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Roker Roundtable: Chris Maguire - an impact sub, or should he start for Sunderland on Thursday?

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Should Chris Maguire start Sunderland’s play-off semi final second leg down at Portsmouth on Thursday, or is he better used as an impact player from the substitutes bench?

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Q: Chris Maguire - impact sub, or a starter v Portsmouth on Thursday?

James Nickels says...

Although Maguire is arguably a perfect impact sub at this level, his performance proved exactly why he needs to start games of such vital importance.

Ross timed his sub to perfection on the day, but his decision to start Gooch, Morgan and Honeyman was entirely intended to attempt to nullify Jamal Lowe and Ronan Curtis’ threat from wide.

However, the side struggled to break down a regimented opposition defence for large swathes of the opening hour - with the first shot on target coming in the 44th minute.

Maguire proved to be a thorn in Pompy’s side from the minute he was introduced to the game, from his stupendous set and volley, to the daisy cutter which grazed the outside of the post and a plethora of feints and through balls. He showed just how to efficiently link midfield and attack while also exploit the spaces in between two solid banks of four.

Put simply, he changed the game immediately.

However, it could well be his gamesmanship and league-famous sh*thousery which could prove just as useful down at what will likely be a raucous and hostile Fratton Park. Pompy try their own fair share of this, and after missing two games against the Blues earlier in the season, one reason for our upturn in fortunes against Pompy has been Maguire’s timely return. Just look no further than how much he rattled Burgess and Wilkes on Saturday for proof of this.

Their old ground is still incredibly atmospheric, and few players more than Maguire will get the equally as hostile and raucous away fans racing. From bone-crunching tackles to long-range thumpers, all the while winding up everybody not from Sunderland - he is the epitome of a big-game player and must start our biggest game of the season.

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Chris Wynn says...

For me it doesn’t come down to a footballing decision - it is a question of fitness. Is he capable of 90 minutes yet, and what is the impact if he breaks down through picking up a niggle or tires early and comes off?

On Saturday it was clear that when he’s in that mood he brings a bit of needle to the team that we’ve lacked on too many occasions this season. As soon as he came on he made Portsmouth uncomfortable by just being there, he wasn’t going to make it easy for them.

If we do that from the off and maybe nick a goal we can get a bit of breathing space and Maguire is the form man. He’s had his off days this season as well, but after a period out he looks up for the fight and undoubtedly wants to finish the season on a high.

If he is fit enough to start who does he come in for?

It would be a huge call for Ross but I’d take Honeyman out and let Maguire link the play behind Wyke. Morgan was also poor on Saturday so could be between those two to make way if Maguire is in the first XI. Gooch deserves his place after stepping up at the weekend, assuming McGeady is ready for the second leg.

Either way, it’s nailed on he’ll play some part on Thursday and another screamer like Saturday will go down very nicely!

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James Gutteridge says...

Chris Maguire showed on Saturday why he needs to be starting against Portsmouth on Thursday.

He maybe doesn’t bring quite as much energy or running as Gooch or Morgan but he has the ability to create something from nothing or produce a moment of magic, as he showed on Saturday, that neither of those two have shown.

In a game that is sure to be a close one Maguire could decide the game in Sunderland’s favour and it seems much more sensible to use either Gooch or Morgan as an impact sub against tired defenders or to provide a bit of extra energy to preserve a lead.