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Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light

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Opinion: Why we should be used to Sunderland doing it the hard way

It has been a rollercoaster season, but Sunderland have at least given themselves a relatively straightforward task going into the final day - win!

Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images

The visit of Rotherham had the feel of one of those matches where it wasn’t going to go our way.

From the get-go, this feeling materialised into a game in which we faltered our way through.

The physicality from Rotherham combined with the usual delay tactics we see on a near-weekly basis from sides visiting Sunderland almost worked perfectly.

They took the goal well, and unfortunately for too many periods of the match, we looked unable to match our opponents.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images

Long balls into the final third were bread and butter for the big Rotherham centre backs, and our repeated attempts to launch the ball forward got frustrating very quickly.

Matete had arguably his worst game since his January move from Fleetwood, albeit the early yellow card didn’t help. His loose passes and the multiple occasions he lost possession summed up a game in which we showed glimpses of our poor January/ February form.

We could have done with a favour from Fleetwood and, at half time, we were getting it. Yet a Fleetwood win against Sheffield Wednesday would mean little if we didn’t at least avoid defeat.

The Fleetwood favour never game, and with the 90-minute mark approaching, we’d slipped to sixth place, clinging onto a playoff place by nothing but goal difference.

It was a touch of class from Jack Clarke which helped rescue a point that, at 2.30pm on Saturday, could prove to be vital.

Clarke changed the game - his tricky darts along the touchline and towards the penalty area caused problems on several occasions, and it was one sweet ball into the box which led to the leveller.

It wasn’t pretty, and for much of the game we were worryingly flat, but we got the point that our efforts really didn’t deserve.

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

Rotherham never looked like running away with the match, and they were determined to ebb away at the remaining minutes for a win that would have all but sealed their automatic return to the Championship.

They’ll have their own fight on Saturday, as they visit Gillingham, who themselves need a win to drag themselves out of the drop zone on the final day.

With only one side officially relegated from League One and no side promoted yet, the final day of League One is going to be tense.

Whatever happens down at Morecambe and at stadiums elsewhere in the league on Saturday, we’re going into it with fate in our own hands.

The point against Rotherham has helped put us in this position, meaning that our job in our 46th and final fixture is simple; win and we’re in the playoffs.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images

None of this looking elsewhere in a desperate plea for sides to drop points, or at least not if we are winning at The Globe Arena.

Getting into the playoffs should never have been so stressful, but this is Sunderland AFC and we do not know how to do things the hard way.

Rotherham so nearly dragged themselves to all three points by playing the turgid football that has been so successful for them this season but, despite being very poor, we got a point.

It has been a rollercoaster season, and one which has seen us record some of the worst results and performances in our recent history, but we’ve at least given ourselves a straightforward task going into the final day.

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