Sunderland’s 4-0 win at Crewe was about as routine as they come. Pretty much from the word go, the lads never looked like letting the match get away from them.
As well as being straight forward, the win helped to further settle any worries that we were slipping towards a bog standard spell of results on the road.
Before the trip to Gillingham on Saturday, our away form was patchy. Despite only really being woeful in the trip to Fratton Park, we’d won just one of our first four away matches.
A frustrating defeat at Burton and a last gasp draw away at Fleetwood both came after a classy 2-0 win down at MK Dons on the second weekend of the season. While our home form has been impenetrable, it has perhaps reduced any real concerns of our early season form on the road.
When the Gills took the lead on Saturday, there was a twinge of concern that this could be ‘another one of those afternoons’ where we get League One’d by a classic League One team. Drawing level on the stroke of time was a good tonic for this.
The win wasn’t pretty, but a win away from home after coming from behind and playing the last 20 minutes with ten men is a fairly satisfying way to pick up three points. This result, combined with the classy showing in Cheshire on Tuesday, has quickly put to bed any lingering worry that we would develop any travel sickness.
The back to back wins on the road were very different examples of how to win football games, and also how teams going for promotion need to overcome different types of opposition.
Gillingham lined up like a typical Steve Evans side and made life difficult for us. In another season, we wouldn’t have come from behind down in Kent. it would have been a fruitless trip south, and would have been followed with plenty of lame excuses by our boss (a Phil Parkinson figure, for example).
Yet this season, things are different. The excellent decision to play football in a better way than in previous years also helped us absolutely batter a side who are bang out of form.
Since being at this level, thumping wins have been pretty scarce. In the space of a month, we’ve now won 4-0 and 5-0. It might sound like an obvious statement, but my god it feels good to thump teams. Crewe fans were expecting the worst when we rocked up in town and, well, they were right.
In a promotion race the goal difference is always going to play a part and in the space of three days we clawed back and built upon the hiding we got down at Portsmouth.
We will lose games this season, of course we will, but bouncing back from our two defeats so far this season shows that the mental toughness of our current crop of players is far stronger than we’ve seen in recent years.