Sunderland are building momentum at just the right time. Their 2-0 win over Portsmouth on Tuesday night took them to within five points of top spot in League One.
It’s hard not to get ahead of ourselves at the moment but it feels as though this could finally be the campaign where the Mackems get promoted.
They have won seven of their last eight games and now even have a Papa John’s Trophy final to look forward to. This has been nothing short of an exceptional turnaround from where they were under Phil Parkinson.
Lee Johnson has turned his team into a force to be reckoned with and not even a plethora of injuries can halt their progress. Grant Leadbitter’s dislocated shoulder has meant that Carl Winchester has now started three games in a row in the middle of the park.
The midfielder was a rather understated signing from Forest Green in January but he’s now beginning to prove his worth to the Black Cats. Against Pompey in front of the television cameras on Tuesday, he was nothing short of phenomenal.
It’s taken a while to see the best of Winchester in red and white but he has now well and truly come to the party.
Speaking at full-time, Johnson said: “Carl is going to be that kind of slow burner in terms of appreciation, but over 100 touches, 1,000 touches, you will see the quality he has got, the calmness and the composure.”
He added: “This is a big club and Winch hasn’t played at a club this size. The more we can encourage and support him, I think we will start to see more really good performances like tonight.”
Moving clubs in January is always tough and Winchester found life difficult initially. He started among the subs for a number of weeks before finally getting his chance.
He has taken it in his stride and has formed an eye-catching partnership with Josh Scowen. The duo were both incredibly influential in midweek, winning a combined 12 defensive duels.
Though, it was Winchester who arguably stood out more. The midfielder completed 100% of his take-ons and was assured with his passing, demonstrating enormous composure.
He completed 82% of his passes and was particularly strong in the tackle. No one won more than his four ground duels throughout the entire match, a statistic that tells you just how good he was at Fratton Park.
This feels like a landmark moment for Winchester. He dominated one of the strongest sides in the division and did so with relative ease.
Johnson will surely be buzzing with his performance. After all, the Sunderland boss has rated him highly ever since they were together at Oldham in 2014.
They seem well suited to each other and it wouldn’t be a surprise if we see even greater displays from the Northern Irishman between now and the end of the season.