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ITHICS Fanzine: Advantage Sunderland... Jack Ross and the Lads are on a promotion mission!

Sunderland are into second place with a game in hand, whilst the other teams around us face tough games this weekend. Do we now have the advantage? Nic Wiseman sums up the current state of play and ponders what will happen next...

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It’s ironic that Burton Albion were the first scalp of Chris Coleman’s stint as manager at Sunderland, back in November of 2017 when goals from George Honeyman and James Vaughan brought the Lads their first win since they beat Norwich in August of that year.

Since we beat them at the Pirelli Stadium they plunged the final nail into our coffin and confirmed our relegation to League One last April at the Stadium of Light, were the first of two teams to inflict defeat on us in League One back in September, and halted our winning streak on Tuesday night just gone.

That being said, they also did us the enormous favour of ending Barnsley’s huge unbeaten streak last Saturday when they battered them and won 3-1, allowing us to overtake our promotion rivals into second place in the League One table.

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In what was our third game in nine days, Sunderland dropped points for the first time after convincing Lancashire wins away at Accrington and Rochdale.

Six points were well deserved and justice felt done as both clubs attempted to exploit our supporters - Accrington by not allowing any discount on an abandoned fixture, and Rochdale by producing commemorative cups for what was seemingly a huge occasion from their perspective.

But for an atrocious performance by the referee, Scott Oldham - which was described as ‘psychedelic’ by some, whilst others suggested the poor performances was due to the fact he was busy ‘focusing on putting one foot in front of the other without falling over’ - the team would have most certainly made it nine points out of nine.

However, we had to make do with seven, which has been enough to put us into second place - a point above Barnsley with a game in hand.

As I said in a recent column, our run in is not so hard on paper, and the home fixture against play-off hopefuls Coventry City on Saturday looks eminently winnable.

Luton have a tricky away game at promotion-chasing Charlton, and Barnsley host Joey Barton’s Fleetwood (who have won two out of their last three games). Barnsley’s form has been faltering of late - a series 0-0 draws demonstrating how much they miss their talismanic striker Keiffer Moore.

Sunderland’s recent goals, on the other hand, have been shared through the team, with contributions from defence and midfield occurring - a sign that the entire team is rallying to find the goals needed to fire us back into the Championship.

As has been well documented, Jack Ross’ team has responded well to the disappointment of Wembley - maybe the Sunderland manager has said to the team that he doesn’t want to return to the national stadium again this season, which would be entirely understandable when you factor in the position that we’re currently in (and our horrendous record when playing there).

The way they’ve approached the games since Portsmouth suggests that they are on a mission - let’s hope that they can keep the momentum going and, come this time next month, we’re talking about our preparations for the coming Championship season.