Easter Monday saw Sunderland take on Peterborough at the ABAX stadium with the lads needing a win in order to ensure they still had a chance at securing automatic promotion. Alas, this was not the case as a late Max Power goal was cancelled out by Posh’s Matt Godden.
The result means the second automatic promotion spot is entirely in Barnsley’s hands, with the Tykes looking more than likely to secure second place with two more games to play against Blackpool and Bristol Rovers.
Needless to say, the Peterborough match was another frustrating game that took our tally of draws up to 18 this season. Considering we’ve only had three losses in the league and we’re currently sat fourth, it’s an incredibly annoying situation.
Take a scroll through Twitter and it won’t take you long to find a group of fans who clearly believe that the gaffer, Jack Ross, is the root problem of Sunderland’s performances. Although, admittedly, this is a view held by a small minority of Sunderland fans - it baffles me as to why this is the case.
Cast your mind back to last year. After poor ownership and a number of goes on the managerial merry-go-round we’d suffered a second successive relegation with Burton hammering the final nail into our coffin.
Since then, however, the mass turn-around has been a real sense of relief and joy, with new owners and a fresh new boss. It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come.
It is also worth considering Jack Ross’ position this time last year as well. Ross was picked as Stewart Donald’s man because of his success with St Mirren where he masterminded their promotion to the Scottish Premier League after winning 23 games and finishing 12 points clear at the top of the Scottish Championship.
Although the Scottish Championship is a different kettle of fish to League One, Ross still proved he was capable of finding promotion.
In my opinion, Ross has done a good job at Sunderland. With the help of the owners, he’s stripped the club back, recruited a new set of players, and brought a new ethos into the club - a refreshing change to what the fans have seen in recent years.
Furthermore, Ross is the calm and collected boss that Sunderland have craved for so long -a big personality in a club going through a rough patch isn’t really what was needed.
Whilst the Peterborough result was so frustrating, realistically it was to be expected. I’m the last person to make excuses for the Lads, but since Wembley last month we’ve faced nine games in the space of 32 days; this fixture congestion must play some part in our recent performances.
Take into account how many games our nearest rivals have had since then, Luton and Barnsley have six and Portsmouth seven. With more games to play in a short space of time, it’s natural that players feel fatigued.
Another thing to bear in mind that in this second half of the season, Ross has had to deal with injuries snatching some of our better players from the starting line-up.
Chris Maguire has been out since February, making his return in the Peterborough game for the final moments, Duncan Watmore has been hit with yet another injury to prevent him helping us stretch tiring defences, and Dylan McGeouch succumbed to injury just when he started to find his form. Although no team can rely solely on a handful players, the losses of these men recently have shown.
If you’re after a criticism of Ross, the biggest is the fact that he hasn’t addressed our defensive issues in the transfer windows. Admittedly, the introduction of Luke O’Nien to right-back and Bryan Oviedo at left-back have proven effective, but our issues with centre-halves remain.
Ross should have recruited what every League One side needs in their toolbox - a big, scary, nasty centre-half who isn’t afraid to stick his foot in every once in a while. Although Jimmy Dunne and Alim Ozturk have held the fort in the last two matches, neither truly fits this criteria.
Should we be in an automatic promotion spot? Yes, with a budget like ours in League One we should. But this is football, unfortunately not everything goes to plan.
We are guaranteed a promotion play-off place, which isn’t what we wanted but it’s still a shot at promotion. Ultimately, if we achieve promotion to the Championship then fantastic. If not, that’s when questions should be asked of Ross and the squad.
Let’s not jump the gun here. Let’s see where the next couple of weeks take us in the quest for promotion.