I’ve spoken about it before but the way we are motoring up the table really reminds me of previous promotions under Roy Keane - and to a lesser extent, Mick McCarthy. The ability to keep grinding results out from matches where we haven’t played well is a very good sign of a team going places.
One of the most difficult things to change is the losing mentality that was prevalent throughout the club. Lord knows how many times we’ve played well in a game, only to have dropped points from either a bit of opposition magic, a silly mistake or sometimes just plain bad luck.
This time, it’s the opposite. Perhaps luck has gone our way on occasion but it’s nice to be on the other side of that situation and winning games rather than losing them.
Our opponents Lincoln have gone the other way.
Our last loss was at Shrewsbury Town in early February. After that match Lincoln were top and the gap was 11 points to Sunderland - we were in 7th. Since then Lincoln have only won two matches in the league and we have actually gone above them in the table.
Perhaps they were punching above their weight slightly. Last season was their first back in League One and few would have tipped them to be at the top of the league so deep into the season. Credit to Michael Appleton and their players for their performances so far.
It does feel though that this is a great opportunity to play them. Their confidence will surely be low. Having found wins and playing good football easy earlier in the season, suddenly they are struggling for both and that sort of thing isn’t easy to get back. A trip to an in-form Sunderland with a feel-good factor around our club will surely fill them with a huge sense of dread.
If we beat them, we will also create a bit of a cushion between the top three and the rest of the chasing pack. The gap could go to five points and ourselves and Peterborough will also have games in hand to further increase the advantage.
Earlier in the season we went to Sincil Bank and hammered them 4-0. It was a fantastic result at the time and might also add another factor into proceedings. I don’t believe we will have it as comfortable on Saturday but Lee Johnson has had considerably more matches with his team and will hopefully be able to exploit similar weaknesses in their backline.
In terms of the style of play, I think it’s important to try and play with a tempo and move the ball as quickly as possible. I appreciate we had success against Accrington by going more direct with both Charlie Wyke and Ross Stewart up front together, but I reckon that was more down to the terrible pitch and choppy, frantic nature of the game than anything else.
Our team has had a few changes recently with injuries and fitness resulting in plenty of players being unavailable. We have to try and not deviate too much from a certain style of play - this will bring clarity to the players and should help consistency.
If we press our opponents when they are on the ball, move the ball quickly and get in behind I feel we should have too much for a lot of teams in this league.
Things are looking up and with us on a high and Lincoln on a low, we’ve got a great chance to keep this winning run going.
Let's hope we’re all smiling at 5pm!