CHRIS MAGUIRE believes he has shown he deserves to start in Thursday’s play-off semi-final at Portsmouth, exactly the sort of occasion he feels he can flourish in.

Maguire emerged from the bench to turn match-winner at the Stadium of Light in the first leg and he looked up for the battle as soon as he entered the play.

He was then at the centre of some after-match niggle before the players left the pitch and that is likely to have set the tone for the trip to a packed Fratton Park, which is renowned for its intimidating atmospheres on big occasions.

Maguire wants to be in the thick of the action on the south coast and would love to help finish off the job after his winning goal on Saturday edged Sunderland closer to a return to Wembley this season.

“It’s games like this you live for,” said Maguire, “Every footballer wants to be involved in games like this and there’s no better way to do it (win promotion) than the play-offs. If you can win them, it’s a great occasion.

“All you can do when you’re a sub is come on and make your mark or try and help the team out and to come on and get the winner and the way it went in, I’m obviously delighted. The main thing is that we’ve got the win that we needed.

“That’s what the manager wants me to do. There’s two ways you can go about it, you can feel sorry for yourself and then when you get the opportunity you’re not quite at it or you can go out and prove your point. I wasn’t happy but I knew I would get the chance to get on and I felt I showed the fans and the manager I was in the right frame of mind.”

Maguire has had to wait for his chance again after recovering from injury but he is the sort of player that can unlock a defence with a bit of magic. Sunderland don’t have too many of that type of player, particularly with Aiden McGeady still struggling with his foot problem.

“I felt I was ready to start, of course – I finished the game at Southend and I’ve felt since I came back that I’ve worked hard to get back to where I am but that’s the manager’s decision and I respect that. It’s not a time to go and ask why,” said Maguire.

“I’ve got to do the business when I get the nod and I feel that hopefully I’ve done that and proved to the manager I’ve done it.

“You’ve got to be professional. I want to start every game but when you don’t you want to come on and make a point to say that I want to be in the team and hopefully I’ve done that.”

Sunderland have already boosted their damaged confidence by beating Portsmouth. Having failed to overcome Kenny Jackett’s team in their previous three meetings this season before Saturday, it eased frustrations after slipping out the top two following one win from seven.

“We’ve not beaten them over the two legs yet but I thought it was vital what we showed when we were down to ten men,” said Maguire, referring to Alim Ozturk’s red card when Sunderland were ahead.

“Portsmouth will know that, they’ll know they’re in for a real game on Thursday because they’ve got to come out of the traps. It was great to get the win in front of our home fans and hopefully we’ll give them something to cheer about come Thursday.”

Sunderland will have Ozturk available after a successful appeal against his dismissal.

Maguire said: “They were a little bit of a bogey team because we hadn’t beaten them so when you go down to ten men with (more than) 15 minutes left you know they’re going to come at you with long balls but we showed great team spirit with the backing of the fans to cheer us on.

“Hopefully we can have a big celebration and look forward to a trip to Wembley.”