Lynden Gooch believes Saturday’s first leg Play-Off victory over Portsmouth has given the squad the psychological boost they have been needing.
Chris Maguire scored a sublime second-half volley to hand Sunderland their first win over Pompey in four attempts this season.
While Kenny Jackett’s side have only got the better of the Black Cats on one occasion this term – without needing penalties – that day in December 2018 saw the Lads reduced to 10 as Glenn Loovens was dismissed for bringing down Oli Hawkins.
With the scores locked at 0-0, that proved to be a big moment as the Fratton Park club went on to win 3-1.
But with Sunderland now returning to the south coast for the first time since that defeat, Gooch believes Saturday’s win over Pompey has given the Lads a timely reminder that they are a strong side following a frustrating run of form.
The American also talked openly and honestly about his form, admitting he hopes to rekindle the spark shown in the opening weeks of the season to help get Sunderland over the line this season in the Play-Off race.
“We've played them a lot this season and played well every time we've played them, even down their place with ten men we played well up until the red card,” he said.
“We know we're good enough and we showed that again on Saturday.
“We were really solid after the red, really compact, everyone worked really hard off the ball. It was a good performance.”
“I've been out of form for a while, I've been under scrutiny from the fans a lot and rightly so, they know I'm what capable of and what I can bring on my day,” he continued.
“Unfortunately, I've not been able to play at the best like at the start of the season, that's been really frustrating for me but on Saturday I thought I did well consider I came into the side late. I created some good opportunities for us to score.
“I was really enjoying it, every time I got the ball and was running at them and creating chances.
“On another day I could have had a couple of assists, but the main thing was getting the win.
“It's a brilliant save from George's header, he's unlucky.
“Even first half I thought I did well, tried to keep it simple and created a few chances. I tried to use my energy and in the second half I thought I was playing well, hopefully I can take that forward.”