League One

Sunderland: Promotion the priority, but it will be through play-offs for the Black Cats

Sunderland: Promotion the priority, but it will be through play-offs for the Black Cats

Sunderland have the distraction of the EFL Checkatrade Trophy Final this weekend, but next week sees them back to their main objective of winning promotion to the Championship.

Regardless of what happens at Wembley, failure to get out of League One will overshadow anything else, and with only having been beaten on two occasions, it would be a wasted opportunity.

Manager, Jack Ross, insisted this week that he didn’t come to Sunderland to simply stabilise the club, he came to get the club promoted.

Now is the time for him to finish off the job he has started, and see the season out with the club becoming a Championship side, whether through automatic promotion, or the play-offs.

We have looked through the remaining League One fixtures, and through the help of a League One prediction calculator, we have determined that the season will end in heartbreak for fans, as far as automatic promotion goes.

We have Sunderland finishing the season on an impressive 96 points, but still three points behind second-placed Barnsley.

The irony is, in our opinion, the Black Cats will not lose another game in the run-in, with wins over everyone — including Sunday’s opponents and promotion rivals, Portsmouth — with a pair of draws at Fleetwood and Peterborough.

That will mean Sunderland will only have lost two games all season, which is the least defeats in the division.

All season, the problem for Ross’s side has been the number of draws, and their inability to turn many of those into victories.

Currently sitting on 16 draws — with two more to come from our predictions — is a potential loss of 32 points. Had they converted just a quarter of them into wins, and promotion would almost be a foregone conclusion.

Other than that, the main problem is out of Sunderland’s hands, and that is the form of their rivals. Luton and Barnsley have been very impressive, and if they see the season out in a similar vein, the two automatic spots will be theirs.

Of course, this is all speculation, and there are sure to be ups and downs, and twists and turns, during the final weeks, but it should serve as a warning to everyone, where the priorities should lie this weekend at Wembley.

What are your thoughts on the run-in to the end of the season? Have a go at the predictor, and let us know where you have them finishing up…

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