It’s fairly obvious that every single league game left for Sunderland this season is important. With 15 games left to play we have 15 Cup Finals as well as an actual Cup Final against Tranmere.
There are some huge games left for Sunderland as we still have trips to Portsmouth, Peterborough and Hull as well as home ties with Lincoln, Oxford and Charlton.
As well as facing our promotion rivals, we have a number of games against teams in the bottom half. On paper these games look like a guaranteed three points but as shown with the league this year anyone can beat anyone. This article will look at 4 potential slip ups for Sunderland before the end of the season:
MARCH 23. BLACKPOOL AT HOME
Blackpool are a potential slip up as they are a bogey side for Sunderland when it comes to games at the Stadium of Light. Whilst we are comfortable beating Blackpool away from home, we haven’t beat the Tangerines at home since Boxing Day 1977. Eleven years ago, this game was a Premier League tie and in December 2010 Blackpool ran out 2-0 winners at the SOL with DJ Campbell striking two second-half goals. I remember the game quite well and Sunderland were relentless going forward but couldn’t find a finishing touch, we had 11 shots on target 15 shots and 5 blocked shots without scoring. The strike force of Gyan, Bent and Welbeck were unable to break down the Blackpool defence. We have faced Blackpool twice at home since our relegation to League One and in true Sunderland fashion we have drawn both games 1-1. Both times we have fallen behind before going on to equalise. We have dominated both games but failed to get past The Seasiders. Like most sides coming to the Stadium of Light Blackpool have sat back, took the lead and then defended deep. The game on March 23rd has the potential to be a slip up for Sunderland as if we were to fall behind again and then scramble a draw it could seriously hinder our promotion push. Not only that Blackpool’s in form striker Jerry Yates was linked with a move to Sunderland in the summer and you can just see him scoring against us with ex SAFC midfielder Ethan Robson getting the assist. If we have any intentions on going up then we have to win games like this, draws aren’t good enough anymore, it’s what cost us promotion in our first season in League One and could well be something we look back on again in May should we fail to go up.
MARCH 27. BRISTOL ROVERS AWAY
Whilst Bristol Rovers aren’t a bogey side, their new manager Joey Barton is a bogey manager, if that’s a thing. Barton, who parted company with Fleetwood Town earlier this season, succeeded Paul Tisdale after he was sacked in February 2021. Since his venture into management Joey Barton has never lost against Sunderland. In our 6 games against Fleetwood when Barton was their manager, we drew four times and lost twice, with one of those draws coming as a result of a 97th minute equaliser from Max Power. Barton clearly has something over us when it comes to managing against us and it makes the game at Bristol Rovers a potential slip up. That being said Barton’s Fleetwood sides had far better players than the Bristol Rovers side we will face on March 27th. Currently Rovers are in a relegation battle whilst Barton’s Fleetwood sides were promotion contenders. Since Lee Johnson has took over we have been able to finally beat sides we couldn’t in the past, for example the 2-0 victory over Fleetwood in February 2021. Let’s hope that we can finally get past a Joey Barton side on the 27th March.
APRIL 13 WIGAN AWAY
This might seem a strange one to include considering Wigan are bottom of League One and are looking favourites for relegation, however I don’t think the game will be an easy affair. Let’s not forget Wigan beat us 1-0 at the Stadium of Light in December 2020. Wigan are in all sorts of trouble off the pitch and are facing the possibility of liquidation at the end of the season. On the pitch they have a young side who are fighting for their lives with nothing to lose. This game has the potential to be a slip up for Sunderland as Wigan have shown in the last few weeks they are more than comfortable against the league’s so called ‘big boys’. The inexperienced side were narrowly defeated 2-1 at home by Lincoln, with one of the Lincoln goals coming from an unforced error from the Wigan goalkeeper. Wigan were also narrowly defeated 1-0 at home to Charlton with a defensive mix up allowing Chuks Aneke to score the winner. Wigan also took the lead at Peterborough before a late comeback saw them lose 2-1. I know that Wigan have got beat in all these games, but they have ran their opposition really close and it’s only through unforced errors that they have got beat. With Sunderland’s luck you can see the game on the 13th April being the game that Wigan don’t make any errors and hold us to a draw or even worse beat us. The fact Wigan have nothing to lose may allow them to play freely which makes it likely that the game with go either way. Sunderland will either be 3-0 up in 30 minutes or we’ll scramble a draw in the 90th minute.
MAY 8 NORTHAMPTON HOME
The last game of the season has the potential to be the biggest slip up of them all. I can see it now, Sunderland need a win to finish second and gain automatic promotion but we’ll end up conceding in the 90th minute and draw then end up in the Play Offs against Portsmouth. I really hope that we have secured promotion by this point otherwise I think it could turn out to be an extremely nervy 90 minutes. Northampton are currently in the bottom four and it’s very likely that on the last day of the season they will be in a relegation dog fight. The game has the potential to be a slip up as I can see Northampton only needing a point to stay up whilst we need a win to go up. I can imagine Northampton chucking 11 men, their subs bench and the team bus behind the ball and Sunderland being unable to break them down. For that reason I really hope our fate is sorted by the 8th May so that the last game of the season can be a promotion party, obviously with no one there.