Stephen Elliott: The next few weeks key for Sunderland's promotion battle with Wigan, Wycombe, Plymouth and Rotherham

There weren’t many games this weekend but if you look at the League One table after Saturday’s results, you will see that many of the teams predicted to challenge for promotion are right in the hunt.

The table is starting to take shape now and the so-called better teams, who were favourites before the season started, are beginning to make their mark with recent performances.

Obviously Sunderland are still right up there and with a couple of spare games in hand on the teams above them they will be pleased with how things look from a league table perspective.

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However, as good as this season’s start has been it shows that it’s gonna take a big push to get promoted and nothing is going to be handed to anyone in this division this season.

Sunderland head coach Lee Johnson.  Picture: Martin Swinney.Sunderland head coach Lee Johnson.  Picture: Martin Swinney.
Sunderland head coach Lee Johnson. Picture: Martin Swinney.

Wigan, Wycombe, Plymouth and Rotherham have all got strong squads and are moving up the table imminently.

Sheffield Wednesday won’t go away either you would suspect and you can’t discount Ipswich Town gathering some form under Paul Cook after their surprisingly indifferent start.

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It’s early days, yes, but every result you feel is going to be really important this season and I don’t think any team will be able to rest on their laurels given how tight the standings are.

Over the next few weeks Sunderland travel away from home in four out of their next five league games.

In between these games there is also a midweek away trip to QPR in the Carabao Cup.

I mentioned that I believe the team can go unbeaten all season and I stand by that. However these next few weeks could have a big say in whether this team will finally get promoted.

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After losing away to Portsmouth last time out in the league, the squad will need to prove that was a one off.

They need to pick up points on the road to coincide with the brilliant form at the Stadium of Light.

It was also good to see Arbenit Xhemajli back in action for the under 23s on Sunday.

He is a player who looked very good before his injury. He will be chomping at the bit to get back involved with the first team.

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Himself and Denver Hume, who we saw last week against Lincoln City, will add to what already seems a really strong squad.

I know it’s good to have a bit of consistency in the team but on the other hand it’s good to have a strong reserve, especially at this time of the season when injuries and suspensions are often picked up.

Lee Johnson has got the balance right most times regarding using his squad properly so far and I feel he will have to manage the squad accordingly and even more so over the busy period in the next few weeks.

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