Lee Johnson is convinced Sunderland’s players can recover from a seven-match slump and power the Wearside club to promotion in the Sky Bet League One play-offs.
Blackpool’s 1-0 victory at the Stadium of Light courtesy of Sullay Kaikai’s 56th minute thunderbolt has put both clubs on course to finish in the top six.
But there is still work to be done. Sunderland, who have fallen out of contention for an automatic place in recent weeks, might still have to win one of their final two matches to make sure they finish in the play-off zone.
Sunderland head coach Johnson is not worrying about that and is certain his players have what it takes to deliver against Plymouth on Saturday or against Northampton a week later to set themselves up for the end-of-season promotion battle by ending the winless streak.
Johnson said: “I have genuine belief that we can peak at just the right time, and people will be able to bring our A-game and not be feeling sorry for ourselves.
“The table is too complicated to work out, just do your job. It is going to be a big effort against Plymouth. They rested tonight, we had a game and it’s a long travel down there. We will get that rest before the Northampton game.”
He added: “We wanted to secure a play-off place today, we need to think we can do that. That has to be the focus. There will be a lot of negativity, we need to find the positives.
“You can’t be victims. You need to take every opportunity to show the world what you’re about.
“A game like this. I thought after they scored, a fantastic strike against the run of play, similar (to the) away game. We were then poor for 10-15 minutes, feeling sorry for ourselves until the last 15 minutes, when we had a go.”
Blackpool sit fifth, two points behind Sunderland having played a game less, and after losing two in a row this win should have given the Seasiders a new sense of belief.
Kaikai’s brilliant volley, when a corner was cleared to him on the edge of the area, was a fantastic way to win the game and goalkeeper Chris Maxwell made numerous saves to keep them ahead after that.
Blackpool boss Neil Critchley said: “The way the players executed the plan was top drawer. First half we controlled the game, which is what we wanted to because at home we thought they would.
“What an unbelievable strike. It is a good job the net was there because the ball was still travelling. Goal of the season without a shadow of a doubt.
“We have had to withstand a lot of pressure, Maxwell made some great saves and you have to face that when you play against a good team. It’s a magnificent three points for us.
“We have made a few blocks but that was at the end. We restricted them to very few chances until the end. We had good opportunities at the end to finish the game off and we didn’t do that. 1-0 could have been 2-0.”
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