Neil keen for an open game

Sunderland boss Alex Neil has urged his players to look to express themselves in Monday’s League One play-off semi-final against Darren Moore’s Sheffield Wednesday (Match Betting – Sheffield Wednesday 19/20, Draw 5/2, Sunderland 11/4).

Ross Stewart (7/4 – Anytime Goalscorer) scored the only goal in Friday’s opening match as the Black Cats sealed a 1-0 win to provide them with the narrowest of margins heading into their trip to Hillsborough.

Sunderland were on top for most of the first leg, but Wednesday grew in confidence and had the better of the closing stages.

However, Moore’s men couldn’t force an equaliser and now have work to do in front of their home fans.

Neil admits that the “magnitude” of Monday’s second leg, with a place at Wembley against Wycome on May 21 the prize, means he is expecting another frantic fixture, something he believes can benefit his side (Promotion – Wycombe 5/4, Sunderland 6/4, Sheffield Wednesday 11/4).

Even so, he admits some of the onus has to fall on his players to take responsibility by controlling the key moments of the match, citing last Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final when Manchester City fell to an extra-time defeat to Real Madrid as an example of what he does not want to see.

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“I want an open game, but I want us to be in control of it,” he said, via the Chronicle Live. “I’m quite comfortable in admitting that I am a bit of a control freak in terms of matches. If I don’t feel that I’m in control, I need to change something.

“Obviously, there’s only so much control you can have from the side of the pitch, but providing I understand where their threat comes from, where we’re vulnerable and how to protect it, and the lads understand all of that, I’m happy.”

Wednesday’s Harlee Dean is expected to keep his place in the Owls’ XI after returning for the first leg, while Barry Bannan should be fit having seemingly shaken off the issue that made him a doubt ahead of last Friday’s match at the Stadium of Light.

Similar to Moore, Neil could name an unchanged side, with Carl Winchester unlikely to feature and Nathan Broadhead a doubt.

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Author: Paula Allen