I am quite a glass half full type of person anyway, but I do honestly think we will make the play-offs.
The biggest factor in this is because we have really tightened up at the back under Alex Neil in recent weeks, but there are encouraging signs further up the pitch too; Dan Neil looks well for having had a break, and Luke O’Nien being back gives us a lot as well.
Patrick Roberts seems to be getting up to speed too, and if he can play as well as he did against Lincoln City on a regular basis then teams will find him hard to handle.
The games against Oxford United and Plymouth Argyle will have a massive bearing on how the season pans out, but home form is also important – we’ve got three winnable fixtures already, and if Rotherham United have nothing to play for that could be another good opportunity. Points are there to be won, therefore, so hopefully the team will peak just at the right time.
Matthew Foster says...
My heart says yes, my head says no.
Looking at the table, we have two sides directly below us (Sheffield Wednesday and Wycombe) who will be desperate at a chance of an immediate return to the Championship.
Given how our season has gone so far, I see us just missing out.
Most likely by doing the most ‘Sunderland’ thing possible, and finishing 7th and being separated only by goal difference, just to make those heavy defeats we’ve suffered even more galling.
Malc Dugdale says...
I think we will make the play-offs, but the manner in which we approach them will be a huge factor in whether this leads to promotion or not.
As has been mentioned by Mr Merch, we are now tighter at the back, but there are times that we really struggle to break teams down. If one of the play-off opposition teams decides to park the bus against us, especially in our home leg, our creativity and craft is going to need to be way more penetrative, with a significantly better chance conversion, for us to progress.
As has been aired many times before, we need to kick on and gain confidence and form including goal-scoring prowess for our now lone striker (unless Broadhead returns), Ross Stewart. We need to be way more ruthless and clinical.
Making it into the extended games post-April is very doable, but unless we really improve a few aspects of our performance in the process of making the final top six (and some of them only need a slight tweak to be fair), we may do no better than the semis, as was the case last season.
Not long to wait and find out, if we do miss out we will have no reason to complain as that run from January onwards was relegation worthy had we not been in the top three since it started.
Mark Carrick says...
Not a chance, no.
There are teams around us, namely Wednesday and Wycombe, who will be pushing us all the way. Wednesday actually have a game in hand - they win that and they are two points ahead. Even draw that, and their goal difference puts us 7th. Once we drop out, I can’t see us getting back in.
A quick look at the fixtures and Wednesday have four very winnable games, one or two awkward ones, and a couple that they are likely to draw, but not lose. Wycombe, similarly, have one, maybe two, awkward ones left where points may be dropped. Of our seven games, three could be termed awkward! That means, once we drop out, I can’t see us getting back into the play-offs.