Sunderland play their first game on Wearside in nearly a month tonight against Burton Albion and in that time so much has happened it takes your breath away.
There has been a dramatic cup final defeat, that devastated more than 40,000 fans but then back-to-back-away wins that made the fans ecstatic.
The Burton game is the first of three consecutive home fixtures that in our position still leaves little room for error, especially with Portsmouth just behind us and looking strong.
Three wins from three home games has to be the target, a high bar, yes, but automatic promotion won’t come easy and dropping more home points will have the reality of the play-offs staring the players in the face and after all the games they have played they won’t want an extra couple of weeks added to their season when they could be relaxing on their holidays.
It is different when you finish sixth, you’re just happy and lucky to have a chance to go up but not when you have been in and around the top two all season, it is a psychological thing and probably why the third team in the league doesn’t go up as often as they should.
So, the Sunderland players know what they have to do to prevent their season going into extra time, keep winning and that means putting bogey team Burton to the sword tonight.
Sunderland have only lost two league games all season but one of them was away at Burton and who could forget it was the Brewers who confirmed Sunderland’s relegation last season when they came to Wearside and won.
What a miserable time that was for Sunderland fans, with a couple of games to go the Black Cats were relegated to the third tier and it was former Sunderland man Darren Bent who scored one of the goals. It somehow summed up a wretched season.
Burton are not in a bad run of form, and their home win on Saturday against Barnsley was impressive and probably cheered on Wearside more loudly than at the Pirelli Stadium itself.
If Sunderland have had an Achilles’ heel this season, it has been drawing too many games especially at home and the last time we had three consecutive home games back in February against Blackpool, Accrington and Gillingham it resulted in just one win and two draws, a poor points return and Sunderland can’t afford a repeat of that.