It’s been a week alright chez Lower. Pretty much as soon as I had put the League Cup final post to bed I began to feel a tad squiffy, something I initially feared might be related to my demolition of the restorative post-defeat sirloin late on Sunday night.

I feared the very worst: a meat intolerance. For a brief second I envisaged with horror a future of quorn and egg breakfasts and tofu and chip suppers, so imagine my relief when I discovered it was nothing of the sort, and in fact all I had was the common-or-garden flu [Latin: influenzus wembleyus].

And with flu is where I have remained ever since. Mrs Lower’s got it, I’ve got it, the little Lowers have had it. I even painted a cross on my door to warn the man who delivered my food shop.

Wednesday came and my ticket to the game was foresaken (as, I noticed, many thousands of others appeared to have been – was there a mass outbreak of influenzus wembleyus?)

And even had I been fighting and steak-eating fit, I wouldn’t have been able to make the Sunderland game thanks to a long-standing childcare bottleneck. Now look, kids are nice and all that so don’t let me put you off dabbling in parenthood yourselves, but looking after them at the expense of a home game? There should be a law against it.

So inadvertently, I have become the van Persie of season ticket holders. I’ve had a stop-start season, with a recent good run of games, but will not now be seen within the confines of the Grove until Blackburn on 2nd April.

Wednesday’s 5-0 against Orient was probably as restorative a result as you could ask for after Sunday’s debacle, with the added bonus of four of the goals coming from van Persie’s stand-ins. It’s much easier to move on by getting a win under the belt so soon afterwards, so in that respect this replay was a blessing in disguise.

My overall thoughts, surveying the past week, are unchanged. For all our ability we remain a peculiarly frustrating team. Capable of bouts of excellence, we are also incapable of eradicating the occasional collapses/freezes from our repertoire. As many people have said, It feels like only Arsenal could have lost that game in the way it was lost last Sunday. Just as it felt like only Arsenal could have drawn 4-4 having been 4-0 up and only Arsenal could lose 3-2 at home to their bitterest rivals having played them off the park and been two goals to the good after 45 minutes.

And yet here we are, in early March, fighting for the league title. Given the way our season has panned out, we can expect a few hiccups between now and the end – but the same will be true for all the others sides in the top four.

It is true that should we win all eleven games ahead, we will be champions. But to do that would require us to go on the kind of run that has so far eluded us (our longest winning streak in the league so far this season is three games). But that is the challenge.

What’s certain is that Sunderland must not be one of the hiccups. Barcelona must be out of mind, memories of Birmingham banished.

A win would take us to within a point of the top.

Wish I could be there…

Guardian squad sheet
BBC preview