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Should Johnson rotate his side for the semi-final, or stick with the team that demolished Donny?

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Should Lee Johnson stick with the same side that demolished Donny (minus Dion Sanderson, obviously) for the semi-final to try to keep the momentum going, or should he rotate the squad and give a few players a rest?

Sunderland Training Session Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Phil West says...

After the comprehensive demolition of Doncaster on Saturday, and with the potential reward of a Wembley final at stake against Lincoln, Lee Johnson undoubtedly finds himself with a selection dilemma for Wednesday’s game, although it’s very much a positive dilemma.

After Saturday’s result, we suddenly find ourselves firmly back in the promotion picture, and there is no doubt that a balance must be struck between giving ourselves a chance of victory in midweek, and keeping our key players fresh for what will be a crucial game against Burton on Saturday. The argument whether this competition really matters will doubtless rage on, but we’ve come this far, and I’d still like to see us go for it.

With that in mind, I would use this semi-final as a chance to rotate the squad and to keep the likes of Aiden McGeady & Charlie Wyke as fresh as possible for the next league game.

Wednesday night feels like the perfect opportunity to bring the likes of Jack Diamond, Dan Neil, and Jordan Jones into the squad, and for them to (hopefully) play their part in securing our place in the final.

That said, I also have a feeling that Johnson will treat the game with respect, so I would expect the likes of Lee Burge & Bailey Wright to keep their places in the team, and as for Wyke, could we possibly take a gamble with a ‘false nine’, (Lynden Gooch, maybe) and potentially leave our main striker on the bench, perhaps with a twenty-minute cameo in mind, as a backup option?

It is the age-old risk vs reward argument, but perhaps that is what is needed right now.

I’m confident that we have the depth to field a strong enough XI to win the game, and even though this competition might not have been a priority earlier in the season, we are now ninety minutes from the final, and I believe that it is a chance we must try and seize.

Sunderland v Doncaster Rovers - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Gary Engel says...

To achieve anything in the remainder of the season we need to give every game our all. Saturday’s performance is the level we should be able to play at, and it has taken some time to find a winning formula, don’t change it now or risk a loss of momentum.

Few Sunderland fans pay this competition much attention, certainly not until the latter stages. But personally, I see the great psychological benefits of potentially winning something. We have been in a very similar position before when Jack Ross’ tenure flattered to deceive. Black Cats fans look for signs of progress. If we could progress and win our first Wembley final since 1973, that would surely show some sign of tangible progress. Of course, many would argue they’d happily sacrifice that for promotion.

That isn’t the way I see it. Okay, Sunderland seldom stick to any script. But sides who win promotion via the play-offs, more often than not, do so on account of the momentum towards the end of the season. Successful sides build on momentum and keep it going, the old adage never change a winning side...

After the match Johnson was beaming at the way Wyke and McGeady had combined to demolish Doncaster. A partnership he suggested had been worked upon and in the system utilised on Saturday, had proved deadly. There is still a lot of work to be done, but keep the feel good factor of Saturday going for as long as possible.

Sunderland Training Session Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Jack Gingell says...

He needs to freshen things up.

From my recollection, we have Saturday/Tuesday (Wednesday this week) all the way into April, and we have the advantage of having a big squad in comparison to others.

I’m always about us going for the win and I would still expect to see a competitive side, but we have the likes of Jordan Jones or Dan Neil, who need minutes.

I think a small amount of rotation isn’t going to break us. What may do is a shift back to the 4-2-2-2 or whatever it is meant to be. We looked far more organised and composed playing 4-3-3 (or 4-1-2-3, depending on your preference) and Johnson needs to maintain that.

The consistency of what I believe is a better formation, is more important than the personnel used, particularly when it’s a good chance outside of the grind of the league to do so.

Sunderland v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Mark Wood says...

I would say rotate. I think he will anyway, as he has changed at least one or two in most of our midweek games since he took charge. With games pretty much coming at twice a week, it makes more sense.

If Sunderland win we will also have a final to contend with and in a 46 game season, there is also a high possibility of finishing in the play-off places. That in itself would mean an additional two or three matches at the end of what will have been a harder than usual season for the players, with the change of manager bringing a change in training routines etc. There was also a big Covid breakout amongst the playing staff, the effects of which we have heard little about.

We all remember how Jack Ross’s team ran out of steam from the final to the end of the season two years ago when promotion was still very much in our own hands, so some element of rotation of the players now in order to retain some freshness come the business end of the campaign makes sense.

Sunderland Training Session
Neither of these two are available tomorrow as they’re cup-tied
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images