If Sunderland don’t achieve promotion this season, they will only have themselves to blame.
At the moment, it’s all in their hands. They are three points off top spot and have two games in hand. It really does feel like now or never for the Mackems.
They have been in breathtaking form, going unbeaten over a period of 12 games in all competitions.
Lee Johnson’s men haven’t lost since February and they have dropped points on just two occasions. There has also been the small matter of a trophy for the first time in over 40 years.
Their 1-0 win over Bristol Rovers on Saturday was yet another positive result but it was far from straightforward. After all, there were a couple of concerning performances.
Callum McFadzean was particularly disappointing, losing possession 35 times and completing just 47% of his passes.
However, in one of those statistics, there was a Sunderland player who was even worse; Josh Scowen.
The midfielder was given a chance alongside Carl Winchester again and after the way the duo played against Portsmouth, there was cause for encouragement. During that clash, the duo won 12 defensive duels between them.
However, on this occasion, Scowen didn’t look up for the fight and struggled against Bristol Rovers.
Like McFadzean, he was particularly poor when he had the ball at his feet. Scowen lost possession 24 times, the second-highest number of anyone in red and white.
Most concerning was his passing. For a midfielder, it’s a basic trait to have; you pick out a teammate and dictate the tempo and rhythm.
However, Scowen struggled to do that with any authority. The 28-year-old completed just 41% of his passes; the worst tally of any outfield player to start the game.
The midfielder made only 12 passes during his 90 minutes on the field, missing a key opportunity to impress with Grant Leadbitter only among the substitutes.
Scowen did produce three tackles but that was the only statistic that stood out. He was consistently off the pace and after Leadbitter’s performances in recent weeks, the midfield is becoming an area of concern for Johnson.
Once Bailey Wright returns from injury, it wouldn’t be a great surprise to see Luke O’Nien pushed further forward.