Alex Neil keeps talking about how we’re taking it one game at a time - and by that logic, we can’t write off our season if we lose on Saturday, nor can we definitively say we’ll make the Play-Offs.
What’s galling is that whilst our form has improved under Alex Neil and we seem to be picking up points at pace, so are the teams around us - Wycombe’s win on Tuesday night knocks us out of the top six again, which is a timely reminder that we have to be on our toes and cannot really afford to drop many points between now and the end of the season.
Victory at the weekend will be huge for our confidence and momentum - we’re in fine form, but haven’t really played anyone decent since we beat Wigan in February. If we could take the scalp of a promotion rival that will lift the confidence of everyone - particularly the fans and players who are still on the fence about whether we’ve got it in us to get promoted.
I think we’ll win, but it’ll be tight - we don’t concede many these days and look very organised, something that I think Oxford will struggle with on the back of a couple of poor results for them.
Andrew Smithson says...
I wouldn’t yet say that defeat will make the difference in terms of whether we reach the play-offs, there are still plenty of twists and turns to come either way I reckon, but the match on Saturday is still a big one I feel.
Momentum at this stage of the season is vital, and seeing as we could end up facing Oxford United again should we both to make the top six, a win would not only keep our good run going but it could also give us a physiological edge over Karl Robinson’s side.
Another factor to consider is how much good an away win would do right now. Although we played pretty well at Charlton Athletic and Lincoln City our form on the road this season hasn't always been the best, and that will need to change if we want to get to Wembley and have a decent chance.
Scoring a late winner as we did against Gillingham will have kept spirits high within the club I imagine. We’ve had a few players come back lately from injury too, so hopefully, we continue heading in the right direction at the weekend.
Sunderland don’t always like doing things the easy way though, and even a loss at this stage wouldn’t necessarily mean the season is over.
Sean Brown says...
I’m getting bored of saying every fixture is a vital one, but at this stage they really all are.
The way I see it, beating Oxford and winning every match that follows is absolutely vital to our chances of making the play-offs.
We have 18 points remaining to be claimed, with Wycombe and Oxford right in the mix too. Both are difficult opponents with managers who are both skilled in shithousery and have considerable experience when it comes to these end-of-season charges for a chance at promotion. Both have the benefit of knowing a great deal more about their sides than Alex Neil also.
A loss against Gillingham Saturday gone - in my opinion - would’ve ended our season. Until Nathan Broadhead’s last gasp winner I thought it had, so a loss against Oxford would be absolutely crushing - not only because it would amuse certain Oxford supporting chino enthusiasts - but because it’s simply a chance to set a play-off rival back and secure our position in the table.
We do play Plymouth over what looks to be a chaotic and certainly ‘season defining’ Easter weekend, and when looking at their remaining fixtures they’d require a drop in form similar to that which dragged them from the top of the table earlier in the season - combined with an impeccable run of form from us - if we were to threaten them at all at this stage. Though as it stands it is mathematically possible… that outlook just doesn’t feel all that realistic.
Joseph Tulip says...
Every game is huge but we can’t predict whether the result of this game will determine our play-off hopes. There is still time for twists and turns in the remaining half dozen games of the league season, and anything can happen.
That being said, it’s fair to say that Oxford presents something of a six-pointer.
Win, and we give ourselves a bit of breathing space between us and one of our main rivals, lose and we find ourselves out of the top six.
It’s vital that we at least draw, but I’m quietly confident that we can get the result we crave.
Despite our reliance on late goals at the end of recent pragmatic performances, I fancy us to keep it tight at the back once again, while backing our creative and attacking players to do the business at the other end.