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Talking Points: O’Nien guarantees Wembley start - but Sunderland MUST support Will Grigg up top

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In today’s post-match debrief we take a look at the key Talking Points from the game - including why yesterday was a clear sign of how Sunderland can get the best from Will Grigg, how Luke O’Nien has guaranteed himself a cup final start and more.

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Give Grigg support = goals

After the elation had subsided following Will Grigg’s superb goal which won us the game, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated by how obvious the changes we made were, and how I could only wish we’d done something like that earlier in the season.

Charlie Wyke’s first touch of the ball played in the Northern Ireland international, who hammered home his effort from range to put Sunderland in the lead.

It seems so simple to me - give Will Grigg support up front and he will score more goals.

Constant long balls forward have often been the theme for our play since Grigg arrived on deadline day, and it’s evident that he just isn’t the type of striker that thrives on physical battles with burly defenders.

Give him the ball to feet, though, and he can be deadly - his goals against Bristol Rovers and then yesterday against Walsall are proof that he’s clinical when given the opportunity to make defenders pay.

It’s food for thought going into the cup final - in such a high pressure game, where we know we’re facing a top side, we’ll need to rely on players like Grigg to score the goals that get us the win and, subsequently, the trophy.

Will we sacrifice a midfielder in order to facilitate that? Charlie Wyke played the role of attacking foil well in the second half - is he now in with a shout to start against Pompey?

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O’Nien back on track

After a small handful of underwhelming performances there were calls from some sections of the Sunderland support for someone else to take Luke O’Nien’s spot at right back, but yesterday he responded in the best possible manner with an outstanding all-round display across the entire 90 minutes.

He was a pest going forward, resolute in one-on-one situations, and was quite often the last line of defence - his diving-headed clearance which saved us right at the death when Walsall looked to score a heartbreaking leveler just sums the lad up.

He puts himself on the line each and every week for Sunderland, and playing like that has all but guaranteed his spot in the side when we head to Wembley in two weeks’ time.

I don’t see Wales international Adam Matthews as a viable threat to O’Nien’s spot right now, which is a credit to O’Nien as I rate Matthews very highly at this level.

He may have came to Sunderland as a midfield player but as a right back he’s worked himself into a position where he’s one of the first names on the team sheet - and in his performances I’ve seen enough to suggest that he could even play there at a higher level.

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Central defensive worries

Jack Ross made a huge call in dropping Jimmy Dunne in favour of Tom Flanagan, and whilst you won’t have found many fans arguing with the decision it’s safe to say that the Northern Ireland international didn’t exactly nail down his spot in the centre of defence for cup final day.

Flanagan endured an absolutely horrendous opening 15 minutes of the game, costing us Walsall’s opening goal before continuing to underwhelm with a string of poorly-timed tackles and bad passes that went straight to the Walsall midfielders.

Having shown faith in both Baldwin and Flanagan it will have undoubtedly frustrated Ross to see neither man perform to the level that we know they’re capable of. Sunderland are going into a huge game, and whilst Ross will look to tweak his side on cup final day he’ll have wanted his two defenders to put in a performance that shows their manager just why they deserve to start in that game.

Right now, it’s not clear who will play.

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