It’s just under a fortnight before the Checkatrade Trophy final and Sunderland have all of that time to prepare for the big game. With the away trip to Fleetwood called off due to international call-ups, the club can now afford to concentrate on winning a trophy they will hope they don’t have to defend next season.
With just nine league fixtures left this season, Saturday’s invaluable win (after being behind after just four minutes) leaves the club with its destiny in its own hands once again. We can thank Doncaster for that - on Friday night, they forced Barnsley to grind out a further 0-0 draw in succession (after producing the same score against us the previous Tuesday).
And with our win it was two points gained on the team in second place, leaving us two points behind the men from Oakwell with a game in hand. Luton have also displayed less relentless form of late, drawing three out if its last six games. Indeed, four out of Barnsley’s last six results have all been goalless draws.
Marginally, at least, Sunderland have the better form of the top three teams, with four wins and two draws.
As the business end of the season cranks into full power, it is without doubt squeaky bum time. I will decline to mention any more Sky Sports-style clichés, so apologies for those used already.
Without wishing to jinx the season, our run-in looks as kind as it could be, with the only tricky tie perhaps being Fleetwood away and Portsmouth at home - though both have had better patches this season, so this could be a good time to play them.
Lancashire games at Accrington and Rochdale along with home games to Burton, Coventry and Doncaster needn’t strike fear into us. Peterborough have fallen away, as have to a certain extent Portsmouth.
Will Grigg’s goal on Saturday was clinical and just what we needed as question marks over his signing were being murmured among our notoriously pessimistic support. Just like his goal in the Checkatrade Trophy semi final at Bristol Rovers, both strikes were instinctive and the product of a quality goalscorer. It still does jar, though, that Josh Maja still hasn’t scored for Bordeaux. It would have been good to have both in the team.
So let’s hope the two-week break allows the team to prepare for an unforgiving run-in. April sees Sunderland contest eight games, so a two week break at this stage is just what is required and maybe with the fillip of a cup win to give an extra boost.
Haway, haway, haway!