Sunderland could have still fell out of the play-off places by the end of the season if they had lost their last two games of the season before yesterday, but a win over Plymouth Argyle quelled those fears.
The Black Cats have now secured a place in the top six after a 3-1 win over the Pilgrims, and that was without two of their key attacking figures.
Sunderland fans were left shocked when the line-ups were announced and there was not only no Aiden McGeady, who is a player reborn under Lee Johnson, but there was also a lack of 25-goal striker Charlie Wyke in the team.
Johnson had quite a few attacking midfielders to replace McGeady with but there’s a distinct lack of out-and-out strikers at the Stadium of Light – thankfully though January acquisition Ross Stewart came in and scored in the victory.
As of right now, no-one knows the extent of Wyke’s thigh injury, with Johnson revealing that he’s set to undergo a scan this week to determine the extent of the damage, and he also has to undergo a dental operation which would keep him out for days.
It’s the thigh problem though which Sunderland fans will be sweating on though, and if the worst comes to worst and Wyke is missing for the play-offs then let’s look at the options Johnson has to select from in his place.
The only other natural senior striker on Sunderland’s books is Stewart, and he slotted in seamlessly alongside midfielder Lyndon Gooch in a two-man partnership yesterday.
The Scot slotted in the opening goal at Home Park and that meant he had broke his Black Cats duck after 11 outings – this one being just his second start.
He’s been a regular off the bench since mid-March after recovering from injury and you feel he will be the one to lead the line if Wyke is absent for weeks.
Sunderland quiz: Does the Stadium of Light have a higher or lower capacity than these 18 grounds?
Johnson’s other options will come in the form of wingers or attacking midfielders – as mentioned Gooch lined-up alongside Stewart yesterday and there’s also Aiden O’Brien who can play as a striker too, but Sunderland fans recently have been unimpressed by the Irishman and have wanted Maguire to be given a go instead.
Maguire hasn’t started a game since December and is seemingly unfancied by Johnson, but after cries from fans in recent weeks to use him more, the 32-year-old stepped off the bench to slot in a penalty to make it 2-1 against Plymouth.
He’s played as a striker during his career and he could even partner Stewart if Johnson wants to go with two players up-front.
The wildcard in all of this is Hawkes, who has been firing in the goals for the under-23 squad in the Premier League 2 competition.
The 22-year-old has scored 12 times in 18 games for the development squad, including a run of six goals in his last five outings, and there have been massive calls for Johnson to throw Hawkes into the mix, especially when the first team have been in such a bad rut.
Hawkes has only made the bench under Johnson once – against Rochdale back in March – but with an injury to Wyke this may be the perfect opportunity for him to get a chance, and perhaps now the play-offs are secured he will be given a run-out on the final day of the season against Northampton.