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 could face an uphill task if they’re to secure automatic promotion this season.
The Black Cats are in contention for a top two finish this term but now have a big job on their hands after back-to-back defeats against Charlton Athletic and Wigan Athletic.
As a result the club are now five points behind Peterborough United with no games in hand, meaning that they’ll need the Posh to slip up if they’re to catch them.
So has defeat to Wigan put an end to Sunderland’s automatic promotion hopes?
The team at FLW have their say…
I wouldn’t say so, we’ve seen how much the table can change in just a couple of fixtures, so you’d be foolish to write Sunderland off right now.
Of course, things aren’t in their hands right now, but it wasn’t possible to expect Johnson’s side to continue winning every week in the first place, there was always going to be a point when things became a touch more difficult.
What I will say is that we are now heading into a period where we will learn a lot about the character of the side, as they look to get back on the horse and keep the pressure on the top-two.
It’s not an impossible task to overhaul the top-two, but Sunderland are going to have to react sooner rather than later if they are to do that.
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I wouldn’t rule them out of the automatic spots just yet.
Sunderland may now be five points back from Peterborough in second but putting together winning runs has been one of Lee Johnson’s trademarks in his management career.
They’ve been poor recently but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see them pick up some steam and that will pile pressure on the sides above them.
It’s unlikely but I do think the Black Cats could still pinch a spot in the top two.
If they don’t, I worry for them in the play-offs given what has happened in previous years.
It is going to be very difficult now for Sunderland to make it into the top two before the end of the campaign. You felt they had to respond to their defeat against Charlton by taking all three points away at Wigan, but their failure to even take a point from the game could well now be fatal to their automatic promotion hopes.
The fact that they had it in their own hands was a testament to the job that Johnson had done since taking over from Phil Parkinson. Whilst they had the momentum it seemed like they might be able to just continue picking up wins and fire themselves into one of the top two positions.
However, now they have lost that momentum and it can be very difficult for sides to get that back at this stage in the campaign. They are now relying on Hull City and Peterborough United dropping points in the run-in, that could happen but you have to say based on their current form it is unlikely.
The one positive for them is they still do have to play Hull, which means they have a chance to close some of the gap on them. However, that will not be an easy task given they are not in the form they were in a few weeks ago.