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Lincoln City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 1st Leg

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The morning after the night(mare) before - how are we all feeling about Sunderland’s chances?

It’s the morning after the night before, and everyone is trying to piece together what happened to Sunderland at Lincoln. What do we do now, going into the second leg?

Photo by Andrew Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Matt Smith says...

If we were 0-2 down at half-time with 45 mins to retrieve something from the game, I wouldn’t fancy our chances. Does having twice as much time to do so double our chances? I honestly don’t know but Lincoln are definitely, and deservedly, favourites.

We’re all deflated by both the result and a performance which suggests we still haven’t got our bad run out of our system. The conservative, pedestrian nature of the first half suggested a team low on confidence. Either that or too many players with their heads elsewhere, maybe contemplating a future away from the club next season.

There were some positives. I thought Flanagan looked reasonably assured in his reading of the game, if not his distribution from the back. We had some intermittent genuine attacking threat through McGeady, Gooch and, all-too-rarely, Jones in the second half. Even McFadzean deserves some credit for not giving me the regular heart palpitations I feared after his early introduction.

If we’re really scraping the barrel then I suppose we can grasp at the hope that Lincoln have the more difficult task in adopting a gameplan for Saturday. We know what we need to do but they could be caught between defending what they’ve got or trying to finish it off. In 45 mins you’d probably sit deep and rely on counter-attacking breaks.

Could that be too risky for them over 90 mins?

Not on the evidence of the first half of the first leg, but Sunderland have to go big on Saturday or they’re definitely not going to Wembley.

Lincoln City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 1st Leg Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Phil West says...

Insipid. Lifeless. Devoid of any real urgency (save for a brief spell after half-time) and just a truly terrible evening all round. Lee Johnson was already under pressure following our dismal end to the season, and this result will not have helped his cause one iota. OK, the second leg is still to come, but it’s difficult to visualise any other outcome other than an aggregate defeat.

I didn’t see such a disastrous outcome materialising, I have to admit. Even after our very poor string of results that concluded the season, I was optimistic that, after spending some time with the players on the training ground, Johnson would’ve been able to steer us to a draw at worst and a victory at best. Was he let down by his players? Yes. Too many of them lacked the fight and the resilience that so often makes the difference in these playoff games, and even our attacking threats, such as Aiden McGeady, endured a very poor evening.

Errors, both collectively and individually, lead to both goals, and ultimately, we got what we deserved. Lincoln, in contrast, were excellent, and fully merited their 2-0 victory. They played with confidence, some attacking verve, and were clinical when chances fell their way. They also showed a great mentality, and took full advantage of the backing of their own crowd.

Even with 10,00 fans in the stadium, Saturday will be a grind. Can we turn it around and advance to the final? Yes. It is possible. Will we? Barring an absolutely miraculous upturn in performance, I cannot see it happening. Another playoff campaign could well be destined to end in failure.

Lincoln City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 1st Leg Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Gav says...

I so desperately wanted us to turn up, yet we didn’t.

In the five minutes before Lincoln took the lead we came close on numerous occasions. Yet, we were made to pay for our missed chances in the end.

When you are confident, have momentum on your side and have a ‘happy camp’, everything goes your way. Sadly, nothing went our way on Wednesday, and now Lee Johnson faces the task of finding a solution to our problems with the game balanced in Lincoln’s favour.

He’s right when he says “it’s only half time”, but this feels like an incredible hurdle that we have to jump over if we’re going to get to the final. We have to go all out, balls to the wall.

Right now though I just feel hurt. Maybe I’ll feel better in a day or two.

Lincoln City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 1st Leg Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Gary Engel says...

I thought we’d seen it all in the Play-offs, except obviously a win in the final, but that was a new low point. We have stayed positive and been behind the side as much as possible, even trying to block out the dreadful run heading into last night’s match. Unfortunately, there is no forgetting or dressing up the lacklustre showing against Lincoln. Ironically, it was the complete contrast to Lee Johnson’s emphatic first win against the same opposition in December. We didn’t press, showed no desire and bar a couple of fleeting efforts, that were unlucky not to find the net, were bereft of ideas.

We hold onto the hope that the return of the Sunderland crowd and a miraculous return to form of Jones and Wyke will turn the tie on its head.

Frankly, we’ll need more than that, more like a time machine to return us to the side that could do no wrong following Wembley. It has become more apparent recently that some of our better performances were against very poor opposition.

In comparison, Lincoln showed the desire to win, it meant more to them and it isn’t nice to say but that’s how the game must have appeared to everyone watching.

Lincoln City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 1st Leg Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Ant Waterson says...

