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‘Given themselves a mountain to climb’ – Sunderland’s promotion hopes assessed: The verdict

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This article is part of Football League World’s ‘The Verdict’ series, which provides personal opinions from the FLW writers regarding the latest breaking news, teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…

Sunderland’s hopes of winning promotion into the Championship this term hang by a thread after a 2-0 defeat to Lincoln City in the first-leg of their play-off semi-final. 

Goals from Tom Hopper and Brennan Johnson proved to be enough to see the Imps head into the second-leg full of confidence as they aim to reach the League One play-off final.

Sunderland had the better of the chances on the night, but an inspired display from Stoke City loanee Josef Bursik in between the posts saw them leave Sincil Bank empty handed.

Sunderland finished this year’s campaign fourth in the third-tier standings, one place above Michael Appleton’s side.

But the Black Cats will know that they face a real uphill battle to win promotion back into the Championship this term, as they have to overturn a two-goal deficit at the Stadium of Light.

We ask our Football League World writers what they make of Sunderland’s chances of promotion after this defeat to Lincoln City on Wednesday evening.

Phil Spencer:

They’ve certainly given themselves a mountain to climb.

Sunderland seemed to underestimate Lincoln City going into the first leg and that’s why the hosts appeared to make the faster start at Sincil Bank.

Lee Johnson’s side were sloppy for long spells and deserved to lose, but the tie isn’t over yet. Given that the Black Cats have been out of sorts for a couple of months now it’s going to take a massive effort to get themselves back on track at the Stadium Of Light – after all, I’d be surprised if Lincoln fired a blank on Saturday.

That means that Johnson will need all of his attacking players – Aiden McGeady, Jordan Jones, Lynden Gooch and Charlie Wyke; not to mention players like Chris Maguire and Ross Stewart to be on song.

It’ll need to be the perfect storm if they’re to progress and so it’s essential that Lee Johnson gets the tactics right.

Ned Holmes:

Last night’s defeat to the Imps was a hammer blow to Sunderland’s promotion hopes but they’re certainly not dead.

When they turn it on, Lee Johnson’s side are capable of blowing away any team in League One and they’ll have 10,000 Black Cats supporters roaring them on.

Lest we forget that Sunderland have already beaten Lincoln 4-0 this season and a repeat of that would be enough to see them make the final.

The odds are against them, particularly given their current form, but they’ve got the players to turn things around.

It’s going to be a fantastic game on Saturday, that’s for sure.

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Jordan Rushworth:

Sunderland have left themselves with a mountain to climb now after their 2-0 defeat at Lincoln. It is always very challenging to overturn such a deficit in the second leg of a play-off semi-final and this time around will be no different. The Black Cats are going to have to deliver an excellent display to turn the tie around.

One thing that will keep them alive though is the fact that they will have some supporters back in the Stadium of Light. That could help to change the dynamics for them and provide the players with a real lift as they try and chase down Lincoln’s two-goal advantage.

However, the pressure of the occasion might also work against them and they are going to have to at some stage in the game leave themselves a little open at the back to try and get back into it. If Sunderland can get an early goal then the tie will be very much back on and there is every chance they can turn it around.

Lee Johnson is going to have to keep the players believing there is a chance for them. However, personally, I would think that Lincoln will have enough to see this one over the line.


Editorial Assistant at Snack Media, writing for Football League World on a regular basis! Sports Journalism graduate from Southampton Solent University.

ScoopDragon Football News Network

Article title: ‘Given themselves a mountain to climb’ – Sunderland’s promotion hopes assessed: The verdict

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