Sunderland scarred by events at London Road two seasons ago, but they’re in great form under a new manager and a new owner so quietly confident of getting the better of Posh
A match at London Road two seasons ago ensures Sunderland AFC haven’t been getting carried away with a strong push for automatic promotion in the 2020-21 campaign.
Sunderland were challenging for a top two finish when they turned up at London Road for a 2019 Easter Monday clash against a Posh team chasing a play-off place under current Posh boss Darren Ferguson.
And when Max Power fired Sunderland into an 87th minute lead things looked rosey for the Black Cats only for Matt Godden to equalise two minutes later. The match finished 1-1 and Sunderland went on to finish fifth before losing to Charlton Athletic in the play-off final at Wembley.
Phil Smith is the Sunderland AFC football writer for the PT’s sister paper the Sunderland Echo. He told the Yorkshire Post: “There is a quiet confidence but the scarring of the last couple of years means no one wants to get carried away,” “Two years ago they were in a very similar position. They drew 1-1 at Peterborough on Easter Monday and that sort of ended their push for the top two.”
In 2019 Sunderland went to London Road on the back of losing the Trophy final on penalties at Wembley. This time they claimed the Trophy with a scrappy win over League Two side Tranmere.
That’s all added to a feelgood factor helped by the arrival of (rich) new owners and a gifted manager in Lee Johnson.
“There’s definitely been a shift in the mood and Wembley was a big part of it,” Smith added. “Even with the fans not there everyone at the club is aware of it.
“The ownership being settled has been massive and it’s allowed everyone to focus on the football and enjoy it. Now he’s had a few months you can see the Lee Johnson impact. In the early part of the season they were dropping so many points against teams near the bottom but they’ve gone from a win-one-draw-one situation into the last 11 games of which nine have been won (the other two have been drawn)
Johnson brought Aiden McGeady out of exile and the ex-Sheffield Wednesday loanee has justified the wages the Black Cats were so keen to wipe off their payroll. Former Bradford City striker Charlie Wyke has 27 goals this season, compared to 11 in his previous two Wearside campaigns combined, but Smith points to the other end too. Sunderland have the best defensive record in League One having conceded just 28 goals in 37 matches.
“They’ve been without four of Phil Parkinson’s first-choice back five – (Jordan) Willis, (Tom) Flanagan, (Bailey) Wright and Denver Hume have been injured – but Luke O’Nien has been playing alongside Dion Sanderson at centre-half and they’ve both been excellent,” Smith said.
Sunderland have three consecutive away games in mid-April, the last at the KCOM Stadium against Hull.
“Once you start looking at that end goal and lose focus on what’s two feet in front of you, you’re in trouble,” warned Hull’s coach and former Posh player and manager Grant McCann.
“As you saw with us, you can lose a game then win four or five to put yourself back in the picture. You can’t write anybody off at the minute.”