Former Sunderland forward Kevin Phillips has backed the Black Cats to overturn their 2-0 deficit in the second leg of their play-off semi-final against Lincoln City on Saturday.
Lee Johnson’s side head into the second leg at the Stadium of Light in real danger of missing out on a place in the play-off final at Wembley. The Black Cats delivered a frustrating performance in the first leg at Lincoln and they were punished with the Imps running out 2-0 winners. Sunderland though did still have their chances with one in particular from Bailey Wright that could have changed things.
The Black Cats’ chances of turning the tie around have not been helped by reports that Aiden McGeady might miss out on the second leg due to a clause in his deal that means he would get a one-year extension to his deal if he features. However, Sunderland will still have their supporters in the Stadium of Light to try and make a difference.
What club do these 21 former Sunderland players ply their trade at now?
Speaking to Football Insider, Phillips suggested that he thinks Sunderland can indeed turn around the tie and that he believes that supporters inside the stadium might be able to make a major difference for them.
He said: “Lincoln have got the best away record in the league so it doesn’t bode too well for them.
“I still back them to do it though because the crowd will be behind them. They will create opportunities, they just need to make sure they take them. If they get a goal in the first half an hour it could make all the difference.
“You have got to be cautious but not too cautious. The crowd up there will demand attack, attack, attack. They just need to make sure that they get organised when they don’t have the ball. It is as simple as that.
“Lincoln are quick and direct on the counter-attack though so it promises to be a really intriguing game.”
This is a bold prediction from Phillips, with Sunderland’s form in the end-of-season run-in not really inspiring confidence that they have it in them to turn around a 2-0 deficit and make it through to the play-off final. However, he is right that the supporters should be able to change the dynamics of the contest and give the Black Cats that extra motivation to perform.
Sunderland have to use the crowd to their advantage and get off to a strong start to the game to keep them right with them throughout the 90 minutes. If they could get an early goal as Phillips suggests it would start to turn the momentum of the tie in their favour. It would then be very challenging for Lincoln to keep them at bay.
Therefore, the first half an hour or so of the contest could very well go a long way in deciding whether or not they are able to make it to Wembley or now. At the moment though personally I can not see them having enough to fully turn around the tie, although you would have to expect them to at least make things nervous for the Imps on the day.