If you’d offered Sunderland supporters third place at the start of this weekend, they’d certainly have taken it.
The Mackems are currently rather bullish about their promotion chances, and who can blame them? Lee Johnson’s men haven’t lost for 11 matches in all competitions, a run stretching back to the 9th February.
Though, they did have a minor hiccup on Saturday afternoon. Sunderland battered and bruised Lincoln last time they played them, winning 4-0. However, there was no such luck on this occasion.
The Black Cats drew 1-1 but thankfully, they didn’t lose any ground in the promotion race; Hull, Peterborough, Doncaster and Charlton all drew as well.
A win would have boosted their hopes considerably but the main thing is that they still have plenty of momentum.
In these types of matches, you need everyone to stand up and that was evident in Sunderland’s goal scorer. Callum McFadzean popped up at the back post to fire home his first league strike for the club.
Unfortunately, there were plenty who didn’t quite look as assured as normal. One of them was Luke O’Nien. Usually so reliable in defence, the 26-year-old made a mistake in the opening 45 minutes and was arguably at fault for Lincoln’s goal.
Another to frustrate was Grant Leadbitter. The experienced midfielder has recently returned from a dislocated shoulder but has struggled after returning.
He slowed Sunderland’s play down considerably at Wembley last week, as they weren’t quick enough to transition from defence to attack. That was a similar problem a week on against Lincoln.
Carl Winchester has stepped up admirably in recent weeks and indeed, it’s made Leadbitter look all the more questionable.
When Lincoln travelled to the Stadium of Light, he was disappointing, particularly in the second half when he became even slower. During the course of the match, the midfield general lost a massive 67% of his duels, failing to make a single tackle.
On top of that, Leadbitter was dribbled past on two occasions as he was consistently beaten by the Imps’ runners.
It was hardly a surprise, therefore, that Johnson decided to drag him off with around 20 minutes remaining. At the moment, the 35-year-old is holding Sunderland back, rather than adding to their play. In two consecutive starts now, he has looked off the pace.
Johnson needs to prefer other options as the race for promotion heats up.