Martin Wanless says...
The performances of Jordan Jones and Denver Hume were encouraging. While not a perfect performance by any stretch of the imagination by Jones, he was our most dangerous attacker by far – he created the equaliser, and should have scored after a driving run through the middle. Hume, meanwhile, just looks better and better with each game. I honestly believe he’ll play the vast majority of his career at a higher level than League One. We’re seeing maturity in his performances, which of course comes with age and experience. He could be invaluable over the coming weeks, and long-term he’s only going to get better.
We finished in the perfect place in the table. If I’d had to choose the way the play-off fixtures worked out, I’d have chosen the semi against Lincoln, first leg away. Oxford have got some momentum and with the fracas at the SOL on Good Friday, I’d rather avoid them. Lee Johnson will never admit it, but as the game ticked on and Blackpool were drawing, I imagine he was rather happy we were level in our game.
The lack of rotation baffled me. At least nine of that starting eleven are guaranteed a starting spot in the play-offs, so where’s the incentive to physically go that extra mile, and put your body on the line? If we’d played another four or five fringe players, we would have produced a more upbeat performance as they tried to demonstrate why they should be in the team in ten days or so’s time.
Our one-dimensional attacking approach was evident again, and I have huge concerns over this as we enter the play-offs. We need more from our central midfield, and more from our forward if we’re going to produce the variation needed to produce the goals we need. Our attacking play severely hampers us at present – teams have figured out how to stop us – and we need to find an alternative, quickly.
Michael Dunne says...
Minutes in the bank for key players such as Wright and Hume will hopefully have them in a good place for the upcoming play-offs. Hume, in particular looked bright and I would be hopeful to think he could have an integral role in our attacking play for the aforementioned games ahead. Whilst Bailey Wright looked a lot less comfortable, you would hope the more he plays the better he will be.
We can still get promoted. We are only three games away from promotion and given the teams that are left, you would have to say we are in with a great chance of going up. If we can get ourselves into a good frame of mind, I would have every belief we will go up. It’s in our hands. Hopefully, we can take the opportunity.
Performances have dipped extremely over the last few weeks. While you don’t want to be too critical of the team, in a broader picture, results have not been good enough. This would be a slight worry as we go into these play-off games. Maybe a break of ten days before the first leg with Lincoln will give the players the opportunity to recharge, recover and refocus.
I was not particularly enamoured by the performance of Charlie Wyke. Whilst his overall contribution has been nothing short of incredible, I do wonder if his style of play can limit us at times. On Sunday we were crying for an attacking player to stretch their defence similar to how Ross Stewart did against Plymouth. Stewart’s performance last week and Wykes’on Sunday may give Lee Johnson food for thought. It would be my opinion that we may witness better contributions from our attackers if Stewart was leading the line. Of course, this is based on less evidence but I do question what Wyke offers at times if he is not getting the crosses he so dearly requires. It may be worth looking at alternatives, as it is almost certain Wyke will be a marked man.
Kelvin Beattie says...
A goal by Winiesta was one of the few highlights in a game where we played well within ourselves. Whilst the jury may still be out on Winchester, I am convinced he can become a more than handy squad member once he finds his place and confidence within the squad. More game time, as well as access to LJ and his backroom team, will help his potential be realised. His galloping runs, height and ability to get his long legs into a tackle, as well as an ability to usually find his own man with a pass are the skills that I believe can be developed.
So, Lincoln it is in the play-off semi. We have played reasonably well against the Imps this season and taking nothing for granted I am pleased they are our opposition to start this leg of our journey toward the Championship. It has been a point made often recently that we would have taken this situation earlier in the season. Let's embrace it and play our part.
We all would have liked to have hit the play-offs in cracking form. That most certainly is not how I would describe our form at the moment. Northampton just about coped with what little we created as our “big players” struggled to hit their straps. Wyke, McGeady, Jones were 5 out of 10 performers, but they were not alone in my view. Let's hope all who played have walked away with no injury and the period between now and the 19th can be used to recharge and heal any low-level tweaks and strains.
The news of Ross Stewart’s injury is disappointing. I thought he looked very lively at Plymouth, looked after the ball fairly well with his back to goal, and showed us his mobility and deceptive pace that I had seen for myself prior to him signing for us. He will be a miss if not available.
I remain fairly confident that LJ and his backroom team can steer us through the next three games and into the Championship, where a major rebuild of the squad will be required.
Keep the faith.
Gary Engel says...
That’s the season over with after hitting the brick wall weeks ago. We have not ended with the flourish we’d have hoped for - but, perhaps we can turn the play-off games into cup finals and give them our all. After a dreadful first-half, McGeady’s introduction saw him create more in a matter of minutes than we had mustered in the first 45. We need him firing on all cylinders.
It should be the last match we play at the Stadium without a crowd in attendance. It has been said how we have so many die hard away fans that we’ve often created a better atmosphere than home fans at many away grounds. I speculate that the lucky few thousand that get in for home tie of the play-offs will create something similar to some of those more memorable away matches.
Now that Wyke has reached his personal goal, is that his interest at an end? I’ve said how isolated he has looked throughout our poor run of form, and now the return of Stewart looks unlikely, I just wonder if Wyke is going through the motions. It almost reminds me of the latter stages of Steven Fletcher’s Black Cats career. Let’s only hope Wyke pulls out the stops against Lincoln like Fletch’ used to against the Mags...
Our lack of urgency was worrying. There was no final performance for the fans - albeit for an empty stadium. But why did we have to go behind before really looking interested? Do that against Lincoln, Blackpool or Oxford and we’ll get stuffed in the coming weeks.
Mark Wood says...
Personally, I will put this performance down to the fact it was an end of season game of little significance. Our place is already booked in the play-offs and maybe there were one or two out on the pitch who didn’t want to use up too much of what they have left in the tank after a long turbulent season and/or risk injury with two - hopefully three - important games coming up. At least I hope that was the reason for the performance. We will be in trouble if it is anything else.
By and large we didn’t really give up, even if little was going right for us. Denver Hume and Jordan Jones never stopped trying throughout the game, even if in the case of Jones nothing was coming off for him. Our equaliser summed up the day he was having, although it has to be said it takes a fair bit of skill to hit two posts like that! To be honest, it's not easy to pick out two positives after watching that. What can I say? We didn’t get beat? We are now on an unbeaten run of two games?
Dear god... was Charlie Wyke even on the pitch? Yes it was his first game back after injury, and maybe he wouldn’t have started if Ross Stewart had not tweaked his hamstring, but there was absolutely nothing happening up front with him. It looked very much like the Charlie Wyke from his first two years at Sunderland ,and in recent weeks he has shrunk from the performances he was putting in during his prolific scoring streak. I have never been convinced by his ability to hold the ball up and lay it off, but with the high confidence he had a couple of months ago he was even managing to do that. Now, you just don’t see the confidence in him and he isn’t making the near post runs which were making him a prolific poacher at the turn of the year. It's a bad time to lose form and if Stewart is finished for the season, we need Charlie boy to find his.
Against an already relegated side, we should have done a lot better. I could take the 1-1 against the cobblers if we had created a lot more openings and had at least a reasonable amount of attempts on target, but there was nothing of that. Passes were constantly going astray and yet again Bailey Wright played a shocking pass straight to an opposition player which lead to the free kick THAT they scored from. Okay, it may have been a foot off the gas performance but you need to be in the habit of doing the basic things right when we have two or three highly significant games against guaranteed tough opposition to come.