Following a turgid team performance in Sunderland’s play-off semi-final first leg defeat earlier this week, Lee Johnson must unleash Chris Maguire in the reverse fixture this Saturday.
With the Black Cats’ season very much hanging in the balance after their 2-0 defeat against Lincoln City on Wednesday, Johnson’s side must simply go all-out at the Stadium of Light this afternoon if they are to have any chance of playing in the Championship next season.
Indeed, in the first leg, the 39-year-old Sunderland boss made the rather strange decision not to involve Chris Maguire over the course of the 90 minutes, something which appeared to backfire rather substantially considering they left the game scorelless.
However, Johnson must right this wrong on Saturday, as the 32-year-old has proven on countless occasions this season that he has the capability to be a game-changer for his side.
Having started a mere 11 League One games for the Black Cats this season – making a further 22 appearances from the bench – Maguire has nevertheless returned an impressive haul of five goals and five assists, as well as creating seven big chances for his teammates.
What makes these returns all the more impressive is that the forward’s goal involvements have often come at crucial moments, such as restoring his side’s lead in an eventual 3-1 win over Plymouth Argyle, setting up Charlie Wyke’s winner in a 1-0 victory against Swindon Town and scoring a 97th-minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Crewe Alexandra.
The man who Jack Ross labelled an “enigma” has very much shown that he is a man for the big occasion, and occasions do not come much bigger than having to overturn a 2-0 deficit in a play-off semi-final to save your season.
As such, Johnson simply must unleash the £4,400-per-week forward on Saturday in order to give his side the best possible chance of avoiding yet another season in the third tier of English football.