Morecambe 0 Sunderland 1: How it played out as Cats secure play-off spot against Sheffield Wednesday but pick up one big injury concern

Sunderland secured a play-off spot with a narrow but ultimately comfortable victory at Morecambe on the final day of the regular League One season.

By Phil Smith
Saturday, 30th April 2022, 4:52 pm

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The Black Cats will face Sheffield Wednesday in the semi finals, with MK Dons to play Wycombe Wanderers in other tie.

Nathan Broadhead’s only goal meant Sunderland’s fate was in their own hands right from the off, and Plymouth’s heavy defeat at MK Dons meant their top-six fate was all-but secure by half time.

An excellent afternoon for the Black Cats was marred only by an injury to Broadhead, who left the pitch in the first half with a muscle injury.

Nathan Broadhead scores for Sunderland

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The Everton loanee will be a major injury concern for those play-off fixtures, which start in less than a week.

Here’s your minute-by-minute guide to how it all played out...

11:30 AM: Alex Neil sets his stall out with just about the most attacking XI he could name. Patrick Roberts, Elliot Embleton and Alex Pritchard all return to the starting XI, likely moving Luke O’Nien to the left of a back three in Callum Doyle’s absence. Aiden McGeady is also named in the matchday squad for the first time since November. No sense at all of Neil, or Sunderland, boxing clever to see how other results pan out.

12:30 PM: Kick off, and Sunderland line up as expected in front of a sold-out ground.

12:34 PM: A bright start from the hosts but Sunderland are able to clear their lines comfortably enough from a couple of set plays. Portsmouth take an early lead at Sheffield Wednesday, nudging Sunderland up to fourth in the early table.

12:39 PM: It has not been an easy opening but with their first move they carve the hosts open. A lovely ball from Corry Evans finds Broadhead, who has manage to goalside of his marker. The striker drives towards goal and holds his nerve, waiting for Carson to go to ground before firing an effort into the far corner. A simple, lovely goal and a defeaning noise from the away end. Alex Pritchard flashes a free kick wide shortly afterwards.

12:45 PM: Morecambe continue to pick up set pieces inside the Sunderland half, preventing Neil’s side from really building on the lead. The first real chance falls for Connolly on the edge of the box, but he blazes well over after picking up the loose ball on the edge of the box. Neil urges his side to show a bit of calm. MK Dons take the lead at Plymouth thanks to a goal from Scott Twine, and Sheffield Wednesday promptly equalise at Hillsborough. Fleetwood take the lead at Bolton, raising the stakes for Morecambe just a little higher.

12:55 PM: So far, so good for Sunderland in terms of results but a major blow as Broadhead, who had been a doubt for the game with a muscle problem, goes down in obvious distress. He looks dejected as Jack Clarke replaces him. Potentially a significant moment both on the day and looking ahead to season-end.

13:01 PM: A brilliant challenge from Bailey Wright prevents Cole Stockton from bursting through on goal. Still a very, very tight contest. Rotherham move back into the top two by taking the lead at Gillingham, meaning Morecambe remain safe as things stand. Sheffield Wednesday take the lead, nudging Sunderland back down to fifth. A Bolton equaliser at Fleetwood starts a party atmosphere in the home stands.

13:15 PM: Half time at Morecambe. Sunderland not entirely convincing and Neil has cut an agitated figure for much of the half, with the visitors too often coughing up possession, Morecambe, though, have lacked quality and so Patterson has not yet been tested. The play-off spot looks all but settled at this stage, with Plymouth Argyle trailing 3-0 to MK Dons and having been reduced to ten men. Wycombe Wanderers lead at Burton Albion, while the Owls are 3-1 up. As it stands, it’s MK Dons v Wycombe Wanderers and Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland.

13:39 PM: A sedate start to the second half and as Bolton Wanderers take the lead at Fleetwood, it’s turning into the ideal afternoon for both sides.

13:49 PM: The first real opening of the half falls to Sunderland as Jack Clarke drives into the box with an excellent run, teeing up Stewart who sees an effort narrowly deflected wide of the far post. The chance stemmed from more good midfield play on the part of Evans, who has been the best player on the pitch by a significant margin. MK Dons score a fourth, meaning Sunderland are all but into the play-offs.

13:58 PM: Sunderland open up Morecambe on the break, with Embleton and Pritchard combining nicely. The latter finds Roberts but Carson makes a good block at close range. They key game elsewhere looks to be Rotherham v Gillingham, still separated by only a goal. A Gillingham equaliser could yet keep them up and knock Rotherham into the play-offs.

14:07 PM: Burton Albion level against Wycombe Wanderers, but Plymouth’s collapse means in all likelihood it will matter not.

14:22 PM: Both sets of fans celebrate as the final whistle approaches. A couple of threatening Morecambe move come to nothing, meaning that the Black Cats stay above Wycombe Wanderers in the table and set up a clash with Darren Moore’s side. Dan Neil finishes the game up front, which rather sums up how comfortable the afternoon turned out to be. Gillingham are relegated after defeat against Rotherham.

Sunderland AFC XI: Patterson; Wright, Batth, O’Nien; Gooch, Evans, Embleton, Roberts; Pritchard (Neil, 82), Broadhead (Clarke, 25), Stewart (Matete, 72)

Subs: Xhemajli, Hoffmann, McGeady, Hume

Morecambe XI: Carson, Bedeau, Stockton, Wildig, Connolly (Obika ,84), Phillips, Cooney, Gibson, Gnahoua (Ayunga, 68), Fane (Diagouraga, 71), Bennett

Subs: Smith, O’Connor, McLoughlin, McAlmont

Bookings: Phillips, 10 Wildig, 67 Stockton, 76 Cooney, 90