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Crewe Alexandra v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Who’s ready for squeaky bum time?

Eight games left. Win them all and we go up. Everything’s got very serious all of a sudden.

Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Charlton are next up at the Stadium of Light before a run of three away matches against Wigan, Blackpool and Hull.

I’ve already touched on how Charlton usually fill me with dread, but I see no reason to fear anybody in this league. I think the team that’s mentally tough enough to stay the course on this Grand National weekend will ultimately be the ones celebrating in May.

This time of year used to bring the best out of us in the Premier League.

Whether it was Big Sam Allardyce’s great run of form, Gus Poyet’s miracle, Paolo’s knee slide or Dick Advocaat’s tears – we always did just enough to get over the line and survived.

Arsenal v Sunderland - Premier League
Just did enough...
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

In recent times, however, we’ve fallen away.

In 2017 and 2018 we ended the season badly, gave up the fight and were deservedly relegated.

In 2019 we tailed off and bottled promotion and, of course, this time last year nobody was playing football thanks to the dreaded C word.

I think this time might be different however.

We’ve not only got momentum with our superb form but the feeling around the club is different.

Whisper it quietly, but it feels... good to be a Sunderland fan for the first time in absolutely ages.

The patient is breathing!

Lee Johnson has been a breath of fresh air since he came in and it’s like he’s got the flatlining patient up and breathing again.

Combine him and his coaches with the change in ownership and, of course, crucially the results and we are starting to look like a real force in this league.

That’s how it should be.

Peterborough United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Onto Saturday, and Charlton will bring their own decent form.

Five wins and only one defeat in their last nine matches sees them on the cusp of the Play Offs.

In Ben Pearce they have a leader at the heart of defence and Jake Forster Caskey is a solid midfielder.

Chuks Aneke and Diallang Jaiyesmi are threatening going forward and Adam Matthews is bound to have a good game against us – it’s nailed on.

But this is where the mental strength comes in. We have to be confident – look at the run we’ve been on. One defeat in 20 matches in all competitions.

Charlton are a decent team but they’ve conceded almost double the amount of goals we have and they don’t have an Aiden McGeady or a Jordan Jones.

I really think if we stay strong and move the ball quickly and in behind then goals are a definite.

Birmingham City v Charlton Athletic - Sky Bet Championship
Charlton ‘had’ a McGeady
Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Lets’ go all out from the first whistle.

If the worst thing happens and we lose a goal then don’t panic – it’s happened in the last two games and we’ve come back to get four out of six points available.

With the amazing momentum we have at the moment their heads will drop should we get a goal or even better two in front.

Let’s be expansive and move the ball across the pitch with a purpose and with a super-quick tempo. When we lose the ball, chase the life out of them to get it back.

Who plays?

In terms of team selection, I felt we missed running and energy against Peterborough; a combination of losing a man in midfield and missing the likes of Aiden O’Brien and Josh Scowen. They both came off the bench and gave us a new lease of life in a game that was slipping away.

Rotation is necessary with the games we have got. Could we think about resting/rotating/dropping Charlie Wyke?

His goals have been phenomenal but lately I’m not sure he’s offered quite enough and Ross Stewart may have earned his place up front.

Peterborough United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One - Weston Homes Stadium
Will Lee Johnson give Ross Stewart another run out?
Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images

Our defence has been excellent, but I can’t be the only one that’s concerned we only have two natural defenders in the squad.

If we can get at least Bailey Wright back then it gives us extra security and can free up a midfield role for Luke O’Nien or Max Power (if O’Nien is able to switch to right back)

In recent years the run-in has been our downfall.

Too many dropped points and poor performances have ultimately sealed our fate.

I reckon we can kick-start ‘squeaky-bum time’ on Saturday with a win and keep up the promotion charge.

Eight matches. 24 points to play for. If we win them all, we’re up as champions, regardless of what anyone else does.

It’s all in our own hands.

Ha’way the lads!


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