The story of the night as Sunderland's promotion hopes severely dented after Lincoln City play-off defeat
Sunderland begin their League One play-off campaign at Lincoln City this evening – as they look to move a step closer to a return to the Championship.
Having finished the regular season in fourth place, the Black Cats will now face the Imps across two legs for a place in the final at Wembley on May 30.
Waiting beneath the arch will be either Blackpool or Oxford United, but Sunderland will have to navigate their way through a tough task before they can think about a trip to the national stadium.
Tonight’s game at the LNER Stadium will see Lee Johnson welcome back a couple of key players, but Sunderland are also sweating on some other fitness concerns before the clash.
We’ll have the latest team news from the game right here – as well as match updates, analysis and reaction from the big game via our dedicated team of Sunderland AFC writers.
FT: Lincoln City 2-0 Sunderland AFC (Hopper 51, Johnson 77)
Last updated: Wednesday, 19 May, 2021, 17:10
- Sunderland travel to Sincil Bank in the first leg of their play-off semi-final this evening.
- The Black Cats are potentially three games away from a return to the Championship.
- Lee Johnson is set to select from nearly a full squad for the game.
- SAFC XI: Burge, Flanagan, Wright, Power, Wyke, Gooch, O’Nien, Scowen, Jones, McGeady, Hume
And welcome to our live blog!
So here we are again - the play-offs.
Sunderland head to Sincil Bank this evening to take on Lincoln City as they look to take a step back towards promotion to the Championship.
Having finished fourth in the regular League One season, the Black Cats will enjoy the benefit of a second leg played at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon - and they will be hoping to enter that game off the back of a positive result away from home tonight.
So then, let’s get cracking...
There was a big win for Blackpool last night
The Seasiders won 3-0 away at Oxford United in the other semi-final first leg yesterday evening.
An Ellis Simms brace and an Ollie Turton strike saw Blackpool claim a heavy advantage - and they now have one foot in the final at Wembley.
Sunderland will no doubt be hoping to follow in their lead tonight!
Lincoln City have made a signing ahead of tonight’s game...
Lincoln City have brought in Josef Bursik on an emergency loan after their senior goalkeeper Alex Palmer suffered a concussion in training.
Palmer has been ruled out of the first leg against Sunderland on Wednesday evening due to concussion protocols, and the EFL have granted Lincoln permission to bring in Bursik.
The Stoke City goalkeeper is an England U21 goalkeeper who has featured 15 times for the Championship club this season.
This is his second emergency loan of 2021, having played a key part in Peterborough United’s surge for automatic promotion after an injury to Christy Pym.
Could this be the Sunderland team that starts tonight?
Mark Donnelly has picked his team for this evening - with THREE changes from the side that drew against Northampton Town on the final day of the regular season.
An intriguing transfer link...
Sunderland and Sheffield United are reportedly interested in signing Peterborough United’s top scorer Jonson Clarke-Harris - according to the Daily Record.
Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony recently told Sky Sports News that he has not ruled out selling the striker during the upcoming transfer window.
Clarke-Harris was the top scorer in League One this season and is likely to be a big-money signing for any club looking to seal his signature.
The pre-match view from the Lincoln City camp
Speaking to Lincolnshire Live, Lincoln boss Michael Appleton says the Imps believe they can beat Sunderland in both legs - not just at home.
I want to win both games, that’s the idea.
That has to be our attitude, to try and win both games, so you don’t have to worry about leads.
I know we’re capable of it. We’ve not been capable so far. We’ve played them three times, lost one, drew two.
In the two games we drew at their place, we were more than capable of winning those games.
I thought we finished strongly in the league game recently. So there’s a belief within the camp that we can beat them.
Fans will be back tonight!
Over 3,000 Lincoln City supporters will watch the game at Sincil Bank tonight.
The return leg at the Stadium of Light will host 10,000 Sunderland fans - who will no doubt be looking to roar their team on to Wembley!
Lee Johnson is expecting an open game tonight...
We’ve got to expect Lincoln to be at their best.
If you’re a winner and you’re a team that’s got that belief in themselves in each other, you should want to play a team at their best and beat them.
It’s going to be a tough game, a tense game, it’s going to be full of energy.
Both teams have that.
I’m looking forward to it. They’ve all been good games, even the two draws.
There’s been lots of end-to-end play and this is not going to be a game where either side looks to shut up shop.
What are the odds for Lincoln City v Sunderland AFC?
Here are the current odds on SkyBet:
- Lincoln City - 7/4
- Draw - 21/10
- Sunderland - 6/4
And here’s who the bookies are backing to score first:
- Charlie Wyke - 10/3
- Jorge Grant - 9/2
- Ross Stewart - 11/2
- Brennan Johnson - 11/2
- Tom Hopper - 11/2
- Callum Morton - 6/1
- Aiden O’Brien - 13/2
- Chris Maguire - 13/2
- Jordan Jones - 13/2
- Lynden Gooch - 13/2
(odds correct as of 2pm on Wednesday, May 19)
The latest team news from Lincoln City and Sunderland
Here’s how the two squads are shaping-up ahead of the game...
Lee Johnson is likely to welcome both Tom Flanagan and Ross Stewart back into the squad, while Charlie Wyke and Aiden McGeady are also available after minor injury scares.
The Sunderland head coach did say that he would have to monitor ‘one or two’ concerns ahead of the trip to Lincolnshire, though.
Arbenit Xhemajli and Jordan Willis remain long-term absentees.
The Imps will be without goalkeeper Alex Palmer after a training ground injury.
However, the Imps have no fresh injury concerns other than their stopper.
How can I watch Lincoln City v Sunderland AFC? Is there a live stream?
The League One semi-final first leg clash match between Lincoln City will indeed be shown on television.
The clash will be shown live on Sky Sports Main Event and 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 Sunderland squad have arrived!
And as expected, the returning Ross Stewart has travelled with the side to Lincolnshire.
Tom Flanagan, who hasn’t played a senior game since the Papa John’s Trophy final, is also part of the travelling party.
The scene is set at Sincil Bank
And team news isn’t far away now...
BREAKING: THE TEAM NEWS IS IN!
And here’s how Sunderland line-up: Burge, Flanagan, Wright, Power, Wyke, Gooch, O’Nien, Scowen, Jones, McGeady, Hume
And on the bench: Matthews, Maguire, Diamond, Leadbitter, McFadzean, Winchester, Stewart
So that’s two changes from the side who drew with Northampton Town, as McGeady and Flanagan come in for Diamond and McLaughlin.
For Flanagan, it’s a first start since the Papa John’s Trophy Final.
It looks like a 4-2-3-1 for Sunderland, with O’Nien at right-back.
And here’s how Lincoln line-up...
They welcome key defender Adam Jackson back into the side, while new addition Josef Bursik starts in goal.