Following two tough away losses in October, you’d be forgiven for thinking this season was going to be painfully similar to last for the Sunderland 3rds, having suffered relegation.
But a new determination to the side has meant they have crept up to 3rd in the table, with one goal wins over Leeds College of Art, York St John and most importantly Huddersfield 2nds, who were unbeaten prior to the match last week.
A spine of captain Chris Thornley, hard-working midfielder Mustapha Adebayo and University top goal scorer Deonte Jam has made them a tough side to beat.
That was highlighted last week against Huddersfield, when racing into a three-goal lead, before having to grind out victory in the final half hour when under a lot of pressure.
Travel is often an issue for Sunderland sides, but with two very winnable away games coming up, this shouldn’t be a problem for the 3rds, who have found a way to keep the side similar week in week out.
They will face basement side Leeds College of Art, before facing Sheffield Hallam 4ths with a chance to go top. And if they come through both of them, it could set up a promotion decider against York St John 4ths, depending on results elsewhere.
The stern backline in recent weeks has been pivotal to the side’s success, especially in comparison to last season. Last season the side were offering on average five goals to the opposition, but with a new stable defence that has been limited to just two goals a game.
This along with a ruthless touch in front of goal has led to the upsurge in the past month. They have scored 15 goals already this season, with nine of them coming from leading marksman Deonte Jam.
They’ll be hoping for him to continue his form as the push for promotion continues in 2017.