Sunderland legend on how crunch games like high-pressured Barnsley clash can determine players’ futures

It goes without saying that Sunderland’s remaining games are going to be huge, tense affairs but tonight’s clash against promotion rivals Barnsley takes on even greater significance given the positions of both clubs.

By Gary Rowell
Tuesday, 12 March, 2019, 10:14
Sunderland travel to Barnsley this evening for a huge game in League One.

A win tonight won’t guarantee automatic promotion, just as a defeat won’t rule it out but the psychological lift or blow – depending on the result – could have a massive bearing on the rest of the season.

With Luton top of the table with points to spare, who knows it could come down to a shootout between Sunderland and Barnsley for that precious second spot and all the glory, not to mention financial benefits, that would bring.

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No one wants to finish third, it is a case of so near yet so far with the dreaded play-offs waiting so the players know what they have to do tonight if they are to avoid that fate.

Of the top three, Barnsley were the big winners over the weekend with both Luton and Sunderland dropping points and they will know a win tonight will open a sizeable gap, so Sunderland

at the very least can’t afford to lose.

Dropping points at Wycombe was a big disappointment, but it could have been worse if not for a late equaliser from Duncan Watmore, followed by a crazy three sendings off.

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Has there ever been a more bizarre injury time?

Sunderland were well off the pace against Wycombe and coming just after winning a trip to Wembley it begs the question did the players take their eye off the ball?

I’m hoping it was just an off day as there is far too much at stake for anything less than total focus.

I couldn’t be more pleased for Duncan Watmore, getting his first league goal for so long will be the best confidence boost he could possibly get and I am also hoping the injury he picked up

after all he has been through isn’t serious.

Tonight’s game against Barnsley is the sort that can determine players’ futures and go a long way in deciding what level they are playing at next season, so you don’t need anyone going

missing or dreaming of Wembley – it is a game to stand up and be counted.