Alex Neil has explained Sunderland’s change of approach against Sheffield Wednesday.
The Black Cats earned a 1-0 lead going into the second leg of their League One play-off semi final against Darren Moore’s side.
The hosts dominated large portions of the game, but could only find a slender lead going into their trip to Hillsborough on Monday evening.
Neil opted for a back four in defence, having utilised a back five over the last number of weeks.
The 40-year old claimed that his decision came down to wanting to push Wednesday back deep into their own half.
However, the absence of Everton loanee Nathan Broadhead also played a role in the tactical switch.
“The change of formation was a combination of lots of things, and obviously that surprise factor will be gone for the second leg,” said Neil, via Sunderland Echo.
“What I had available was a big factor, we didn’t have two centre forwards to play 3-5-2.
“I had the option of maybe putting Alex or Patrick or someone up there, and then in that type of game I’m asking them to compete with big centre-backs.
“That wouldn’t have been fair on them because of the magnitude of the match, it was never going to be pass, pass, pass game.
“It was always going to be about putting it forward, winning battles, fighting for second balls.
“So it was a combination of things.”
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Sunderland lost the league fixture between these two, so will need a better Hillsborough performance this time round to earn a trip to Wembley.
The winner of the tie will face Wycombe Wanderers for a spot in next season’s Championship.
Broadhead remains a fitness doubt going into Monday evening’s clash, so perhaps the back four will be maintained by Neil in the second leg.
If the Black Cats can perform as well as they did in the first meeting between the two then they will fancy their chances of progressing.
However, Wednesday have an outstanding home record for this season, so it will be no easy feat getting past the Owls.
With so much riding on the line for both sides, perhaps we could be in store for more tactical surprises in the second leg.