Sunderland go to Accrington tonight, for a crucial fixture in their quest to get out of League One with an automatic promotion place, and a win would take the Wearsiders into third spot in the table.
It will bring both club and fans back to earth, after playing at Wembley on Sunday, but with it should come a realisation that — with all due respect to Stanley — they do not want to be visiting grounds like this again next season.
Jack Ross knows that the Black Cats’ fate lies in their own hands, and nine wins from their last nine games will see them achieve their goal.
He openly admits that there is “probably no right answer” when it comes to the psychological aspect of having games in hand or points on the board.
Speaking ahead of the game, he said: “You can make an argument for both.
“I’ve been in both situations, both as a player and a manager, and at different times I would have given a different answer to that question depending on the position I was in.
“The truth is that there is probably no right answer.
“It’s just about trying to win every single game you have left between this point and the end of the season.
“If we win all nine of our remaining games then that would guarantee promotion and that’s what matters.”
A win for Ross’s side tonight would show they have brushed aside the disappointment of their Wembley defeat, and are fully focused on the main job at hand.
What Sunderland cannot afford is a defeat. Even a draw would leave them likely to be looking for favours, due to the number of stalemates they have had this season. Their goal difference is currently seven goals inferior to that of second-placed Barnsley.
So Sunderland cannot afford any further slip-ups, even in a season that has only seen them beaten twice, fans know they have not won enough games. Had they converted more single points into three, they would have been challenging Luton for the League One title.
Having played out 16 draws will ultimately be the reason they do not go up automatically, should they fall short, and questions would need to be asked about why they did not kill many of those games off.
It will all be irrelevant, of course, should they finish in the top two. But one thing Sunday’s Portsmouth loss proved, is that anything can happen in a one-off tie — and no player, manager or fan, will want to go through that nerve-wracking experience again in the play-off lottery.
What do you think the result will be at Accrington Stanley tonight? Has Jack Ross done enough this season to take your side up? Should he stay in charge if they don’t make it to the Championship? Let us know your opinion…
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