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Sheffield Wednesday substitutes backfire, Dennis Cirkin's tangle with Josh Windass plus Aiden McGeady's Sunderland absence: Moments you may have missed

For the first time since Alex Neil took charge of Sunderland in February, the Black Cats boss named an unchanged starting XI for two successive matches.

Thursday, 12th May 2022, 1:41 pm

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That showed just how much belief Neil had in the team which recorded a 1-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday at the Stadium of Light in the first leg of their League One play-off semi-final.

The same 11 players (while many others have contributed during a topsy-turvy campaign) finished the job at Hillsborough, as Patrick Roberts’ late finish made it 2-1 on aggregate, sending Sunderland to a Wembley final against Wycombe on May 21.

Neil, who has often been proactive with his substitutions, also left it until the seventh minute of stoppage time to make all three changes here – after Roberts had restored the side’s advantage.

Sunderland goalkeeper Anthony Patterson.

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Here are some of the other moments you may have missed:

Wednesday changes backfire

With 20 minutes remaining and his side heading out, Wednesday boss Darren Moore needed to go on the attack.

Defender Sam Hutchinson was then forced off with a head injury, meaning Liam Palmer took his place as the left-sided centre-back, while Moore also introduced the more offensive Nathaniel Mendez-Laing in place of wing-back Jack Hunt.

Hutchinson’s withdrawal was used as a concussion substitute, following a nasty clash of heads with Lynden Gooch, which meant the hosts could make a fourth substitution to bring on Saido Berahino in added time.

But while the aforementioned changes gave the hosts more attacking impetus, with Lee Gregory levelling the tie on aggregate in the 74th minute, they also weakened Wednesday defensively.

Mendez-Laing ended up playing as a right wing-back and failed to track Jack Clarke’s run for Sunderland’s winning goal.

Palmer was then unaware of Roberts ghosting in at the far post. The mistakes proved costly.

Dennis Cirkin gets away with one

While Sunderland defended admirably for most of the match and goalkeeper Anthony Patterson didn’t have many saves to make, there was a nervy moment three minutes before half-time.

After Barry Bannan’s shot was blocked, Sunderland defender Dennis Cirkin slid in to try and win the loose ball, but instead made contact with forward Josh Windass.

The full-back tried to slow himself down before getting into a tangle with the Wednesday frontman, prompting loud appeals for a penalty from the home fans and players.

Nothing was given. It was a let-off for the visitors.

Aiden McGeady’s absence

After two successive matches on the Sunderland bench, Aiden McGeady wasn’t included in the matchday squad at Hillsborough.

The 36-year-old has gradually returned from a long-term knee injury, yet there was a feeling that perhaps he could conjure up one last moment of magic from the bench.

But, with other attacking options available, that probably seems unlikely given he’s spent more than five months on the sidelines.

Clarke and Roberts showed exactly what they can offer in wide areas at Hillsborough, while Alex Pritchard has been one of the Black Cats’ best players this season.

Elliot Embleton and Dan Neil also started on the bench, along with the returning Nathan Broadhead.

Even if Sunderland did need a goal in the final, you feel they would turn to one of the aforementioned players.