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West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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A commanding, brave away performance puts Sunderland into the play-off driving seat!

No strikers? No centre backs? No captain? No problem, as we produced one of the best – and biggest – away performances of the campaign to move back into the play-off places. 

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

And, so we still remain firmly in contention for the playoffs.

After weeks and weeks of ebbs and flows of this enthralling play-off race, still, the top-six remains a tasty prospect with only two games of the season remaining.

Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against Huddersfield was made an even more frustrating one, after virtually every result went in the Black Cats’ favour on Wednesday night, leaving the gap between us and the play-offs at just two points.

Then, Saturday was a day that followed the same pattern as midweek: Preston’s draw with Blackburn and Millwall’s defeat to Wigan opened the door for a rise into the top six with a victory at the Hawthorns.

West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Yet, it seemed a tough ask, but one that could have had major rewards.

The Baggies hadn’t lost on home turf since the end of October, when they were beaten by Sheffield United in Carlos Corberan’s first match in charge of the club. More recently, only one defeat in their last eight matches has placed Corberan’s side as one of those battling for the final two playoff spots.

And, with the news that Danny Batth would be side-lined for the rest of the campaign, our defensive troubles looked as though they would come to the fore, but it was a performance that defied every expectation and has us right back in this captivating playoff race.

Arguably it was the best away performance of the season; Sunderland had to defend deep and hold their nerve at times, but in forward areas, they were patient and clinical when their chances arose.

West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Also, going into the half-time interval one goal down after a period of relative domination and comfort was another element that this group had to battle back from.

That late first-half penalty, likely to be mixed with a fiery Corberan team talk, did make it a period of backs to the wall for the Lads at the beginning of the second half.

Yet, what we did so well was nullify the threat of Jed Wallace, who caused us all sorts of problems at the Stadium of Light in the reverse fixture, and Brandon Thomas-Asante, whilst also frustrating and silencing the home crowd.

Meanwhile, within the forward areas, we pressed well, most notably through Joe Gelhardt, who had himself thrown to the Hawthorns turf more times than I can recall, and played some superb eye-catching stages of football.

West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

So, to come out of this tense affair with an absolutely huge three points, a place in the top six and yet another goal-of-the-season contender (although the EFL wouldn’t have us know that) could make Sunday a defining day in our season.

Despite both Blackburn and West Brom both having games in hand to play this week, the playoffs are firmly in our hands with only two matches of this unforgettable season still to play.

Whatever the Black Cats do, or don’t, within these last two weeks of the season, the credit and pride that we all have in where this club lies is clear.

Watford on Saturday and Preston on the second Bank Holiday Monday of May are two tough games remaining: Chris Wilder’s Hornets need some sort of response to a poor run that has them out of the playoff picture, whilst Preston may well still be in the race for the top six.

West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

But Sunderland are still in it. Mowbray has wanted the players to continue to make it exciting for the fans, and that is exactly what they are doing.

All eyes will now turn to the two midweek matches of importance to us, before a huge final home league outing for the season next weekend.

The season is reaching its nail-biting conclusion, and Sunderland’s top-six dreams are still very much alive.

Can we, just can we, dare to dream just yet?


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