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Alex Neil has this final message to his players & the Sunderland support ahead of the defining day in play-off race

Alex Neil says belief will be key as his Sunderland players look to secure their top-six spot on Saturday afternoon.

By Phil Smith
Saturday, 30th April 2022, 6:00 am

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The Black Cats travel to Morecambe knowing that while the race for the top six remains remarkably poised, a win will secure their chance at promotion regardless of other results.

Their task is made more daunting given that the hosts themselves have much to play for.

Though Derek Adams’ side have a two-point advantage on Gillingham and Fleetwood, their hopes of avoiding relegation from the third tier remain in edge ahead of the final day. Adams oversaw the club’s shock promotion from League Two last season, and their form has improved considerably since he returned to the club earlier this year.

Sunderland boss Alex Neil

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Neil has said that he expects the final day to be ‘topsy-turvy’ as has been the case ever since he arrived, an impressive points haul of 27 points from 14 games still not yet enough to guarantee a top-six place because of the form of the other teams in the race.

The Black Cats boss says his side are well-used to the pressure and has not detected any nerves in the camp ahead of the game.

“I think we need to move the ball well, we need to make sure we're brave in our decision making,” Neil said.

“We need to guard against their transition, they've got natural threats in certain areas of the pitch that we're going to have to nullify.

“As much as anything else, you need to believe.

“You know in these games because of the occasion and different things, you need to make sure you don't become anxious. Believe in the process, believe in what we do and keep doing it well, so we can try and win the game.

“We need to move the ball well and if they press us, which I have seen them do a lot more of late, then we need to be play through or even over or round that. We don't want to leave ourselves loose and make our job doubly difficult.

“Our form has been particularly good and you can see the belief in the players, we're unbeaten in 12 and we should take great confidence from that.

“This is our final hurdle in terms of the initial job, securing a play-off place.

"I’ve not got any sense of nerves from anybody [internally].

“There has been a lot of hard work and I sense more anticipation than anything else.”

Sunderland will be backed by a sold-out away support for the game, and Neil was asked what his final message to those travelling was: “Enjoy it, because this is what it's all about, these big games and the chance to have some more on the horizon.

“I understand the play-offs is the minimum expectation but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy it while it's there.

“Stick with the team irrespective of what it looks like [during the game] because in the fourteen games I've been here it has been topsy-turvy all the way.”