Sunderland fought tooth and nail for a 0-0 draw at Barnsley on Tuesday, where three points would have taken them just a point behind the second-placed Tykes.
Plenty of fans were frustrated with the goalless draw at Oakwell, but there are lots of reasons to be optimistic despite the relatively dull game.
The Black Cats failed to secure three points and also ruined their record of having scored in every league game this season, but here are three reasons why the trip to Oakwell was actually a success.
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It may be an overused cliché, but it was more important to not lose Tuesday’s clash than to win it, considering the circumstances.
Jack Ross was without his captain in George Honeyman, who is suspended, and Duncan Watmore, who provides something a little different for defenders to worry about out on the wing.
Honeyman in particular is a huge loss, as a potentially promotion-deciding clash away from home under the lights is exactly the type of game you need your captain to show up in.
The rest of the players, and Ross of course, deserve immense credit for putting in a shift and making sure they did not allow Barnsley to pull seven points clear. A defeat for the Black Cats would have been devastating.
Take the promotion race out of the picture for a moment and look at the game objectively – Sunderland visited a side who have not lost at home since a 2-0 defeat to Millwall in March 2018.
The Tykes had won seven of their last eight at home and had been kept off the scoresheet at Oakwell just twice all season before Tuesday’s clash.
To rock up to your promotion rivals’ home ground, where they are practically unstoppable, and keep a clean sheet without your club captain is an incredible achievement by the Black Cats.
Finally, fans of the Wearside outfit should be relieved when they look at the upcoming fixtures, as Barnsley’s next game is away at Doncaster, who are fighting for a play-off spot.
The Tykes then travel to a Walsall side fighting desperately to stay out of the drop zone, before a home clash against Coventry, who are just three points behind the play-off chasers.
Meanwhile, Ross’ side take on Walsall at home, where dispatching teams fighting relegation is much easier than on the road, before games against Accrington Stanley, Rochdale and Burton Albion, two of which have nothing to play for while Rochdale lead the league in goals conceded with 75.
Fans may have been frustrated by the drab draw at Oakwell, but this time next year they could well be looking back at it as the turning point of their quest for promotion.