The feeling of a defeat had only been experienced twice in 2021 before Charlton Athletic rumbled into town. Admittedly, Sunderland hadn’t been putting in outstanding performances, but we were grinding out wins; a skill that most teams in a promotion race need to master.
However, on Saturday we came back down to earth with more of a whimper than a bang. We missed several golden opportunities to take the lead when the score was at 0-0, and conceded two sloppy goals.
We were turned over relatively easily which, although concerning, we don’t have time to dwell on. The final seven games of the season come thick and fast, and now is the time for this Sunderland team to show its bottle and to prove that they can bounce back from a defeat to make sure it doesn’t end up being costly.
Saturday’s defeat was a bad day at the office. Our makeshift back line got made to look makeshift for the first time in a long while, and going forward we often looked short on ideas. Some of Lee Johnson’s selection choices raised eyebrows when the teams were announced. By full time, they looked absolutely bizarre.
Callum McFadzean has been poor for some time now, but he has continued to keep his place in the side because of Denver Hume being sidelined. Hume’s return off the bench at Peterborough was very welcome, and with the best part of a week in training most of us believed he would start.
Seeing McFadzean’s name on the team sheet was a surprise; almost as big of a surprise as seeing Jordan Jones on the bench. If we want to break into the top two, then surely we should be starting with our strongest team from the off. Hume and Jones, for me, should be guaranteed starters. For the first time since taking over, I believe Johnson’s decision making cost us a match. The need to bounce back on Tuesday, against a side that is scrapping for points for a very different reason, is huge.
Lee Johnson and his squad have been provided with a massive test of character. Even the most optimistic Sunderland fan would not have expected us to go through the rest of the season unbeaten. We’ve come up against a team that is chasing the play offs and come unstuck.
It won’t be the easiest of our last few matches, but the failure to convert chances that a month ago would have been buried could prove to be very costly in terms of our chances of automatic promotion at the end of the season.
End of season form is going to be vital and before the Charlton defeat, Sunderland’s was very good. The last thing we want is a repeat of the 2018-19 run in. One win in our last seven games saw us fall from second in the table to fifth in a run which culminated in heart break at Wembley.
It is of the utmost importance that we quickly shake off both the performance and result from Saturday. It could be a blessing that we don’t have to wait too long to play again. In that time, it will be down to the players to have a long hard look at themselves and make sure that a mediocre turn out doesn’t turn into an end of season slump.
The time to stand tall and show us your worth is in these last seven matches. It’s over to you to get us to the Championship.