By now I’m sure you’re face down on your laptop having lost the will to live hitting refresh with the amount of Ticketmaster tabs open and remonstrating email drafts primed and readied outlining your repulse at the club's Checkatrade Trophy final ticketing system. But fear not, there is a riposte.
Yes, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days; Sunderland are off to Wembley in a few weeks and as such everybody is in a tither with themselves about their cup final tickets, or lack thereof, their Ticketmaster account, their online friends, buying Walsall tickets for no reason whatsoever, Stewart Donald, the tea lady, the bus driver and whoever or whatever else can fit into 280 characters. But what should be of bigger concern, and is far more important than Wembley tickets and online vitriol, is a return to the League One promotion race at Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday.
The second instalment of a testing seven days following the midweek cup semi-final success at Bristol Rovers sees Sunderland head miles away to the middle of nowhere and to Adams Park for the first time in their history to take on Gareth Ainsworth’s side before that monumental clash at Oakwell on Tuesday. Whilst every league fixture from now until May 4 is crucial, there is no escaping that this double header on the road looks pivotal.
Jack Ross, somewhat serendipitously, appears to have come across a formula to break the mould of score draws which have plagued the early stages of 2019 after picking up three wins on the spin in the league, bringing Sunderland’s automatic promotion destiny once again back to within their own hands. Clean sheets too have resurfaced from the abyss as messrs Flanagan and Dunne appear to be the two that are now just about capable of changing the light bulb, so to speak. And perhaps just as important as the results and clean sheets are the long-overdue sufficient performances, with the 2-0 success in the league at the Memorial Stadium arguably the standout performance of the season to date.
After seemingly throwing away, to put it politely, the games in hand held over their promotion rivals, Sunderland now resemble a team timely carrying their mojo once more ahead of the run-in. During his successful promotion campaign from the Championship to the Premier League, Roy Keane insisted it was not about how you started a season, but instead how you finished it – or words to that effect – and Sunderland are beginning to show they have the capability to stretch their legs down the home straight.
Of course it will be easier said than done, with teams fighting their own battles towards the end of the season, and few will potentially be more difficult than the visit to Wycombe. It was the reverse fixture at the Stadium of Light where Sunderland squandered the opportunity to hit the summit of the League One table back in November after a lacklustre and frustrating 1-1 draw – much to Wycombe’s credit. That game has since often been referred back to as the answer to a question asked by Noel Gallagher during the ‘Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants’ record as to ‘Where Did It All Go Wrong?’ with an unwelcome plethora of draws and uninspiring performances following in the weeks and months prevailing.
But that was then and this is now, and fresh off the back of booking a spot at Wembley with a player and manager of the month combination in Ross and the in-form Aiden McGeady, Sunderland must head to Adams Park fully focused on the league; intent on returning with another three points to add to the total.
For now, it doesn’t matter about the Wembley ticket headache, or the day-dreaming of another nostalgic, boozed up Covent Garden gathering. There are 12 more important cup finals this season that need to be won, the first of which takes place some 27-miles from Wembley Stadium. For now, it’s back to business.