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2 Up, 2 Down: The good, the bad and the nervy pens as Sunderland reach the EFL Trophy final!

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We look back at the positives and negatives from a performance that took us to the final of the EFL Trophy and a third trip to Wembley in three years!

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Papa John’s Trophy Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images


Will Jones says...

Two Up!

WEM-BER-LEY

We are back! Back to our second stadium! If we thought we had a bad record at home... but we have made it, even though we can’t be there it’s a chance to start to right the wrongs of last season.

Scrolling through Twitter and seeing so many people happy and joyeous about a Sunderland result and what it brings is amazing to see. Probably the first time I’ve seen no scepticism since the Pompey play-off second leg.

Charlie Wyke

From nothing, he rises from the ashes and scored a beautiful goal. He may have had a few chances before this but the positional awareness he possesses at the moment is light and day from the one we saw the last two years.

He created an outlet and was free every time the ball looked to come to him in the box. He was physical, a nuisance and a outright terror when the ball was coming to him, he was getting pulled all over to be stopped. A pleasure to see albeit a little fatigued.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Papa John’s Trophy
Charlie Wyke
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Two Down!

More knocks at the back...

Our only central defender left to play in the cup, has a little niggle, and needs to come off. I was worried when this happened and we cannot afford to lose him for any amount of time.

We only have Sanderson if so and then will be makeshift. I can’t wait for Arby and Flano to make a return so we can have options once again at the back.

Fatigue...

Johnson said it himself, the team looked tired. He didn’t want to play McGeady and Wyke but felt like he had to, but looking at the schedule, they will need to be dropped at some point.

We have a few players who could come in having not played, but I expect a big rotation on Saturday to keep some players fresh, and I hope that it can be something the squad can do.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Papa John’s Trophy
Aiden McGeady
Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Joseph Tulip says...

Two Up!

Chance of silverware...

No matter what anyone’s opinion of this competition is, we needed to win this game. The chance to return to Wembley, end the hoodoo, and win some silverware could really fire up our promotion campaign, especially with another return to the national stadium in the play offs a real possibility.

This may have been another 1-1 draw at home, but we were up against the league leaders, controlled large parts of the game and showed real character in the way we responded to going a goal down.

Makeshift back-four...

To get the result with an entirely makeshift back four in the second half has to be applauded. While Wyke and McGeady will deservedly take the plaudits again, the likes of Luke O’Nien and Max Power optimised the spirit and determination to succeed while playing out of position.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Papa John’s Trophy
Luke O’Nien
Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Two Down!

Same old problem...

Lincoln targeted our left side, particularly in the first half where once again Callum McFadzean struggled. Left-back in the absence of Denver Hume has become a challenge for Lee Johnson and we must hope that the highly rated Jake Vokins finds his feet sooner rather than later at Sunderland.

No fans at Wembley...

There was a lot of possession-based play from Sunderland and we missed a few opportunities to break this mould on the counter attack. Instead of hitting Lincoln on the break with pace, we turned sideways and back, allowing City to get men back and into position.

Finally, fans can’t go to Wembley after a miserable run of defeats at the national stadium. My dad, 85, just about made it there in his wheelchair in 2019 - twice - but this time it will be gutting for us all to miss out.

Charlton Athletic v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-off - Final - Wembley Stadium Photo by Tim Goode/PA Images via Getty Images

Martin Wanless says...

Two Up!

Chance of breaking Wembley jinx...

We’re at Wembley. Again. And for the first time in our history we’re facing a team in a league below us. The big positive here, however, isn’t the chance to win the coveted Papa John’s Trophy, however, it’s the opportunity to break our Wembley hoodoo.

There’s every chance we could make it back to Wembley in May, so to get a win against Tranmere would be a great confidence booster. That’s not to say the final is a foregone conclusion by any stretch, but we will be strong favourites and need to step up.

Form of Charlie Wyke...

Charlie Wyke got another goal. He’s come on in leaps and bounds since Johnson took over - and it’s not just his goal scoring that’s impressing.

His movement is on a different level these days - he’s primarily playing facing the goal, but even his hold up play has improved. It’s Johnson’s biggest success story so far - and Wyke’s now one of the first names on the team sheet. Who’d have thought?

Sunderland v Doncaster Rovers - Sky Bet League One
Lee Johnson
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Two Down!

Goals from elsewhere...

While it’s great that Wyke scored again, the lack of goals from anywhere else on the field is a growing concern. We just don’t look threatening from anywhere else on the field, and it will bite us soon unless we can rectify it.

Missed opportunity...

The Lincoln fixture seemed to be the perfect opportunity to get more minutes into Jones, who’s got the ability to be our ace card this season.

Gooch was poor for large spells, and Jones should have been on at half-time, in my opinion. After an okay game at Shrewsbury he’s missed out in the last couple of weeks.

Maybe he’s lacking fitness, maybe he’s being managed very well - I’d just like to see more of him as I think he can make a difference.

Sunderland v Doncaster Rovers - Sky Bet League One
Jordan Jones
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says...