Sunderland’s automatic promotion hopes took a heavy dent on Easter Monday following their late draw with Peterborough United, coupled with wins for both Barnsley and Portsmouth.
Here’s what we learned from the 1-1 draw at the ABAX Stadium.
Draw felt like a defeat.
There was little to separate the two sides heading into the closing stages of the game, Sunderland had enjoyed the better of the first half and ended on top, the second half a much more even affair.
End-to-end throughout, the pace of the game was relentless on a hot, April day.
When Max Power burst forward and fired Sunderland ahead, the scenes in the away end were an incredible sight to behold. Sunderland just minutes away from a huge three points.
To then have that snatched away four minutes later was, as Jack Ross described, ‘gut-wrenching’. The draw felt like a defeat.
No time to wallow, Sunderland have three games to win.
Jack Ross spoke at length post-match about the onus now being on him to pick the players up after two points were chucked away late on at the ABAX Stadium.
Truth is, the Sunderland camp have no time to wallow in the disappointment of Easter Monday, they must quickly refocus on the three remaining League One games.
Portsmouth at home followed by Fleetwood Town and Southend United away. Win those three and who knows where it may leave Sunderland.
That’s all they can do now.
One bonus was seeing the return of Chris Maguire.
It appeared his season was over when he suffered a leg fracture in February against Gillingham but he was back against Peterborough, coming on as a second half sub.
Maguire didn’t have a huge impact on the game but it was just a bonus to see him back in a red and white shirt, and his presence for the remaining three games could be key.
An intelligent footballer and one who brilliantly links midfield and attack. Maguire could still have a big role to play.
Commitment and desire can’t be questioned but Sunderland must see games out better
Having worked so hard to eventually get in front, to then concede four minutes later in added-on time was a huge punch to the gut.
Sunderland’s commitment and desire this season cannot be questioned, they have given it everything and it would be heartbreaking if that was all for nothing come the end of the season.
What Sunderland must do though is see games out better, especially when they have a slender 1-0 lead.
It cost them two points on Monday and at this stage of the season, there is no room for error.
Too many draws costing Sunderland
A total of 18 times this season Sunderland have had to settle for a point.
That is the reason they find themselves facing the lottery of the play-offs.
Sunderland have been unable to effectively kill off teams this campaign on too many occasions, especially when on top.
No other side in League One has drawn as many games as the Black Cats.
Sunderland’s lack of end product proved key factor
Time and time again Lewis Morgan had the beating of Daniel Lafferty but the end product wasn’t what it needed to be, the final ball into the box.
He wasn’t the only one, a poor final ball was a key factor in Sunderland not taking the lead earlier against Peterborough, that and a wayward finish by Charlie Wyke when he should have scored.