Jon McLaughlin has returned to the top of the Roker Report Power Rankings after his heroics against Portsmouth.
McLaughlin surpassed his great performance in the first leg of the League One play-offs by making one phenomenal save and a series of other excellent stops to secure a tie-winning clean sheet.
Beyond his shot-stopping the 31-year-old has emerged as a real leader for this team - he plays with a calmness which inspires those around him. It starts with his shot-stopping, but his reliable distribution and ever-increasing confidence in claiming crosses has made the keeper the squad’s most irreplaceable member.
A major factor in Sunderland’s progression to the play-off finals was the team’s ability to nullify Portsmouth’s creative players and limit their midfield influence. Lee Cattermole has vaulted up to second in recognition of his role leading the press and bothering the Pompey midfield.
Alim Ozturk completes the top three after another impressive performance against Oli Hawkins. The Dutch centre-half continues to confound expectations after being brought back from the dead by Jack Ross in an act of desperation less than two months ago.
1: Jon McLaughlin (4) - Champion for an eighth time this season after one of his best and undoubtedly his most important man of the match performance yet.
2: Lee Cattermole (5) - Back in the top three, unsurprisingly the leadership and experience of the former skipper has proved vital in the play-offs.
3: Alim Ozturk (2) - A third straight week in the top three for the ex-Hearts man whose unexpected redemption story could yet lead the Black Cats to promotion.
4: Bryan Oviedo (6) - Probably McLaughlin’s closest contender for man of the match honours, Oviedo has been excellent in the play-offs, playing with a concentration and intensity we’ve rarely seen in the past two and a half seasons.
5: Grant Leadbitter (18) - His strong performance in midfield became much more impressive when Leadbitter revealed the heavy-heart he was playing with, taking to the field just days after the passing of his mother.
6: Tom Flanagan (13) - Thursday represented a return to form for the defender who is repaying the trust Jack Ross has shown in him. Ross is giving the 27-year-old a final chance to represent Sunderland as a starter and Flanagan seemed to find a higher level of aggression and assertiveness when it truly mattered.
7: Chris Maguire (1) - Maguire was at his intolerable best, continuing to antagonise and enrage the entire Portsmouth team in the first-half. But, whether through fatigue or fear of picking up a second yellow card, Maguire looked a different player after half-time and was unsurprisingly subbed off.
8: Luke O’Nien (4) - In a week filled with great defensive displays, O’Nien fell just a little bit short of his defensive teammate’s excellence and drops down our charts in a week filled with defensive heroics. The converted defender deserves huge credit though for keeping his composure after being attacked by a Blues fan.
9: Charlie Wyke (7) - No starter will be happier to see the back of Portsmouth than Wyke - he just couldn’t move Christian Burgess and hasn’t looked like scoring against them in three games over the past month.
10: Lynden Gooch (8) - Unlucky to lose his starting spot, Gooch hangs onto his top ten slot after being the first of a trio of substitutes that drove Sunderland up the pitch and eased the pressure on the defence in the dying minutes at Fratton Park.
11: Max Power (9) - Drops out of the top ten after doing an alright job in a thankless advanced role that doesn’t suit his strengths, particularly when playing for a side defending a lead.
12: George Honeyman (11) - Honeyman’s role and value to this team remains a divisive topic - he hasn’t done enough in either play-off game to end speculation on whether he’s worthy of a starting spot in Sunderland’s best team.
13: Lewis Morgan (12) - Unsurprisingly dropped from his starting role, Morgan falls further down our ranks due to the great performances of his teammates. The Celtic loanee’s pace off the bench was extremely useful in killing the game and securing the Mackems’ spot at Wembley.
14: Will Grigg (20) - The dying minutes at Fratton Park were tailor-made for someone with Grigg’s pace and knack for pressing from the front. The ex-Wigan man didn’t disappoint, harassing the Pompey back line to help secure the most important scoreless draw in modern Sunderland history.
15: Jimmy Dunne (10) - An unused substitute, the Irishman is likely to be first reserve at centre-back again at Wembley.
16: Aiden McGeady (14) - Will he be fit enough to play? If so, who misses out? Will he be kept in reserve as a substitute? Questions about our player of the season will rightfully dominate the build-up to Sunderland’s meeting with Charlton - hopefully he’s fit enough to start.
17: Dylan McGeouch (15) - Out of the 18-man squad again even though Ross named a substitute’s bench without a central midfielder. Barring an injury to one of his teammates the Scot’s season is likely over.
18: Kazaiah Sterling (16) - Like McGeouch, Sterling’s only hopes of being involved against Charlton Athletic hinge on somebody in his position pulling out injured. Duncan Watmore’s return to fitness means multiple men would probably have to fall for the youngster to be involved.
19: Denver Hume (17) - Oviedo’s great form has probably ended Hume’s season too - the youngster has also lost his bench spot to Adam Matthews in recent weeks, meaning he’s unlikely to be a substitute on Sunday.
20: Adam Matthews (19) - Alongside Dunne, Matthews is likely to be Ross’ other defensive option amongst his seven substitutes. Matthews was an unused reserve in the second leg.
21: Lee Connelly 22: Benji Kimpioka 23: Reece James 24: Duncan Watmore 25: Robbin Ruiter 26: Bali Mumba 27: Jack Baldwin 28: Glenn Loovens 29: Jack Bainbridge 30: Donald Love 31: Jake Hackett 32: Brandon Taylor 33: Jordan Hunter 34: Daniel Neil 35: Max Stryjek