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Soccer - Barclays League Division Two - Playoff Final - Swindon Town v Sunderland - Wembley Stadium

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Match Preview: Sunderland v Sheffield United - all you need to know ahead of kick-off!

We’re in front of the Sky cameras once again as we battle it out with promotion contenders Sheffield United with focus for the fixture on highlighting the vital fundraising for former player John MacPhail.

Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images

Wednesday 15th March 2023

(12th) Sunderland v Sheffield United (2nd)


Stadium of Light

Kick-Off: 20:00

Tickets & Match Coverage

Tickets: Tickets are available via

TV/Stream: Full live match coverage is available via Sky Sports.

Radio: Full live match commentary available via BBC Radio Newcastle (not online)

Don’t forget to follow the blow-by-blow account of the game on the Roker Report Twitter feed (@RokerReport) and check out the player ratings after the full-time whistle at!

The build-up...

Nobody seemingly needed the result at Norwich more than Tony Mowbray if his pre-match press conference was anything to go by. In recent weeks it seemed like the weight of the world was on the manager’s shoulders, but it’s amazing what one good result can do for the soul and things seemed a lot more upbeat in the build-up to tonight’s fixture.

Coming from someone who was in attendance at Bramall Lane back in August, I feel like we owe them one from the reverse fixture where we were arguably the better side following Dan Neil’s red card, so hopefully there’s a similar feeling in the dressing room ahead of kick-off tonight.

It’s only three days since we last appeared in front of the Sky cameras but they’re in attendance tonight - I think they just follow our team coach around the country at the moment - and the majority of the locals will be wondering which Sunderland will turn up.

Will it be the one who played Middlesbrough off the park, or the one that capitulated against Stoke City?

At home, we’re like a box of chocolates, you never know which one you’ll get next, but with the gap to the play-offs stretching to six points (at the time of writing) another three points would go some way to make things interesting in terms of play-off contention.

Norwich City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Paul Heckingbottom is continuing where he left off last season after he steered the Blades into a play-off position after picking up the reigns in November 2021 as they were sitting in mid-table.

Although at the end of it all, the former full-back, who was on Sunderland’s books as a player after becoming one of Peter Reid’s first signings for the club in 1995, required all his man-management skills to pick the club back up following the dramatic play-off defeat to Nottingham Forest.

Not long ago, it seemed like he had picked them back up to such an extent that, along with Burnley, they had all but secured a top-two finish, but with Middlesbrough breathing down their neck they’ve had a wobble. Three defeats in the last five have meant Boro’ are now three points (at the time of writing) behind.

Away from home the Blades boast the 3rd best record in the division, but recently they’ve only picked up one win on the road in the last five. Combine this with the fact that they haven’t got the best record on Wearside, with their last appearance in 2017 being their only win up here since 1991, we have enough to cling onto in hope for a positive result tonight.

Millwall v Sheffield United - Sky Bet Championship - The Den
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom
Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images

The betting...

Despite our win at Norwich City, the bookies fancy an away win tonight as they have the Blades at 5/4 to take all three points, with the Lads 21/10 and the draw is around 9/4.

Head to head... at Sunderland

(All competitions)

  • Sunderland wins: 45
  • Draws: 15
  • Sheffield United wins: 11
  • Sunderland goals: 148
  • Sheffield United goals: 72

Last time we met... at the Stadium of Light

Saturday 9th September 2017


Sunderland 1-2 Sheffield United

[R**well 90’ - Donaldson 21’, 77’]

Sunderland: Ruiter, Browning, Kone (O’Shea), Wilson, Galloway, Rodwell, Ndong, Honeyman (Gooch), Williams, Vaughan (McManaman), Grabban Substitutes not used: Steele, Jones, Matthews, Gibson

Sheffield United: Blackman, Freeman, Stevens, Basham, Wright, O’Connell, Coutts, Duffy (Lundstram), Donaldson (Evans), Sharp (Brooks), Fleck Substitutes not used: Eastwood, Baldock, Carter-Vickers, Lafferty

Attendance: 29,579

Sunderland v Sheffield United - Sky Bet Championship
Evidence that Jack Rodwell scored for Sunderland the last time Sheffield United visited the Stadium of Light
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Played for both...

John MacPhail

For tonight’s game you may notice collections around the stadium to raise funds for the rehabilitation of former player John MacPhail following a recent fall in his home - please read the details on the club website here and please give generously.

The Scottish central defender was instrumental in reviving the club's fortunes when we were relegated to the third tier of English football back in 1987 after Denis Smith brought him to Roker Park as one of his early signings.

Being Dundee-born, it’s probably natural that MacPhail began his career with his hometown club Dundee before moving south of the border to sign for tonight’s opponents Sheffield United in 1978. Five years at Bramall Lane was followed by three at York City and after a year at Bristol City, MacPhail arrived at Roker.

Three years later, he left the club having climbed from Division Three up to the top flight having scored 22 goals (having scored 16 in 1987/88 alone with 11 being penalties) in 153 appearances for the Lads.

John MacPhail’s family will be in attendance tonight and a minute’s applause is planned in the fifth minute so make yourselves heard and please give generously. All our best wishes at Roker Report go to John MacPhail and his family.

Soccer - Barclays League Division Two - Playoff Final - Swindon Town v Sunderland - Wembley Stadium
John MacPhail
Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images


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