I think last night summed up our season. We looked good in some parts but once again not having a settled back four has cost us massively. I’m not going to beat around the bush about the goals, because what’s the point? It’s the same thing over and over again.

In play-off games you have to take your chances and we didn’t tonight. Credit to Lincoln they defended well and their emergency loan was predictably class, but Sunderland lacked that killer touch, and it cost us massively.

I’ve said this a few times now but why Maguire didn’t play a part is behind me. Why bring on a holding midfielder in Leadbitter when we are chasing the game? The decision to give Diamond six minutes was equally baffling.

Lee Johnson and the players have a massive mountain to climb now and Saturday will probably be the last time we see some of these players. Probably for the best.

I personally think the tie is over, but I suspect 10,000 Sunderland fans will still make a huge noise on Saturday. It’s up to the players and the manager to finally show a bit of courage.

Their positions at this club may hinge on it.

Lincoln City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 1st Leg Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Kelvin Beattie says...

First of all I am going to give credit where it is due, Lincoln turned up and not only bought their A-game in attack, but for a 15 minute period in the second half, they also defended really well too. They looked well prepared and good to go from the starting whistle. If we had performed as well, we would have been very happy “campers”.

I was nervous when I saw the team selection, Flanagan’s inclusion and O’Nien’s move to right back at this stage in the season were my concern.

However, we lost this game all over the pitch, with too many players not performing on the night.

From front to back, we looked slow, unsure, nervous. Power and Scowen lost the midfield battle, Wyke looked like someone had nailed his boots to the floorboards.

McGeady had a stinker and McFadzean is who he is. It's unfair though to single out any one player, this was a team fail on the big stage, so bad it is impossible to name a player of the match from our team.

All that said, redemption awaits on Saturday... if this team wants it enough?

I do not think the tie has gone from our grasp. I know our crowd can make a difference, and we all know this team can play better.

I expect the 10,000 (me included) to play our part on Saturday.

If we are going to lose this tie, let’s go down swinging.

There is no glory without guts, so let's see some from all areas, players, management and fans.

Lincoln City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 1st Leg Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says...

While we are only at the half way point of this double game aggregate, I’m pretty convinced the playoffs are over, to be frank. I’m one of the optimistic ones in the RR team, but I really think that is the case.

Reason is I watched most of the other play-off first leg the night before, and the pace and creativity from Blackpool and even from Oxford was way above what our team can handle right now.

We are so aware of our inadequacies to match creativity, pace and power, we slow games down and tippy tap about for large rafts of any game. We have occasional glimpses of individual talent, but we are not even much of a “team”, and good teams win the play-offs, not good individuals.

Opponents have worked out how to mark Wyke and Geads out of the match, and beyond them, we just aren’t stepping up at all.

On the face of both the first legs, if we get to Wembley we will be very lucky, but we probably won’t prevail. Even without Embo, Blackpool have way too much for us, and on our present form them doing the treble over us with a win at Wembley would be very hard to avoid.

So what are the positives from the game? Not many, other than we have already seen 90 minutes of justification for the wholesale rebuild which needs to start, probably this Sunday.

If the lads had made a fist of this, and granted they may still on Saturday in front of 10000 fans, the management team and owners would have had way more of a challenge with who they cull and who they sign back on.

My suggestion - tell them Saturday is for their jobs next season, Lee, though if you have to say that to a professional footballer you’re already trying to swim up a waterfall.

Millions are out of work as the UK tries to manage their way out of this pandemic, and our shower of rabble couldn’t be arsed to even have a real go last night. I hear a big broom coming and if nothing else, I can look forward to a good clear out, and a fresh clean start later this summer with a collective of players this management team have hired and shaped to do what we need - get out of this god awful league for good.

Lincoln City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 1st Leg Photo by Andrew Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Joseph Tulip says...

Probably not medically approved viewing on the eve of my dad’s funeral, but the old stager wouldn’t have wanted it to be any other way.

The performance and result were no huge surprise given how our form tailed off alarmingly towards the end of the season.

Much has been said about Lee Johnson’s tinkering and tactics but a key factor for me is motivation. While this falls under the head coach’s remit, I struggle to understand why the players can’t raise their game that extra ten percent for these huge games. That happened famously back in 1973 and was also a factor during our resurgence under Johnson earlier this year.

I don’t know what the fallout is with Chris Maguire but he has a telepathic understanding with Aiden McGeady and should seriously be considered for a recall.

Yes, we had chances and were on top when Lincoln scored their second goal, but overall we simply weren’t good enough, and didn’t seem to turn up in a similar manner to the play-off final of 2019.

Saturday’s game gives us a glimmer of hope, and any judgement on the season must be put on hold until we’ve kicked our last ball.

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