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 have plenty of work to do if they’re to stand any chance of securing automatic promotion this term.
The Black Cats have been firmly in the race for a top two finish but have suffered a real lapse in form over recent fixtures with the club losing matches against Charlton Athletic, Wigan Athletic and Blackpool in successive matches.
As a result the club are now eight points from the automatic promotion places with the prospect of facing first-place Hull City on Tuesday evening.
But with just five matches remaining do Sunderland have any chance of going up automatically, and do they need to beat the Tigers to do so?
The team at FLW have their say…
Johnson has already indicated that he feels the Black Cats are heading for the play-offs now following their loss at Blackpool. However, there might still be a little bit of hope left for them if they can secure a win against Hull City on Tuesday night.
The Black Cats will likely have to win every single one of their remaining games if they are to have a chance of securing a top-two finish. If Sunderland can win against Hull they will close the gap on the Tigers to eight points and still have a game in hand.
That suggests that there is still a chance they could put pressure on Hull and see what happens and if they can cope with the feeling that Sunderland are still chasing them down. There is still a chance that they could even catch Peterborough as well if they drop some points.
However, even if they do beat Hull it is still going to be a massive challenge for them to make the top-two and it is looking far more likely that they will have to contest the play-offs.
It would be some statement of intent.
Sunderland still have that game in hand and they are only eight points off the automatic promotion places as things stand.
You have to think of the mental impact it could have if you go and beat the league leaders away from home, and it could give them a massive lift.
They have a good squad and plenty of players champing at the bit, but it’s important that they don’t get too hung up and down if they don’t go up automatically.
I’d certainly fancy their chances in the play-offs.
I don’t think you can get more last chance saloon for Sunderland than this.
If they lose to Hull on Tuesday night, then the Tigers will be mathematically out of reach for them, and Peterborough won’t be far off that either, particularly if, as they probably should do, they beat Gillingham at the same time, and the psychological blow of a fourth straight defeat to a promotion rival would be incredibly difficult to come back from.
However, if Sunderland are able to get a win at The KCOM Stadium, then the lift it could give them, coupled with the nerves it could provide for the likes of Hull, might just give the Black Cats one last glimmer of hope they could yet pull this off.
But with Hull currently finding ways to win as Sunderland find ways to lose, it is hard to see that happening at this moment in time, meaning it may soon be time for the Black Cats to let the idea of automatic promotion go.