Since we’ve come down to League One, Portsmouth have been a bit annoying really.
From losing at Wembley to them on penalties in the Checkatrade final to edging past them in the Play Offs and a few bad-tempered clashes to boot, they’ve always been close to us in the league and tonight’s clash has us narrowly above them in the table.
This one is just as important as it comes at a crucial time in the season. A few weeks ago we were struggling and we were looking up to them. We’ve since put several wins together and Pompey have gone the other way. Their usually tight defence has gone – getting hammered at bottom-club Northampton on Saturday and they’ve only won one in six.
When you combine our ability in recent weeks to grind results when not playing well and the optimism that’s come from the takeover, our fans are starting to get their hopes up.
I hate to be a massive party pooper but I think we might be getting a little bit carried away...
A lot of the wins recently have been against clubs you would expect us to be beating – Burton, Fleetwood, Swindon and Rochdale.
While you can only beat the teams you play on the day, I believe the next few fixtures will be a far better test of where Lee Johnson’s Sunderland are as a team. We have Portsmouth, then Tranmere at Wembley which will alter the focus, Accrington and Lincoln.
Those fixtures are against teams that have better pedigree at this level and more likely to attack us and cause us problems. Some may argue those are the games which we tend to have more success in but it remains to be seen if we can carry on this run and keep grinding out wins when not particularly playing well. Sooner or later we’re going to have to match both performance and result. I feel we can’t get away with 20 minute performances against the better teams
Another thing that’s playing on my mind is the ‘typical Sunderland factor.’
I’m sure I’m not the only fan who thinks things are going well at the moment. Almost too well...
Better results, the takeover is completed, fans might be back in the stadium shortly, the prospect of finally winning at Wembley and even the nights will be getting longer and lighter in the next few weeks!
There’s a growing sense of optimism and with that I think ambitions and expectations are starting to steadily creep up as well.
While I totally understand it’s natural for fans to get excited, I do feel we need to perhaps rein it in a little bit for fear of the bubble bursting. We’ve all been fans for long enough to have seen the script before. A terrible period followed by a little lift, a glimmer of hope only to be brought crashing back down to earth.
Of course there’s always two sides to every coin. These are the big games that will define our season. We’ve still got to go to Portsmouth tonight, Hull and Peterborough away, Lincoln at home is also a big game. These are the games to relish as a Sunderland player. When the pressure is on, we might see the players lift their games and really rise to the challenge. It’s a very interesting time as we head into ‘squeaky-bum time’.
The next three or four weeks will tell us a lot about Sunderland’s season.
I hope we’re all still smiling at Easter.