Sunderland look leggy but key quartet will help provide play-off spark for Portsmouth clash

Sunderland went into the Southend game knowing they couldn’t do any better than the play-off place they already had, while Southend were fighting for their lives and that difference in incentive and motivation certainly showed.

By Gary Rowell
Tuesday, 07 May, 2019, 19:35
Sunderland manager Jack Ross.

Southend needed it and wanted it more, and worryingly for what is to come, Sunderland looked leggy and lacking energy.

If you are the optimistic type, you could point to influential players like McGeady, Cattermole, Oviedo and Morgan all being out but just one win in seven is a serious worry about

Sunderland AFC coverage in association with John G Hogg.

Sunderland’s form and two defeats in the last two games hasn’t given the dressing room - or the fans for that matter- a confidence boost.

The last week of the regular season has probably been Sunderland’s worst of the entire campaign, starting with the defeat at Fleetwood and it is never great when old foe Joey Barton gets the better of Sunderland.

His Fleetwood team exposed Sunderland’s weakness for giving away late goals with a set piece winner, then Southend do the same thing scoring late as Sunderland yet again squander points carelessly and needlessly.

Sign up to our Sunderland AFC newsletter

I think it is fair to say, judging by the last two fixtures, Sunderland have limped over the line so has the heavy schedule at the back end of the season caught up with the players?

If it has, they need to find their spark quickly or another season of League One football beckons.

Thankfully there is a full week before the first play-off game, so with no midweek fixture complicating things, the players can rest and recuperate before the final push.

The Fleetwood and Southend defeats will have given Jack Ross plenty to think about, he went into the Southend game with a 4-4-2 system so will he keep faith with his two strikers or take a more cautious approach?

Will Grigg’s ongoing ankle problem might make that decision for him.

On a more positive note, if the manager has McGeady and Cattermole back fit and fresh that will definitely strengthen his hand as Sunderland, with their two most experienced and important players in the starting XI, are so much stronger. I think Southend proved that.