Rory Fallow and Matt Keeling have been speaking on the latest episode of the Wise Men Say podcast, where they expressed their concerns over Sunderland’s centre-back pairing heading into the play-offs.
The Stadium of Light outfit are facing a two-legged tie with Lincoln City as the two teams aim to climb the football pyramid and become Championship clubs next season.
Sunderland’s success has largely been built on having a solid foundation, with their defensive record the third-best in League One.
However, an injury to first-choice centre-half Dion Sanderson has forced right-back Luke O’Nien to fill in at the heart of defence, and the 26-year-old has failed to fill Fallow and Keeling with confidence.
He said: (8:14) “It seemed that we could get away with Luke O’Nien at centre-half with Dion Sanderson and it seemed to work as a partnership didn’t it, but it’s not there with Bailey Wright and Luke O’Nein.”
Keeling replied: “No, O’Nein’s not, like it looks like he’s kind of gone. But we don’t have any other option, and I think you’re right, well, you’re definitely right that he was fine with Sanderson but as soon as he’s come out the team it’s completely different. He looks awful there at the minute.”
Fallow added: “He’s not comfortable, is he. He looked quite assured before, not always perfect, but look quite confident and assured. He’s just sort of almost second guessing himself now.”
TIF Thoughts on Sunderland’s play-off hopes…
An impressive 14-game unbeaten run from February to April had the North-East outfit on course for an automatic promotion place, but a dip in performances and results have meant they’re going to have to rely on the luck of the play-offs as they aim for a return to the Championship.
It’s always hard to predict the play-offs but having an unsettled backline will surely be a disadvantage to Sunderland as they aim to end their three-year stay in League One.