The story of the day as Sunderland's promotion hopes come to an end after Lincoln City battle
It’s make-or-break time for Sunderland as they welcome Lincoln City in the second leg of their play-off semi-final.
The Black Cats trail 2-0 from the first leg after goals from Tom Hopper and Brennan Johnson gave the Imps a considerable advantage on Wednesday evening.
But with 10,000 fans back in the Stadium of Light roaring the team on, Lee Johnson’s men will be confident of turning the tide and sealing a spot at Wembley next weekend.
A win by two clear goals will be enough to send the game to extra time, while a three-goal winning margin will see Sunderland progress.
Johnson has some key decisions to make as the side prepare for the game, but will be able to call upon Aiden McGeady after a contract situation with the winger was resolved this week.
We’ll have full team news, match updates, analysis and reaction from our team of writers across the afternoon.
FT: Sunderland AFC 2-1 Lincoln City (Stewart 13, Wyke 33; Hopper 56)
And welcome to our live blog!
How are we all feeling, then?
It’s do or die time for Sunderland today as they prepare to take on Lincoln City in the second leg of their play-off semi-final.
Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, the Black Cats have 90 minutes left to save their season - and ensure any hopes of a shot at promotion to the Championship remain alive.
Lee Johnson could make some changes given the side need goals, and it promises to be an intriguing afternoon on Wearside.
And we’ll have live coverage from our team of writers throughout, so stick with us across the day.
So, let’s get cracking...
The Seasiders drew 3-3 in a thriller with Oxford United last night, sealing a 6-3 aggregate victory over the U’s.
And among the scorers at Bloomfield Road was Elliot Embleton - who netted this stunner in the first half:
After reports earlier this week that the winger may not be able to be involved given a clause in his contract - which would have triggered an automatic extension to his deal if he started today - Lee Johnson has confirmed that McGeady can be involved today.
Speaking yesterday, the Sunderland boss said:
I have had the option to play Aiden McGeady from the start in every game, and that will continue to happen McGeady is available to start tomorrow.
It’s difficult for me to reveal contract scenarios because it’s not my place, it’s not fair on the player. All I’ll say is that Aiden has been top drawer throughout my tenure, he understands the situation, and he has proved his class yet again.
He goes into this game wanting to do well for the football club, and for me it cements him being a quality human and a quality professional that I have the option to pick him.
Excuse the all caps, but after over a year of games being played in an empty Stadium of Light it’s going to be great to see the stands somewhat filled today.
While we are still a long way from full capacity, there will be 10,000 fans in attendance this afternoon.
Here’s some more details on the new match day experience that supporters can expect today:
The Sunderland boss has urged his side to be bold as they bid to overturn a two-goal deficit.
Though missed chances and defensive errors were the primary factors behind Sunderland’s ultimate defeat at the LNER Stadium, Johnson was also left frustrated with his team’s passive first-half display.
He knows there can be no repeat of that at the Stadium of Light and said his side simply had to show both speed and personality in their performance.
While they already have a 2-0 aggregate lead, Michael Appleton insists his Lincoln side won’t be content with sitting back today.
He told Lincolnshire Live:
We’ll go there and try and win the game.
If we go there and try and get a draw, we’ll end up doing what we did for 20 minutes after we took the lead, defending on the edge of our box and allowing them to put balls in the box.
That definitely won’t be the mindset. We’ll try and be a bit more possession based, like we were in the first half, and try to win the game.
Here are the latest odds from Sky Bet ahead of today’s big game:
Result at end of 90 minutes:
- Sunderland win - 4/5
- Draw - 5/2
- Lincoln City win - 16/5
To progress to the final:
- Sunderland - 10/3
- Lincoln City - 1/5
To score first:
- Charlie Wyke - 13/5
- Ross Stewart - 9/2
- Aiden O’Brien - 5/1
- Chris Maguire - 5/1
- Jordan Jones - 5/1
- Lynden Gooch - 5/1
- Jorge Grant - 6/1
- Jack Diamond - 6/1
- Tom Hopper - 13/2
Here’s how the two teams are shaping-up ahead of today’s game...
The Black Cats will certainly be without Conor McLaughlin who is out for the remainder of the campaign.
Denver Hume is also a major doubt after sustaining a hamstring injury in the opening stages of the first leg tie at Sincil Bank - with Jake Vokins potentially in line for a place on the bench as a result.
Otherwise, Lee Johnson is likely to select from the same squad that was available for the trip to Lincolnshire in midweek.
The Imps are set to be without defender Adam Jackson after he was withdrawn in the first leg, but Joe Walsh could return.
In goal, Alex Palmer will return with emergency loan signing Josef Bursik having returned to Stoke City after his fine performance in midweek.
The League One play-off semi-final second leg clash match between Sunderland and Lincoln City will be shown on television.
The clash will be shown live on Sky Sports Football.
Fans can also stream the match for £9.99 without signing up for a contract.
NOW TV can be streamed through a computer or apps found on most smart TVs, phones and consoles.
The club’s majority shareholder has sent a message to supporters...
On behalf of the players and staff at Sunderland AFC, we are very excited to be welcoming you back to the Stadium of Light this weekend.
The events of the past 14 months have underlined why football is nothing without its fans and as a club, we have felt that more than most due to the incredible support you provide.
It has been a long and challenging season, but the team have worked very hard throughout it to secure a Play-Off place and ensure we can still achieve our objective of promotion.
We all felt disappointed following Wednesday’s result and I know we face a monumental task, but it is not an impossible one.
The team have my full confidence for the upcoming battle and I know you all will join me in supporting them this Saturday.
Together, I believe anything is possible at the Stadium of Light.
Ha’way the Lads,