Chief Sports Writer Scott Wilson highlights Sunderland's three key players ahead of Sunday's League One play-off final with Charlton Athletic


The Northern Echo:

Last season, Sunderland’s goalkeeping department was a huge weakness. This term, thanks to the arrival of Jon McLaughlin, it has been one of the Black Cats’ biggest strengths.

McLaughlin, a Scotland international who boasts a play-off final victory on his CV thanks to his exploits with Bradford City, has performed superbly all season, pulling off crucial saves at crucial stages of matches.

He was one of Sunderland’s heroes in their semi-final win over Portsmouth, with his three saves at Fratton Park ensuring his side were able to keep a clean sheet and claim a 1-0 aggregate victory.

Charlton striker Lyle Taylor is one of the Addicks’ biggest assets – if he outwits the Sunderland back four, McLaughlin will be the last line of defence to keep him out.


The Northern Echo:

One of the key reasons Sunderland won their semi-final was because they avoided the kind of helter-skelter chaos that has been evident in some of this season’s other play-off matches. How did they avoid a pair of unstructured end-to-end encounters? Largely thanks to Lee Cattermole.

Cattermole was Sunderland’s midfield safety net against Portsmouth, patrolling the area in front of the back four to prevent Pompey’s play-makers from having the time or space to thread balls through to their forwards.

He will be charged with the same task on Sunday, and his leadership and commitment will once again be crucial to the Black Cats’ prospects of success.

Cattermole has some unfinished business at Wembley, having missed the decisive penalty in the Checkatrade Trophy final. He will be desperate to ensure Sunday’s game ends on a happier note.


The Northern Echo:

With Aiden McGeady a major doubt for Sunday’s game because of his ongoing foot problem, Sunderland need someone to step forward to replace the Irishman as their key creative spark.

Max Power, Lewis Morgan, George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch are all capable of offering an attacking threat from midfield, but Chris Maguire is the Sunderland player with the potential X-factor.

Since returning from injury in last month’s draw at Peterborough United, Maguire has scored two goals in five games and added a much-needed spark to the Black Cats frontline.

He changed the game after coming off the bench in the first leg of the semi-final, and will surely start on Sunday as Sunderland look to take the game to Charlton.