Alex Neil explains his big Nathan Broadhead call ahead of Sunderland's play-off final

Alex Neil admits that Nathan Broadhead was short of full fitness on Monday but his return offered a major boost ahead of next weekend's play-off final.

By Phil Smith
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 6:00 am

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Broadhead had been a major doubt for Sunderland's play-off campaign after suffering a muscle injury on the final day of the regular season against Morecambe, a game in which he had already scored his 13th goal of a hugely impressive campaign.

The Everton loanee missed the first leg against Sheffield Wednesday but he returned to the bench at Hillsborough and played his part in seeing the game out with a ten-minute cameo following Patrick Roberts' goal.

Neil explained that his reluctance to make substitutions had been because he wanted to keep the team's 4-2-3-1 shape, and that he was also conscious of pushing the 24-year-old too far, too quickly.

Sunderland striker Nathan Broadhead

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With a ten-day break before facing Wycombe Wanderers, however, Broadhead has a good chance of getting somewhere closer to full fitness.

Sunderland return to training after a short break on Thursday.

"It was good for us to be able to get him on the pitch," Neil said.

"He wasn't at full tilt so he was on the bench mainly in reserve, to be honest.

"The difficulty I had on Monday night was that we were going to lose pace and trickery off the flanks, because we didn't really have any more of those types of players available.

"I didn't want to change that because in the game, I just felt that was going to be key to us getting a goal and in the end it was [Clarke assisting Roberts].

"To be honest I haven't yet thought much at all in terms of the final.

"I'll naturally pick a team to win but for now, I wanted to give the lads a couple of days to recover, spend time with their family, and then it's back in and time to get going."

Carl Winchester and Leon Dajaku are both major doubts for the final, as they recover from a groin problem and illness respectively.

Neil will also have a call to make on Aiden McGeady, who has been back in full training for three weeks but has not played competitive football since November.