If Sunderland are to make an immediate return to the Championship for next season then they will have to do it via the play-offs.
Automatic promotion is officially off the table after Sunderland were beaten 2-1 by Fleetwood Town.
A last-minute Fleetwood winner mattered little in the grand-scheme of things because a draw would not have been enough anyway, but still, it’s not a great feeling to lose – particularly when the players now have to pick themselves up for Saturday’s curtain closer against Southend, which will now have the significance of determining how favourable the semi-final play-off tie is to them.
But how did the Black Cats players play at Highbury Stadium? Here’s James Hunter’s player ratings.
JON McLAUGHLIN 6
Hardly troubled yet still conceded two goals
LUKE O’NIEN 6
Did OK and got forward when he could
TOM FLANAGAN 6
Very good in the first half but has to accept his share of responsibility for the goals
ALIM OZTURK 6
Like Flanagan, good in the first half but poor defending let Sunderland down in the second
BRYAN OVIEDO 5
Not his best performance either defensively or going forward
LEE CATTERMOLE 7
Scored his seventh goal of the season and ran the midfield for most of the match
MAX POWER 6
Solid alongside Cattermole but faded in the second half
LYNDEN GOOCH 5
Never really got into the game
CHRIS MAGUIRE 6
Did OK on his first start since returning from a broken leg
LEWIS MORGAN 7
Caused Fleetwood problems and was the man most likely to conjure a second goal
WILL GRIGG 5
Hit the woodwork and was denied by the keeper, but he was below-par
KAZ STERLING 5
For Grigg 65mins. Struggled to make an impact
GEORGE HONEYMAN 6
For Maguire 70mins. Brought energy and industry but it wasn’t enough
NOT USED: Ruiter, Dunne, Hume, Leadbitter, Matthews
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