Sunderland were given a timely reminder by Joey Barton’s Fleetwood Town that, despite some excellent recent performances, we aren’t invincible and there are teams still to play before the season ends that can punish us if we aren’t at the races.
In truth, I’d rather this happen now, at home, than when we head to Coventry on Sunday. Luckily for us, Mark Robins’ side also drew last night and that means we go into the game, in front of the live Sky TV cameras, knowing we can potentially leapfrog our opponents into second place with a victory.
That’s why it was refreshing to hear what Phil Parkinson had to say in his post-match, remaining very level-headed and recognising exactly what it was that his side did wrong in those early opening exchanges which gifted Fleetwood a lead that they so desperately tried to cling on to. Parkinson’s post-match interviews recently have been one of the high points of the fallout from each game, and he rarely allows himself to get too excited or too down depending on the result.
He continues to surprise both myself and other supporters with his ability as manager, and perhaps he’s more flexible than he’s often given credit for.
His response to the time on the clock dwindling down on Tuesday was to flood the pitch with attackers, a rather unconventional tactic but one that ultimately worked. Fleetwood were pushed further and further back as Sunderland applied pressure and tried to find a way through, and eventually it worked - albeit, the goal came from a defensive midfield player in Max Power.
Make no bones about it - we got away with it on this occasion. Whilst I’m sure all Sunderland fans would agree that we deserved to take something from the game, we’ll not often get seven extra minutes of injury time to pull ourselves level.
Hopefully this professional and level-headed group of players have learned from their experience on Tuesday, and are very much aware that they cannot start poorly on Sunday or they will be punished by a Coventry side who have an uncanny knack of taking points from almost every game they take part in.
That said, we shouldn’t concentrate too much on our opponents. After all, we are unbeaten in our last five games and don’t concede too many goals. Coventry will be wary of the threat we pose, and perhaps the key to success is to concentrate on doing what we do best. Several players - namely Hume, Gooch and Wyke - have suffered from dips in form and whilst they’ve retained the good faith of their manager, there are players waiting in the wings that are desperate to prove they should be starting and playing every single week.
They know we have to perform, and this team has shown they’re capable of producing the kind of form and results that are needed if we’re going to get promoted. I’m confident that we’ll take the experiences from Tuesday and look to improve upon it when we play on Sunday, because this team looks primed for promotion - and promotion-winning teams turn up just when you need them to, in the big games.