It’s been a busy week for Sunderland as the League One table starts to take shape.
Three fixtures in seven days went a long way to showing where the Black Cats could finish this season as they faced tricky tests against Ipswich Town, Rochdale and Oxford United.
Phil Parkinson’s side picked up nine points out of nine in those games showing that they certainly mean business in the hunt for promotion.
While there’s still 15 games remaining we certainly learned a lot about Sunderland during the last week as they move into the final third of the season.
Here are the key talking points from a hectic week of League One football.
Will Sunderland secure promotion from League One this season?
Winning ugly is important
Sunderland faced three difficult League One fixtures over the last week, and while they achieved maximum points they certainly didn’t come easy.
The clash with Ipswich Town could have gone the visitors’ way in the first half, but an impressive second 45 minutes meant that the Black Cats were good value for their result.
The win over Rochdale was as comprehensive as they come, however the clash with Oxford United was another story.
That result could easily have gone in favour of the hosts, but credit to Sunderland they were able to see out the game after taking the lead just three minutes in.
Grinding out results could be the name of the game for Phil Parkinson’s side in the coming weeks and it’s very reassuring to see that the squad is capable of doing just that.
The importance of Jon McLaughlin
He struggled to hold down a regular place at the start of the season, but that’s certainly not the case for Jon McLaughlin at present.
The goalkeeper is one of the first names on the teamsheet for Sunderland and that’s down to his more than impressive record in the Black Cats’ net.
McLaughlin has kept seven clean sheets in his last eight games, and with just two goals conceded in that time he has the best record of any stopper in the top four divisions.
During the last week the experienced stopper has kept three clean sheets in a row which has been a huge part of Sunderland’s positive run of results.
If he can continue that form then the Black Cats will stand an excellent chance of going up.
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An injury to Bailey Wright
He’s been hugely impressive since joining the club but it seems that that Bristol City man is set for a spell on the sidelines.
The central defender came off after 84 minutes of the clash with Oxford United after suffering with an ankle injury – something which Phil Parkinson admitted ‘doesn’t look good’.
Thankfully the Black Cats have a number of good options at the back with Alim Ozturk and Joel Lynch competing to join Tom Flanagan and Jordan Willis in defence.
Here’s hoping that the injury isn’t as bad as first feared.
The promotion chase continues
There’s a really positive feeling around Sunderland at the moment.
Phil Parkinson has got his team performing in a fashion that is capable of putting in impressive performances but also grinding out results when they need to.
At this stage of the season it’s all about momentum and with the way that Sunderland are going it would take a brave man to bet against them finishing off the job.