Four wins in a row, including the Checkatrade Trophy victory over Carlisle, with three away wins thrown in there for good measure.
Things are roiling for Sunderland, and while the Doncaster game itself wasn’t packed with quality, for me it was Sunderland’s most impressive, and possibly most important win of the season so far.
Going away to Doncaster was never going to be an easy game, but Sunderland found a way to grind out the sort of victory that wins you the league. Playing lovely football at home and winning 3-0 without breaking sweat is lovely, but away to a promotion rival is a test of what the squad is really made of.
The past three away games, while Bradford and Shrewsbury won’t be promotion contenders, have seen The Lads show resilience, fight, and at time quality above anything anyone else in this division can offer.
Back to back “cleanos”, to quote Jack Baldwin, when teams continue to throw absolutely everything at us for a good hour, means we are no longer relying on scoring three or four goals to win a game.
Individually, we have seen players drag us through games this season and it is testament to the squad that when the likes of Lee Cattermole have an off day, there are players willing to take the game by the scruff of the neck.
In the past month it has been Chris Maguire, Max Power has done similar prior to his suspensions, as has Jack Baldwin – this is to just name a few, there are so many examples.
On Tuesday at Doncaster, Jerome Sinclair terrorised the home defence. For all he got nothing, I mean absolutely nothing, off a referee who was trying to give the officials against Peterborough a run for their money, his work rate and quality were invaluable. A mention to for Jon McLaughlin, who’s two saves from one-on-one’s just before the break were as good as scoring two goals.
The point is, players are going to have off days, but Sunderland now are able to minimise the effect that a key player having a bad game has on the result.
With an early booking to his name, Cattermole was unable to be as effective as normal, but the introduction of Luke O’Nien meant it didn’t really matter.
We also have a manager capable of making game-changing substitutions, and how refreshing is it to have that back? Right back in August against Charlton, substitute Bryan Oviedo crossed for Lynden Gooch to head the winner and last week against Shrewsbury, substitutes Gooch and O’Nien got an assist and a goal respectively.
These aren’t the only examples; Jack Ross has won many points for us this season with his changes, even when forced upon him they have been made in an effective way. Gone are the days or random straight swaps of right backs under David Moyes, or the reluctance to make any changes at all from our managers last season.
Ross speaks so well too, is a very intelligent and passionate man, and his influence is clear to see.
Yes, it’s the third tier, but we now have a squad of players, a manager, and a football club we can be proud of. Long may it continue.