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Who will win the League One play-offs? Sheffield Wednesday, Sunderland, MK Dons and Wycombe writers deliver their verdicts

The League One play-offs get under way on Thursday – but what can we expect from the semi-final match-ups?

Thursday, 5th May 2022, 10:57 am

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Wycombe will face MK Dons, with the first leg taking place at Adams Park, while Sunderland will come up against Sheffield Wednesday to see who reaches this month’s final at Wembley.

To find out more we’ve been speaking to writers who cover each club to get the inside track:

MK DONS – TOBY LOCK (The Milton Keynes Citizen)

League One play-off managers.

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FORM

TL: “Dons head into the play-offs in excellent shape. Aside from two disappointing defeats to Sheffield Wednesday and Oxford in the run-in, ending their 15-match unbeaten run, they bounced back with wins over Morecambe and a 5-0 crushing of Plymouth on the final day. Morale is very high at Stadium MK.

KEY PLAYERS

TL: “Few would be surprised to see Scott Twine as the key man for Dons. Named League One's Player of the Season, he capped the regular campaign with four goals against Plymouth to take his tally to 20 for the season. He has been in superb shape in the last few weeks, finding another level at the right time.

Sunderland vs Sheffield Wednesday.

“Defender Harry Darling too has been in excellent form, scoring his ninth and tenth goals of the season in the final two games.”

THE GAFFER – LIAM MANNING

TL: “No-one would have genuinely expected Dons to be in the automatic promotion hunt right to the final day, especially given the drama they had on the eve of the season back in August.

“Since joining, Manning has turned Dons into a well-oiled machine, one that does not often slip-up. He has the players on the same page, singing from the same hymn sheet and various other metaphors and similes of that ilk!

“The job he has done has been excellent, irrespective of whether Dons make it up or not.”

DO YOU THINK MK DONS WILL GET PROMOTED – AND WHY?

TL: “I don't see why not. They have shown they can mix it with anyone in the most hostile of atmospheres, and can come out on top in them too.

“Getting past Wycombe will of course be a tough task, given their style and momentum heading into the play-offs but Dons did the double over them, and would love to do so again.

“If they can reach the final, anything can happen after that.”

WYCOMBE – JAMES RICHINGS (Bucks Free Press)

FORM

JR: “Fantastic. Wanderers are currently unbeaten in 12 and are one of the in form teams in England out of the top four leagues. They are going into the play-offs full of confidence, but this is a different competition to the league, and nothing is guaranteed.”

KEY PLAYERS

JR: “Of course, Sam Vokes is one of the main men. He has scored 16 league goals for Wycombe this season, in what has been a brilliant first year at the club.

“Other players include former Sunderland man, Josh Scowen, who has been a real anchor in the centre of midfield, whilst Garath McCleary and Anis Mehmeti have shown their quality from the wings."

THE GAFFER – GARETH AINSWORTH

JR: “I think he’s done brilliantly. 83 points for Wycombe in League One is tremendous and, personally, I think Wycombe get disrespected by fans of other clubs due to their small stature, compared to others.

"David Stockdale jointly won the Golden Glove award this season, the Chairboys are unbeaten in 12, they were top of the league in January and they have not dropped below ninth this league season. Ainsworth has worked wonders and it’s no surprise that he’s been linked with other jobs.”

DO YOU THINK WYCOMBE WILL GET PROMOTED – AND WHY?

JR: "I have got to remain optimistic and say yes, even though it’s a lottery! The good run of form will no doubt help Wanderers but it’s anyone’s game. They haven’t got the best of records against MK but it’s during these times that bad spells are broken.”

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY – JOE CRANN (The Sheffield Star)

FORM

JC: “Generally, pretty good. We've scored plenty of goals on the whole, and they've dug deep when they've needed to in order to get a result - other than in the Wycombe game when they just weren't able to bang down the door.

“We're third in the form table when looking at the last 10 games, with only one loss, but we've been a lot better at home this season than we have away. The game at the Stadium of Light is a big test.”

KEY PLAYERS

JC: “Barry Bannan has been vital. If you look at all the key stats this season, Bannan is eight top or second. He leads in assists, passes, key passes and dribbles, and as the club's main creator he is integral to the whole way that Wednesday play.

“Other key players that stand out are top scorer, Lee Gregory, and Bannan's midfield partner, Massimo Luongo, both of whom I don't think would look out of place in the Championship.”

THE GAFFER – DARREN MOORE

JC: “The impressive work Moore has done has been as much off the field as on it.

“We've finished fourth, and the football in the second half of the season has been great to watch, but possibly more impressive is the way that he's managed to bridge the gap between the club and the fans, and how drama-less this season has been after the carnage of the last campaign.

“Missing out on promotion would be a huge blow, but a fourth-place finish when you take into account the injuries, the Covid-19 situation and the quality of the top teams in this league is pretty respectable.”

DO YOU THINK WEDNESDAY WILL GET PROMOTED – AND WHY?

JC: “I do, yeah. I saw a list the other day of the teams in the Championship with the youngest players, and Wednesday are pretty much at the bottom.

“There's an absolute wealth of experience in this side, and there are plenty of players who have got previous experience in situations exactly the same as they currently find themselves in - so I don't think they'll be overawed by it at all.

“I do reckon it'll be tight, and may even go to extra time, but Wednesday have goals in them these days, so that bodes well. Hopefully.”

SUNDERLAND – JOE NICHOLSON (The Sunderland Echo)

FORM

JN: “Very good. Alex Neil took charge in the middle of February and has lost just once in 15 matches- in his second game at home to MK Dons.

“The team are on a 13-match unbeaten run and have averaged exactly two points per game since Neil’s appointment, which is very impressive given he’s working with a squad which was built under Lee Johnson’s management.

“Sunderland have had to rely on a couple of late goals but that can also been seen as a strength, giving the side real confidence and belief.”

KEY PLAYERS

JN: “Ross Stewart was named the supporters’ player of the year and has scored 24 league goals this campaign. He’s good in the air and effective running into the channels, yet his form has dipped recently, scoring just twice in his last 11 matches.

“After a tough start to the season captain Corry Evans has been a key player under Neil in midfield, while Bailey Wright and Danny Batth provide experience and physicality at the back.

THE GAFFER – ALEX NEIL

JN: “Confidence was on the floor when Neil took charge. The side had been thrashed 6-0 at Bolton and were beaten by Doncaster and Chetenham following Johnson’s sacking.

“Neil has turned the situation around in a short space of time and with little margin for error given how competitive League One has been this season.”

"The Scot has changed Sunderland’s shape, often playing with a back three and wing-backs, and their defensive record has improved significantly.”

DO YOU THINK SUNDERLAND WILL GET PROMOTED – AND WHY?

JN: “I think the Wednesday tie is a really close one to call and would make whoever comes through it favourites in the final.

“I think Neil will give Sunderland a very good chance of winning promotion. He has taken Norwich up through the Championship play-offs and has made this Sunderland side very tough to beat.

“Unlike in previous play-off campaigns, they are also coming in with momentum.”