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Preston North End v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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ITHICS Fanzine: On a crazy final day, it was Sunderland who came up trumps!

Nic Wiseman from ITHICS Fanzine offers his thoughts on the events of Monday and how Sunderland are shaping up ahead of the Championship playoffs

Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

What can be said that hasn’t already been said about this remarkable team on this remarkable weekend? Tenacious? Never say die?

The team that plays with a joie de vivre that’s literally a joy to watch.

Preston North End v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

The Luke O’Nien video released by the club before the Preston game gave us a little insight into the attitude going into last season’s playoff final against Wycombe Wanderers.

Our Luke said he was a bundle of nerves going into the game because of the miseries he’d suffered in 2019 and 2021, but he also said that the rest of the team were having none of it.

‘We’re doing this,’ was the attitude, and they did do it.

This season, I’m not nervous about the playoffs and it’s more a case of ‘bring it on’. Jack Clarke was on media duties post-Preston.

“This team just wants to win,” he said. “We’ll keep on going until the end”.

The proof of this is in the stats.

At half time against Preston, I had the match on and BBC Radio Newcastle’s excellent coverage on the radio. It was an inspiration to have reporters at Millwall and Middlesbrough, who brought news of developments far quicker than Sky Sports.

At half time, Nick Barnes, BBC Radio Newcastle’s commentator at Preston, was beginning to get concerned.

We hadn’t scored yet and Millwall were 3-1 up against Blackburn. ‘We always score in the second half,’ I tweeted. And so we did, and what a second half it was.

Preston North End v Sunderland: Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

In Alex Neil’s five games in charge at the beginning of the season, we started like a train and tired later on. Five of our eight goals scored were in the first half but with Tony Mowbray at the helm, the converse is true.

Of the sixty goals we’ve scored during his time in charge, forty four have come in the second half and on the occasions we’ve gone ahead before half time, we’ve failed to take maximum points six times.

On two occasions, we’ve been 2-0 ahead at half time and haven’t won: a 2-2 draw with QPR and a 2-4 loss to Burnley, and in only seven of Tony Mowbray’s sixteen wins have we scored in the first half. The only game to go against this trend is Reading away, when we were 2-0 ahead at half time and went on to win 3-0.

So, at half time on Monday, I was comfortable that we’d win but I had no idea that Blackburn would turn it around so spectacularly.

We’ve got the bit between our teeth, the team doesn’t know when it’s beaten and we’re scoring as many last minute goals as we did during the Roy Keane era.

Luton are waiting in the playoff semi finals, and I think we’ll overcome them and beat Middlesbrough in the final.

If we do play Boro at Wembley, the police will have fun, as the Mags are at Chelsea that same weekend on the last day of the Premier League season!


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