessed

Sunderland came through a challenging easter weekend with both their unbeaten run and their hopes of winning automatic promotion from League One firmly alive.

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 8:00 am

The campaign is now in its final stages and the top three are separated by just 0.03 points-per-game.

So has the most cause to feel confident and what are the fixtures that will likely define the end result?

We run you through all you need to know...

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Sunderland and Peterborough are evenly poised in the race for promotion


Plymouth Argyle (A)

Fleetwood Town (H)

Lincoln City (A)

Wigan Athletic (H)

Charlton Athletic (A)

Average PPG of teams remaining: 1.46

Points on the board are clearly a valuable commodity at this stage of the season and with the best points-per-game record as it stands, there is little surprise that Hull City are currently the favourites for promotion.

Their fixture list shows that their run-in is anything but straightforward, however.

Plymouth Argyle's medium-term form is indifferent but at home they are a formidable opponent and manager Ryan Lowe has promsied a reaction from an abject 3-0 defeat at Shrewsbury on Monday. Grant McCann has injury concerns over influential pair George Honeyman and Jacob Greaves ahead of that game, though both are expected to be fit again in the near future.

Their home form is strong, but Sunderland have a good record against teams at the top and Simon Grayson's Fleetwood are much improved in recent times.

A final-day trip to Charlton, who are in decent form under Nigel Adkins and will likely be in play-off contention come May 8th, will be a stern test.


Swindon Town (A)

Northampton Town (H)

Gillingham (H)

Charlton Athletic (A)

Doncaster Rovers (H)

Lincoln City (H)

Doncaster Rovers (A)

Average PPG of teams remaining: 1.35

On paper Peterborough have the easiest run-in of the three and it feels as if their top-two fate will be settled by how they fare away from home.

Sunderland's point at the Weston Homes Stadium looks more valuable when you consider their imposing record of 2.37 PPG so far this season on home turf.

They do face some challenging opponents, with Michael Appleton's Lincoln City likely to be back to somewhere near their best following a COVID-19 outbreak and injury crisis that has significantly affected their recent form.

Gillingham will certainly be one of the sides better equipped to deal with the challenging conditions under Steve Evans, and will be looking to faint play-off aspirations.

It's away from home where Darren Ferguson's side have a modest record, and Charlton Athletic will be difficult opponents.

One of the key questions will be what shape Doncaster Rovers are in when those two late-season fixtures roll around.

Their recent form has collapsed since the departure of Darren Moore, and a significant improvement is needed to stop their campaign from petering out.


Charlton Athletic (H)

Wigan Athletic (A)

Blackpool (A)

Hull City (A)

Accrington Stanley (A)

Blackpool (H)

Plymouth Argyle (A)

Northampton Town (H)

Average PPG of teams remaining: 1.47

On paper Sunderland have the toughest run-in, though only marginally above Hull City who they still have to play.

That game is clearly going to be key in final reckoning given that the Black Cats could put themselves firmly in the driving seat with a win, one of two games-in-hand before then presenting the chance to reduce a five-point gap.

Though their fixture list is unquestionably challenging, Sunderland will take great heart from the fact that their record against teams at the top is generally very good.

Across thirteen fixtures against the sides currently in the top ten, they have taken 26 points at an impressive rate of two-per-game.

Two clashes against Blackpool will pose a stern test of their credentials, given the superb form of Neil Critchley's side.

With Denver Hume fit again from injury, Johnson's squad depth looks strong enough to cope with the hectic schedule.

It will be a fine achievement to break into the top two from here, but Sunderland have good cause to feel quietly confident.

Can anyone else force their way into contention?

Lee Johnson insists that is not yet a three-horse race, but it would take a quite stunning turn of events to change the picture.

Portsmouth are enjoying a resurgence under Danny Cowley and have the easiest run-in of the top six, their remaining opponents currently holding a PPG of 1.28.

Winning their games in hand would draw Blackpool within four points of Peterborough United, and their recent form (26 points from twelve) commands respect.

Lincoln City cannot be entirely written off as that recent COVID outbreak has left them with games in hand, but in reality it would take an almost flawless run from one of those sides to break into the top two.

How many points will be enough for Lee Johnson's team?

No team has ever failed to win automatic promotion with a tally of 92 points (2 PPG over the course of a season).

Sunderland would need seven wins from their last eight to hit that mark. A similarly bold target would be 90 points, which is the average points tally of teams finishing second across the last decade of League One seasons.

Six wins and a draw would take the Black Cats up to that mark.

2 PPG from this point in would take Sunderland to 87 points, a total that would certainly test the other sides in the race.

If the Black Cats hit that mark while avoiding defeat away at Hull, then McCann's side would need a minimum of ten points from their other five fixtures to match the Black Cats.

Only one things seems certain: this race will go down to the wire.

PPG stats courtesy of, and are weighted to take into account the home and away form of each opponent for all three sides.

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