Can Sunderland triumph in the League One play-offs after the capitulation at Highbury? Course we can!

Sunderland skipper George Honeyman.
Sunderland skipper George Honeyman.
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It was never really on, was it?

As we all became a little giddy at the prospect of Sunderland overhauling a seven-goal deficit and Bristol Rovers slaying Barnsley, reality took a big fat chunk out of the Wearside derrière.

Wise Men Say.

Wise Men Say.

Once the dust settles and the rage that filled the Fleetwood air subsides, clearer heads must prevail if Sunderland are to navigate those dreaded play-offs.

The capitulation at Highbury on Tuesday arguably sealed the worst result in the club’s history and kicked open the doors for blood-boiling anger.

The chance of automatic promotion is gone and, for certain supporters, the fingers are already being pointed at what has been a “failure” of a campaign.

The play-offs, again for certain supporters, are already a lost cause and something that are simply impossible for Sunderland to prevail from.

Granted, the past three times the Black Cats have found themselves in this position they have failed to gain promotion (except in 1990, thank you Swindon Town) but there should be no fear going into this season’s post-season spectacle.

Naturally, a limp defeat against Fleetwood and a run of one win in six doesn’t fill supporters with confidence but there is hope.

The players have demonstrated their ability to match the league’s better sides and, aside from a 10-man defeat at Portsmouth, have remained unbeaten against the rest of the top six.

Their performances in the bigger matches has never been in question, the reason they found themselves in the play-offs is because of their failure to see off teams at the wrong end of the table.

Games against Portsmouth, Charlton Athletic, Doncaster Rovers and Peterborough United have seen The Lads up their performance levels and barring a Glenn Loovens could potentially have an unblemished record against the quartet.

The tense nature of the play-offs will obviously play a factor but the previous match-ups show that immediate failure shouldn’t be the natural assumption.

As Sunderland supporters, we have consistently talked up the opposition. We have fretted over Barnsley “smashing teams”, despite Sunderland scoring the same amount of goals,

Charlton are the “dark horses”, despite losing ten games this campaign including a recent defeat at Oxford United, while Portsmouth are hard to break down, despite Sunderland running Kenny Jackett’s side ragged for periods in their two previous meetings.

Despite the poor run of form and a defeat on the Fylde coast being a very raw memory, Sunderland have a squad capable of producing moments of quality that can win games.

The match-winners such as Aiden McGeady and Will Grigg, the engine room midfield of Lee Cattermole, and the trickery of Lewis Morgan will be a worry for the rest of the play-off contenders.

As Jack Ross pointed out earlier in the season, Sunderland have never got the praise they have warranted for their success this campaign.

There are always mitigating factors of why they are at the top of the table and there have been very pundits lining up to speak of the good job Ross has done.

Sunderland are a good team and are more than capable of winning the play-offs.

What most supporters seems unaware of is that this is exactly what our rivals will be thinking.