What Sunderland's rivals Charlton, Barnsley, Portsmouth & Luton are saying about the promotion race after dramatic weekend in League One

Portsmouth boosted their automatic promotion credentials with a 4-1 win on Saturday
Portsmouth boosted their automatic promotion credentials with a 4-1 win on Saturday
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The race for automatic promotion from League One intensified after another weekend of twists and turns.

It was a bad set of results for Sunderland, who fell to their first home defeat of the season against Coventry City.

Their rivals took full advantage, with one side in particular pushing themselves into contention.

Here's what the top give have been saying ahead of the crunch easter weekend fixtures....

Charlton Athletic

Charlton were arguably the big winners of the weekend, bringing an end to Luton Town's long unbeaten run with a superb 3-1 victory.

Luton were furious with a penalty award that allowed the Addicks to launch their comeback, but Lee Bowyer's side were good value for their win and are now showing very strong form of their own.

Interestingly, Sunderland boss Jack Ross said after the draw with Burton Albion that he had not discounted Charlton from the automatic promtion race.

The odds are against them, three points behind Barnsley and one behind Portsmouth and Sunderland, who have a game in hand.

But they are a side to watch and understandably, Bowyer has not given up hope.

"I’ve said if we win all our games, we’ll be in and amongst it," he told South London Press.

"We need a lot to go our way. You need three teams to make mistakes, not just one. But all we can keep doing is keep working hard. Win our games that we have.

"If anyone wants to give it to us, we need to be in a position to take it. Nothing changes for me. I believe we can go and win the next four. We’ve got good players. A squad in there fighting for everything. What a week it’s been.

“To have the bravery to get on the ball and pass it and move it the way they did in the second-half was outstanding. If you ask their manager, I don’t think anyone else would have done what we’ve done to them this season.”

Their rise is all the more impressive given the sale of key striker Karlan Grant in the January window.

To that end, Igor Vetokele's return to form is timely given Charlton's reliance on a 4-4-2 diamond system.

After his goal against Luton, Vetokele believes he can strike up a dangerous partnership with Lyle Taylor.

"We played a couple of games in pre-season with Lyle and it was going very well,” he said.

“I was confident that we were going to find each other on the pitch. Lyle is a good player, so am I. We’re doing our best week in, week out.

"It shows we are capable of beating top teams and that’s what you’re going to have to do if you want to get promotion.”

“It [the win over Luton] was pretty special. We went down 0-1 in the first half, but the second half we gave everything and won the game. It was a very good week for us – everyone is happy with nine points.

“Everyone was confident. We’re a very good team at home. When we get the fans behind us, we’re a difficult team to beat.”

Luton Town

It was Luton Town's first defeat in six months but their form has ever so slightly dipped of late, with a number of draws.

Mick Harford labelled the penalty decision that helped Charlton level 'an absolute disgrace' but admitted that he side were poor in the second half.

"It was chalk and cheese in the first half and second half," he told Luton Today.

"It was the best and worst I’ve seen of us this season. The second half was probably the worst performance in terms of in possession.”

"Overall we’re very disappointed but the players have been on a magnificent run. I can’t sit here and berate them or criticise them because they’re a fantastic bunch and they’ll bounce back, 100 per cent.”

The Hatters still look to have given themselves enough breathing space, a five-point advantage on Barnsley in second, and seven on Portsmouth and Sunderland, who have a game in hand but still have to play each other.

They will surely go up top but any nerves will be duly noted by the chasing pack.

Portsmouth

Kenny Jackett's side have fully recovered from their blip at the turn of the year, thumping Rochdale in an impressive 4-1 win.

Winger Jamal Lowe came in for special praise after another stellar display.

Portsmouth are now level on points with the Black Cats, and their win means their goal difference is now just one inferior.

Jackett is not focusing on that just yet but admits it could prove to be important.

"How we went forward to score four goals is excellent and we had other chances as well, quite a high number of other chances," he told Portsmouth News.

"I’m pleased to say we put a good percentage away and it got us the win.

"Goal difference might be important, you are always looking and seeing those small margins.

"But with five games still to go, I don’t think we are thinking along those lines, we are looking at points.

"Sometimes tables which are tight and competitive like this one do come down to goal difference, I understand that.

"Saturday’s three-clear goals certainly helps, but most importantly it’s the three points – and a very positive attacking performance from ourselves at Fratton Park."

Striker Oli Hawkins said 'the buzz is back' at Pompey and that he believes his side can go unbeaten between now and the end of the season.

Barnsley

The most dramatic game of all came at Oakwell, though it was one that grabbed the headlines for what happened off the pitch, rather than on it.

Barnsley and Fleetwood Town both avoided post-match media duties after an alleged incident in the tunnel, one that according to local radio, left Daniel Stendel with facial injuries.

It was a good afternoon for Barnsley on the pitch, comfortable 4-2 winners.

They remain slight outsiders for second after an indifferent run of recent form but will no doubt take confidence from this victory.