Sunderland’s sticky spell looks over but Portsmouth’s woes should act as warning
Just a short while ago, after two disappointing home draws, people were anxious, worried about Sunderland’s automatic promotion hopes and I was one of them, but since then two consecutive wins againt Gillingham and Bristol Rovers has shown the team’s character and considerably eased those worries.
If you told me two months ago Sunderland would be above Portsmouth at the end of February, I’d have been more than happy, convinced we’d be top because they were going so well.
But we’re not actually in the top two and neither are they.
I think the lesson here is things can change so quickly. There’ll be many twists and turns before the end of the season, so it’s important not to lose perspective and more importantly, to never give up.
The Gillingham game last week was massive, the players knew they couldnt afford to drop more points, especially at home, and so the pressure was on them.
While the performance wasn’t perfect, they got the job done.
Going ahead twice and then being pegged back twice did nothing for fraying nerves but two rightful penalties in the second half meant they passed a big psychological test.
Saturday’s win at Bristol Rovers seemed more straightforward with no careless goals conceded, while at the other end Aiden McGeady’s free kick gave Sunderland a two-goal cushion, taking the pressure off and as they rarely looked like squandering their lead, it could even have been increased.
Luke O’Nien got Sunderland’s opener and is fast becoming a firm favourite, also winning both penalties against Gillingham. His never-say-die attitude and willingness to work til he drops has boosted his popularity, and he just looks like he’s loving being a Sunderland player.
Sunderland have even started scoring from set pieces over the last few games, and what a difference that makes. Corners have been productive and if you’ve got a special player like McGeady, who can place a free kick over the wall and into the back of the net, that’s always a bonus.
Hopefully Sunderland have come through their sticky spell – they’ve only lost twice this season, which proves they’re hard to beat, but drawn too many.
However, back-to-back wins has been an excellent recovery, with the chance to make it three straight wins with another home game coming up next.