Managers at Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday, Wycombe Wanderers & Co have say as League One play-off battle reaches a climax

The battle to seal a League One play-off place enters the final week – and the competition is fierce.

Monday, 25th April 2022, 5:08 pm

Sunderland boosted their chances with a resounding 5-1 win over Cambridge United at the weekend ahead of the final two games, Rotherham United at home on Tuesday and Morecambe away this Saturday, the final day.

The League One table couldn’t be closer when it comes to the battle for a play-off place.

We take a look at what Sunderland need to do this week and what the opposition managers have been saying.

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Sunderland beat 10-man Cambridge United on Saturday.

What could happen Tuesday night?

Sunderland could secure a play-off place if they beat Rotherham on Tuesday night.

The Black Cats have moved up to fourth in the League One table on 80 points, but are still just a point ahead of seventh-place Sheffield Wednesday.

Wednesday were beaten 1-0 at Wycombe and, like Sunderland, have a game in hand on some of their play-off rivals.

That means that Sunderland would only secure a top-six place on Tuesday if they beat Rotherham and Wednesday fail to win at Fleetwood.

The Black Cats will then head to Morecambe on the final day of the season next weekend, while Wednesday will host Portsmouth.

Plymouth and Wycombe are fifth and sixth respectively but both just have one match remaining.

Argyle will host MK Dons on the final day of the season while Wycombe will travel to Burton.

Sunderland boss Alex Neil reflecting on win over Cambridge United:

He said: “It was our best performance since I’ve been here. I know it’s against 10 men but how often do you see a game with 10 men get really difficult and sticky?

“I thought just from minute one we took the game away from them and controlled it.

“We moved the ball really well, we had a really clear approach in terms of how we wanted to approach the game and I thought the lads carried out it magnificently well.

“We could have had double figures and there were numerous excellent performances right across the pitch.

“What pleased me most was off the back of our half-time team talk, our professionalism in the second half.

“We talked about starving them of the ball, keep rotating it, and the chances will come. That’s exactly what we did.”

Wycombe Wanderers boss Gareth Ainsworth after his side’s win over Sheffield Wednesday:

Ainsworth said: “I thought we edged it – it could have been a draw, easily.

“Sheffield Wednesday have come and they’re a Championship side, every player is Championship-quality in their team, so that makes that result so sweet for us.

“The table is absolutely mental – I can’t believe we’ve got 80 points and we are where we are.

“We’re going to have to go again next week and hope some favours are done midweek, what a mental league this is.

“I said judge us after 46 games, but you can start judging after 45 if you want because 80 points is phenomenal in this division, but we need that three points next Saturday to stay in these play-offs.

“If we don’t get in on 83 points, then I don’t know what more we could do.”

Sheffield Wednesday boss Darren Moore ahead of his side’s trip to Fleetwood Town

Speaking after the defeat at Wycombe, Moore said: “I told the boys we can’t afford to let the disappointment of this game affect us because on Tuesday we’ve got to react in the right manner.

"We know what we’ve got to do.

"We’ll regroup, recover and then we’ll get planned and detailed for Tuesday’s game.

“They’re fighting for their lives, for their League One status and survival, we want the points because we want to get ourselves back into that top six - so the game’s going to be there for both teams and both clubs for different reasons.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’re focused and we’re detailed, back what we’re about and make sure we go in there with the right game plan.”

Plymouth boss Steven Schumacher after his side’s 1-1 draw with Wigan

Schumacher was happy with the way his side raised their game after the break after playing second fiddle.

“I’m tired,” he said. “I don’t know how the players are feeling but I’m shattered!

“I thought it was a really tough game, the first half in particular we were right up against it.

“We had to defend incredibly well, because Wigan started like a house on fire.

“It was tough, and we really had to dig in.

“We didn’t really get an opportunity to play any football, because they were on top in all areas.

“But in the second half I thought we did loads better.

“We matched their energy, we played with more freedom, and when we went forward we looked like we had more of a spark about us.

“The second-half performance was really pleasing and, to get a point, I think it’s a good result for us.”

MK Dons boss never doubted his side

MK Dons manager Liam Manning revealed he never doubted his side would bounce back in style after the 2-0 win over Morecambe ended a poor run of form.

Manning said: “I had complete confidence that we would respond the way we did today, after such a good run and having the results we have done the last couple of games, it is always going to test you.

“The team ethic, the togetherness that we have, the respect they have for each other, you’re able to bounce back and it was really pleasing.”