clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Sunderland v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Semi Final 1st Leg

Filed under:

Roker Roundtable: How should Alex Neil set us up for the playoff second leg?

With the tie very much in the balance, Neil has some big decisions to make for Monday’s game. How should he approach it, tactically and selection-wise?

Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says…

If Nathan Broadhead is available, he should start the game on Monday, and hopefully after taking the sting out of Sheffield Wednesday for the first ten minutes, the ideal scenario would see him or Ross Stewart score, to extend our lead to 2-0.

However, this would mean a slight change in personnel, and after grinding out a 1-0 victory when, in fairness, we probably deserved to score more goals, it is hard to drop anyone.

If forced to make the decision, however, I would drop Jack Clarke to the bench.

He was much more effective in the second half on Friday night, but prior to that, he was wasteful and gave the ball away too regularly. If we do that in the second leg, we may well be punished for our mistakes as much as they were in the first leg.

It is imperative that we boss the defence and the midfield as well as we did on Friday, so more of the same, but switch Broadhead for Clarke, who can come on as a substitute later on.

In truth, Alex, do whatever you think best. You have used all of your knowledge, skill, and experience to get us here. I can’t help trusting you and the lads to do what you need to do for potentially two more games.

Sunderland v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Semi Final 1st Leg Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Bomber says…

Allow me to roll out some clichés in response to this question…

- If it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it.

- Attack is the best form of defence.

- Let them worry about us.

- A stopped clock is right twice a day.

Granted, I just threw the final one in there because it is how I justify my predictions sometimes, but regardless of whether it is at home or away, we used a formula on Friday night that completely overwhelmed, controlled, and outclassed Sheffield Wednesday for eighty minutes.

The players, the system and the style of play should have put us out of sight and therefore made this second leg irrelevant, so why not adopt the same approach and try to put them away, rather than trying not to lose?

One major reason why Sheffield Wednesday were kept at bay for the majority of the game was due to the attacking threat that we possess. Both Wednesday full backs were petrified of Roberts and Clarke, and Gooch/Cirkin were both brilliant in providing the overlap to pin the opposition’s wide players back.

If you change the formation and/or personnel, that threat is diminished, allowing Wednesday’s fullbacks and wingers to play higher up the pitch and possibly push us further back.

As for Broadhead, it may be an unpopular opinion, but he stays on the bench for me.

This isn’t because I don’t rate him- the lad is class- but we’ve shown that we have enough to beat them without a heavy reliance on him.

We’ll only need him on the night if we need a goal. Should that be the case, why wouldn’t you want to see him for half an hour, fresh from the bench, against a tired and possibly nervy Wednesday defence?

Nathan didn’t feature in the first leg, and he he didn’t feature in the 5-0 win in December. I’d much rather see Broadhead as an unused substitute in the second leg to ensure he’s fit and chomping at the bit (clichè intended) for when we need him most - a Wembley final!

Sunderland v Shrewsbury Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Gav says…

I’m torn on this.

It’s likely they’ll bring in Jack Hunt over Liam Palmer at right wing back, which will totally change how they play.

Having heard Darren Moore talk after the game it’s clear we caught them off guard by going with a four man defence on Friday, and it wasn’t until Wednesday matched us up after the hour mark in the second half that they actually managed to get any sort of foothold in the game.

We’ve played away against some tough teams since Alex Neil came in, and he’s always just got the tone right when it comes to his selections, so I’m confident that he’ll do the right thing.

Exactly what that ‘right thing’ is, however, I have no idea, because on one hand, I think we’d be wise to set up more defensively, because we saw how much we can open them up when we get at them.

Their high defensive line in both games at the Stadium of Light has been their undoing, and getting the ball in behind - hopefully with Broadhead returning to the fold - is where I think we’ll get most joy.

Sunderland v Shrewsbury Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says…

Although Sheffield Wednesday have an excellent home record and can be very dangerous, I saw enough in the first leg to make me think we can do a similar job without too many changes.

We were very solid and very composed, and not for the first time in recent games we barely gave the opposition a sniff. Lynden Gooch, Corry Evans, and a few others are all in good form, and the balance seemed decent, too. Shape-wise, I would be tempted to leave things as they are.

I do think, however, that if he is fit, Nathan Broadhead would once again be worth starting. He is a bit more of a presence defensively, and Wednesday look susceptible to a ball over the top, so we could get some joy there. Having both him and Ross Stewart on the pitch might also help the ball to stick, should we be under pressure and needing to regroup.

Little things, like Anthony Patterson deliberately falling to the ground after catching the ball to buy us a few seconds when we were under pressure, suggests to me the team is fully switched on right now.

We also know that when we have momentum behind us, Sunderland AFC can be hard to stop, so for these reasons I’d be surprised to see the manager make changes just for the sake of it.

Alex Neil has been very good at tailoring the system to fit the situation, and the players always seem to know their roles, so I’m sure he’ll already be working on a plan. We’ve made a good start, now let’s follow it up, Lads!

Sunderland v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Semi Final 1st Leg Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Fan Letters: “Could Sunderland go for great great brill brill, wicked wicked Will Still?”


“Michael Beale & Sunderland was a fruitless and ultimately failed relationship”


On This Day (22nd Feb 1977): Sunderland smash West Brom for six as the mini revival continues!

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Roker Report Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Sunderland news from Roker Report