Saturday’s visit of bottom of the table AFC Wimbledon brings about the beginning of a run of games which could well make or break Sunderland’s season.
Including the visit of the Wombles, four of our next five matches are on home soil against teams which, if we want to be in the Championship next season, need to be beating. It’s a contest which could also see one or two new faces turn out at the SoL for the first time.
Things have stuttered of late for Sunderland. One win in the last seven games has seen the some of the sides above us go from strength to strength.
The saving grace is of course the games in hand on those sides, including having three games to catch up on with new leaders Luton Town. Nevertheless, I would rather be in their position at the top of the league with the points on the board rather than sitting in fifth with a load of games in hand to play.
A home game against a side bottom of the league should, for a team unbeaten in their own back yard, be a straight forward affair. However, Sunderland have tended to struggle against the sides at the wrong end of the table.
If AFC Wimbledon set up shop for long periods of the match, then we will struggle to break them down. The sides who have set out like this have more often than not left the SoL with a point, resulting in Sunderland dropping far too many points for a side chasing promotion.
The opponents on Saturday, despite their position, will be riding the crest of their FA Cup wave. After putting four goals past West Ham, they will surely be feeling much better about their trip to Wearside then they would have been several weeks ago.
Any side looking for positives in a visit to Sunderland needs to look no further than our recent run. We might not have lost at home this season but six draws out of 13 at the SoL isn’t exactly the form of a promotion chasing side.
Plenty of teams have earned their point by frustrating the hosts with stringent defensive displays which in turn ramps up the moans and groans from the terraces. The big crowds can only be a good thing, but this only seems to work at Sunderland when the side are playing well.
Saturday’s game could be a pivotal moment in our season. If we win then we keep pressure on the sides above us and could kick start the second half of our season ahead of a very winnable run of matches.
If we fail to pick up all three points then it will be judged as a poor result against a side struggling for form. It shouldn’t be the case, but a lot of people will genuinely start to question our credentials as promotion candidates.
We could well have a plethora of new players in the squad, and I’m sure we’ll all be hoping this brings the desired effect come 3pm tomorrow.