Andrew Smithson says...
After a decent win we go into the play-offs in good form and you would assume full of confidence. Teams that come into these games on a high invariably do well, and whilst all four of the qualifying sides have been getting results in recent weeks I think we look in much better shape than we did at this stage last season.
I was expecting a few twists and turns on Saturday but, in the end, it was pretty straightforward. The early goal helped settle any nerves that were kicking around and we turned in a solid away performance - a couple more of those wouldn’t go amiss in the coming weeks.
Aches and pains
There were one or two iffy tackles at Morecambe and after a hard run in, I wouldn’t have minded a few more days rest before the Sheffield Wednesday games to help the Lads rest up.
Seeing Nathan Broadhead go off is a worry too; he has been in great form and makes a real difference to how we play. Hopefully, it was just a precaution and he is available to play against the Owls - he has done more in an injury-affected season than some strikers that play every week could ever manage, but it does show just how unfortunate we have been on the injury front.
Our home form in 2021-22 has been very strong so I would have preferred the second leg to be at the Stadium of Light. No team has done the double over us this season so I still fancy our chances over two legs, but playing on Wearside whilst knowing what we needed would have been an advantage.
To finish seven points better off than last year yet end up a place lower suggests the standard in League One has improved, so I don’t expect an easy ride - fingers crossed then that there is a good atmosphere on Friday night and we see us gain a lead to take to Hillsborough.
Rich Speight says...
13 games unbeaten
It’s quite remarkable, given what immediately preceded it, that the men’s have achieved a run of thirteen games without a loss. We always knew we could make the playoffs, but the fact that such a run was needed to get there.
Yes, the Morecambe game was an anticlimax as a spectacle, but our support was amazing - the travelling lads and lasses truly sang their hearts out and that was brilliant to hear, as always.
Nothing to fear
Many of us we’re fearful of Sunderland “doing a Sunderland” on the final day of the season, but those fears were unfounded. I think we need to be more confident that we are on the right path.
We’ve hammered Sheffield Wednesday once this year, we’ve beaten MK Dons away, and we’ve beaten Wycombe too. The next three games will harbor no surprises and no fears for the Lads, and Alex Neil is very capable of ensuring that we have all the plans in place to make the most of the opportunity.
I thought it was a pretty poor game of football for a Saturday lunchtime. Such was the lack of incident on the pitch that that much my time was spent looking at other results and scorelines to the point that, ultimately, the match in front of us was incidental.
Everyone went home happy, both sides achieved their short-term goals, and that’s what really matters, it’s just as a sofa-viewer struggled to get overly enthusiastic about the whole affair. Nevertheless, it was still preferable to the jeopardy of needing a late winner to grab our playoff stop or hanging on for dear life as Morecambe bombarded our box in search of salvation.
A Striker Short
The gamble that Kristjaan Speakman took on Jermain Defoe still has the potential to be the single factor that prevents us from getting promotion. The dream might have been that JD’s one last dance would end with him coming of the bench at Wembley to score a winner, but it was only a dream. The fact is we go into the three most crucial games of the last four years with only one fit center-forward.
The loss of Broadhead is frustrating but we’ve all kind of known he might break down once again, and now Ross Stewart also looks absolutely knackered and will have a few more bumps and bruises to add to his collection following a battering at Morecambe.
Maybe there’s a kid in the Under 23s who will come to the fore. Maybe we can play like Man City with no actual strikers and just loads of interchangeable technical players in the forward line. But we should never have been put in this position.
Kelvin Davis says...
With our playoff destiny in our own hands, few can argue that the first stage is achieved with the gritty victory against Morecambe.
Alex Neil has been quick to re-iterate its results that count at this stage of the season. I must admit in this roller-coaster season, I have had us up as champions, going nowhere but division2 and lucky to make the playoffs. So with this in mind, I offer my congratulation to players and coaches, etc, for what many may view as an unlikely qualification.
Gooch to the fore
Once again, Gooch has produced a good defensive performance in another display evidencing his versatility. He is coming into a bit of very steady form as we head toward the two games against Sheffield Wednesday. He may just yet earn himself a new contract, especially as Alex Neil appears to appreciate what he brings.
Having despatched his goal with all the authority of a seasoned goal scorer, it was concerning to see Broadhead have to leave the field of play early again! He has proved his worth this season despite his time lost to injury, there is no doubt we could do with him for the next two, hopefully, three games.
Let’s hope the injury is not too serious.
Results, not performances!
Having acknowledged our ability under Alex Neil to get results, I would also have loved to have seen a blistering performance. If we go up grinding out these results I will be delighted, but with a very handy looking Sheffield Wednesday side to play over two legs, I would also be delighted to see us “go for the jugular” with a barnstorming performance to resemble our game against them at the Stadium of Light earlier this season.
Keeping the faith, Ha’way the Lads
Malc Dugdale says...
We got the job done
Today was all about extending the season for another two or hopefully three games. The lads did that and didn’t really struggle either. Broadhead finished really well, and apart from a couple of half-chances we scored the only decent opportunity. Efficiently done, and well done to the lads and the coach.
Another clean sheet
Despite letting a lot in across the season, not a lot of sides play Morecambe and keep a clean sheet, but the lads did. Despite all the pressure and the fact that even a draw may have seen us miss the playoffs if other results went against us, the makeshift rearguard kept us unbeaten when the shrimps have scored at least one in six of the last eight games, home and away. Something to be happy about for sure, as a strong defence, hopefully with Cirkin back in it, will help in the upcoming matches which decide our promotion hopes.
Hopefully, it is just a twang and we get Broadhead back for at least part of the playoffs, but losing him could be a huge blow to our promotion hopes. His run and strike in the first half was impeccably taken and he has a great knack of scoring when Ross Stewart doesn’t. Let’s hope he can be patched up and can help us again before the playoff process is complete.
Another staccato day
While the result was all that mattered we did look quite hot and cold and our link-up play was very bitty at times. We will need to be way more accurate with our passing and better with and without the ball to progress to Wembley, so let’s hope the nearly a week gap helps the lads get sorted, slick, and ready to roll.