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Preston North End v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Deepdale Stadium

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Two Up, Two Down: Sunderland secure top six berth in final-day drama!

A 0-3 win over Preston combined with results elsewhere means that Sunderland will have a chance at Premier League promotion via the Championship playoffs. What did our writers make of the game?

Photo by Tim Markland/PA Images via Getty Images

Anthony Gair says…

Mowbray does it again!

No matter how you look at it, Tony Mowbray was a bit of an underwhelming appointment after we’d been flying high under Alex Neil but oh, how we were wrong!

His tactical decisions at half time, to go with a back three and to bring Alex Pritchard on to give us more of an attacking punch were the work of an actual genius.

How do you improve on that? Beat Luton, I suppose!

More magic from Amad

We get to see him two more times at least, and he’s just a magician.

I’m going to miss the little Ivorian.

Some missed chances

We could’ve been 2-0 up before half time.

Joe Gelhardt missed an absolute sitter and Patrick Roberts had a shot brilliantly saved, but Gelhardt needs to be putting those away.

Injury concerns for Luton

The game against Luton doesn’t look too good with few players left without an injury.

Dennis Cirkin going off at half time will give us another headache and it’s absolutely crazy that we’ve done this.

Preston North End v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Deepdale Stadium Photo by Tim Markland/PA Images via Getty Images

Dan Harrison says…

Tony’s tinkering works perfectly

At half time. we knew that we needed to throw caution to the wind with results elsewhere and to make sure we held up our end of the bargain.

Tony Mowbray did just that and threw traditional tactics to the wall by operating with an asymmetrical system that had Lynden Gooch switch across to left back and Sunderland playing with a back three with no right sided cover.

Ultimately, Mowbray’s tactical courage paid dividends and we’ll be back on the training pitch with three games left.

Pierre Ekwah’s marauding runs

Ekwah retained a starting place again away from home as Mowbray has continued to trust the Frenchman in recent weeks.

Looking much more comfortable as a natural box-to-box midfielder, Ekwah showed some real skill to carry the ball on numerous occasions and played Joe Gelhardt through with a majestic threaded ball on the stroke of half time.

Now finding his feet in professional football, the sky’s the limit for the young man and it gives Mowbray real food for thought going into next season.

Sunderland’s game management

Despite fielding one of the youngest and least experienced squads in the Championship, our young team showed phenomenal game management against Preston and never looked back after gaining the lead early in the second half.

We’ve often struggled to secure points from winning positions this season, but we seem to have found the ability to close games down at just the right time, and it’s important as we try to beat a Luton side who’ve shown great resolve throughout the season.

The direction of the football club

All things aside, we’ve had a torrid time over the last half decade and it’s finally starting to come up rosy for the boys in red and white.

It’s fantastic to see how the club has seemingly turned a corner, and fans and players alike should be immensely proud of how far we’ve come in twelve months. They should take nothing away from the amazing achievements that the Lads have strung together over the course of the season.

Phenomenal effort, and things can only get better from here.

Jon Guy says…

A job well done

A brilliant performance from the team.

We weathered the storm in the first half and for the final seventy minutes we were back to our free-flowing attacking best, with players playing out of position but looking like a team that none of the other three will want to face.

Momentum and belief

Sunderland will go into the playoffs in the best possible state of mind.

This is a team who simply won’t lie down or give up. Patrick Roberts’ goal against Watford enabled the team to come back from 2-0 down, and the self belief was clear yesterday.

Some chances missed

We could’ve quite easily had another two or three goals in the second half alone.

While they made it look easy in the end, on a day full of highs, it’s really tough to find two lows.

Concerns around Dennis Cirkin

We’ve got to hope that his failure to emerge after the break was a tactical switch and not a result of the knock he took.

He’s been so good at both ends of the pitch in recent weeks.

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

Mark Wood says…

An incredible ninety minutes!

At half time, Millwall were winning 3-1 and in our own game it looked like it could go either way in the second half.

To all intents and purposes, any hope of a playoff spot looked well gone but giving up just doesn’t seem to be the mindset of this team.

Yes, Blackburn did us a huge favour with an incredible comeback but we fully deserved it on our second half performance.

Amad strikes again!

I would sit through ninety minutes of turgid football for a goal like that.

A half clearance went straight to his feet and he didn't have time to think. I’m not even sure he looked, but he just hit it straight for the far corner and the goal summed up the class he’s shown all season.

Jack Clarke’s goal looks better and better the more I see of it, but I’m only just putting Amad’s above it for pure ruthless instinct.

Sunderland’s passing game

There was a point in the second half when we were three goals up and continually knocking pass after pass to each other, and Preston couldn’t get a touch.

They’re not a bad team but if you were a home fan, you would’ve been gutted to have been taken apart like that.

After all that our club has been through and after all the humiliating moments of the past ten years or more, this is a moment when you feel we’re truly on our way back.

Bring on the playoffs!

It was meant to be a season where we consolidated upon our return to the Championship.

The playoffs have mainly negative memories because although we’ve been involved in them so many times, we’d never actually won them until last year.

We’ve probably got the most important commodity going into them and something that made all the difference last season, which is momentum.


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