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Sunderland v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet League One - Play Off - Semi Final - First Leg - Stadium of Light

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Two Up, Two Down: What do we make of a big night at the Stadium of Light?

Sunderland will take a 1-0 lead to Hillsborough after Ross Stewart’s crucial goal on Friday night. What were the positives and negatives after the first leg of the playoff semi-final?

Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Neil Graney says…

A brilliant atmosphere!

My lad was absolutely buzzing during the whole day. Moving forward, the club has to find ways to make games more accessible for fans, into next season and beyond. League position, performances, and results will always make a real difference, but as we saw on Friday night, the crowd can be a real ‘twelfth man’.

Luke O’Nien and Corry Evans

Both players were immense all night. They nullified the threats that Wednesday posed, including the dangerous Barry Bannan. Hopefully, they both have plenty of energy in the tank for Monday.

Missed chances…

A second goal would have possibly put us out of reach. Stewart’s chance was arguably the best one we carved out during the second half, but he wasn’t able to convert it. Let’s hope that it doesn’t prove costly, come Monday night.

A time and a place for romance

To the couple in front of me singing “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’ into each other’s faces and necking on: never return to the Stadium of Light. Simply not acceptable behaviour.

Sunderland v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet League One - Play Off - Semi Final - First Leg - Stadium of Light Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Phil West says…

A truly magnificent atmosphere

This game was played out against a backdrop that saw the Stadium of Light at its raucous best. Before and during the game, there was a buzz around the stadium that you couldn’t overlook, and in the minutes leading up to kickoff, things became even more exciting.

The fans inside the ground clearly saw this game as a challenge to be relished, and their backing was absolutely key as we took the game to Sheffield Wednesday and made life extremely difficult for them.

For Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, who was watching from the stands, this was a glimpse of what he could unlock at this club, given time. At its best, our stadium can produce atmospheres that will live long in the memory, and this was another superb example.

Rising to the challenge

Sunderland’s players were not crushed under the weight of expectation, or the magnitude of the occasion. Their attitude and application throughout the entire game was exemplary, and the likes of Bailey Wright, Danny Batth, and the outstanding Corry Evans demonstrated their leadership qualities with aplomb, while Ross Stewart showed his big-game mentality with a superb goal.

Alex Neil’s no-nonsense attitude and ruthless approach is filtering through the entire squad, and this is a team who are being moulded in the image of their boss. The Scot has made a huge impact since he arrived, and the way we handled the game was a testament to that.

We are soft-touches no longer.

Clarke the enigma

There is a talented footballer in Jack Clarke. I am absolutely certain of that, but the Spurs loanee often frustrates the life out of supporters, and Friday was another classic example of it.

In the first half, Clarke was virtually anonymous, and his influence on the game was minimal, but in the second, he came alive, began to drive at Sheffield Wednesday, and looked far more dangerous as we pressed for a second goal.

Clarke can certainly offer us a threat, but his decision-making can often be poor, and it will be interesting to see what role, if any, he plays in the second leg on Monday.

Missed chances

The only negative to take away from Sunderland’s performance was a lack of ruthlessness and the fact we spurned several good chances to strengthen our position. Alex Pritchard hit the bar with a glorious curling effort, and in the second half, Ross Stewart could’ve had a second when he shot wide after an error from Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

Had we converted any of these opportunities, the dynamic of the entire tie would’ve changed, and we would be heading into the second leg on an even greater high. As it is, we are in a very good position, as opposed to a great one.

Sunderland v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Semi Final 1st Leg Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Kev Campbell says…

A big game at the Stadium of Light!

Watching the game on the stream, you could feel the energy inside the stadium.

With such a raucous crowd, and the game being screened during prime time, it reminded me of Sunderland’s Premier League days, and possibly a glimpse of what’s to come as we hopefully begin to climb back up the football pyramid.

A superb performance from Sunderland’s attackers

Ross Stewart’s all-round performance was too much for Sheff Wed’s centre halves to handle, and the quartet of Pritchard, Roberts, Clarke and Gooch were getting down the wings at will.

Our midfield dominated the ball and won it back almost instantly, and despite one or two scary moments, our defence never looked like conceding, even during a period of sustained pressure in the second half.

We look very tough to beat, and that is encouraging.

It should’ve been a final!

A game like that would have graced a playoff final, and it felt that way for the entire game. It was a real shame it was only the first leg of a semi-final.

A narrow lead

With such a slender advantage, there will be some nerves going into Monday’s game.

Even if we can play to a similar standard at Hillsborough, one moment of brilliance or a silly mistake puts everything back on level terms. The lads will have to go to Sheffield with a strong focus, and the determination to finish this tie off.

Sunderland v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet League One - Play Off - Semi Final - First Leg - Stadium of Light Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says...

Wright time

Several players did well but Bailey Wright has been in tremendous form of late and deserves a special mention I reckon. The personnel and shape around him have changed regularly, but he keeps getting on with the job and was a colossus against Sheffield Wednesday.

He is reaching peak form when it matters most, and a similar performance on Monday would be massive.

Electric Light

I know the other lads have touched on it, but as somebody that has been critical of some sections of support in the past I’ve got to say the atmosphere was superb. The pre-match displays looked the part and the noise the fans made proves just how much of an asset a rocking Stadium of Light can be.

It was Roker Roar esque even, and easily one of the best in recent years - if we do go up, this will be a game that goes down in our history.

Penny for his thoughts

I wonder if Jermain Defoe was watching that, and what he was thinking about it all? I cannot judge too much as we don’t know the full story, but had he been able to stick around for the last few weeks his ‘last dance’ might now be looking a bit more fitting.

We’ve actually done very well since his departure and the remaining senior players have been in good form, but that spell in the second half where we had Wednesday on the ropes would have been ideal for him and we might now be looking at a greater lead going into the second leg.

Manic Monday

There was some good football in spells but a lot of the match was tense - heaven only knows how stressful it will be in Yorkshire then. I’ve seen enough to think the Lads can do it, but it might not be pretty and there could be one or two difficult moments so buckle in!

Sunderland v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Semi Final 1st Leg
We go again in two days time...
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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