Saturday 7th March 2020 could shape the future of Sunderland AFC. On a day where Peterborough faced Portsmouth and Ipswich played Coventry, a win for the Black Cats against Gillingham was needed to keep the chase at the top of the League One table.
A shock on Saturday came when Rochdale beat Rotherham 3-1, meaning that the Millers dropped points. With the clock ticking down, it was looking like the Black Cats were going to move into third - one point off Rotherham, but Mikael Mandron’s equaliser changed everything as the promotion race took yet another twist and turn.
It would be a near-impossible job for Sunderland to claim the League One table, with the gap between Sunderland and Coventry widening to eight points, with the Sky Blues having a game in hand. If Mark Robin’s side wins that match, they will be 11 points clear of Sunderland, meaning that the Black Cats have to win four games more than Coventry, which at the moment is looking increasingly unlikely.
The only change in Parkinson’s team was Lafferty in for the injured Charlie Wyke, with this opportunity for Lafferty gave him a chance to show his quality and a chance to take the centre forward role ahead of Wyke when he’s back. If Saturday’s performance was anything to go by, there can’t be any doubting that the Northern Ireland international will be first choice for the next clutch of games at least.
The first half began very sloppily, with neither team taking the match by the scruff of the neck. The game then became very open in the second half, with both sides having multiple chances. Both teams had good chances to take advantage, which is why both Phil Parkinson and Steve Evans thought that the 2-2 score was a fair result.
On Tuesday night, we face Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium, in a game where the stakes couldn’t be any bigger. Before Saturday, Parkinson may have been thinking that he may have been able to make changes, giving some of our key players some rest, but now, I think that he will want to play his full-strength side.
Rovers lost 3-1 against relegation-threatened Southend at Roots Hall, and only four games ago, it took an Abu Ogogo red card to open the game up, with Sunderland carving their way through the ten men of the visitors. After that match, Sunderland will know how much of a tough test that Bristol Rovers will provide, especially at the Memorial Stadium - but to bounce back after Saturday, we need to claim three points.