The race for automatic promotion to the Championship took another turn on Tuesday night when Sunderland and Barnsley played out a hard-fought goalless draw in tricky conditions at Oakwell.
The result means that Sunderland missed the chance to take control in the automatic promotion race, as they remain three points behind the Tykes, who are second in the League One table.
The stalemate in Yorkshire also ended the Black Cats’ phenomenal run of scoring in every league game this season and plenty of fans were disappointed and frustrated with the result.
However, there are still plenty of reasons for them to be optimistic and why this result should be viewed as a positive one.
First and foremost, Sunderland fans still have every reason to be confident of their sides’ chances of an immediate return to the Championship. With a game in hand on Barnsley, the Black Cats’ hopes of automatic promotion are still very much alive.
Given the circumstances and how tight it is at the top of the table, it was far more important for Jack Ross’ side to not lose this game than it was for them to win – a defeat would have been devastating, with Barnsley opening up a seven point lead.
It is also important to consider that Barnsley are in the middle of a great run and have been unstoppable at home all season – they have not lost at Oakwell all campaign.
No team in the division has conceded fewer goals at home than the Tykes this season, so it is perhaps not a massive surprise to see Sunderland’s incredible scoring run come to an end and fans should not be too disheartened by this.
Furthermore, only a small handful of teams have scored more home goals than Barnsley in League One this season, so the Black Cats deserve enormous credit for coming away with a clean sheet.
Come the end of the season, Sunderland fans may well be looking back on this result as a key turning point in the automatic promotion race.