As Sunderland prepare to climb the mountain of a two-goal deficit this afternoon in the League One play-off semi final second leg, fans will be returning to the Stadium of Light in the first time for over a year to watch their team in, what will be without question, their biggest game of the season.

Lincoln City gave themselves a huge advantage with a 2-0 win on Wednesday evening at Sincil Bank thanks to goals from Tom Hopper and Brennan Johnson in the second half.

Sunderland struggled to get going in the game until the second half

Around 10,000 spectators are expected to head through the turnstiles and Black Cats boss Lee Johnson has a simple message for the fans.

“Just believe in us for the short term which is obviously the game.

“Believe in us for the long term and trust the fact that everything we do is to try and benefit the future of the club. It’s as simple as that.”

A huge afternoon awaits the Black Cats with the chance to seal a date with Wembley on Sunday 30th May for the League One play-off final. This is their 3rd season in the third tier of English football after being relegated from the Championship in 2018.

After a really successful campaign which has seen the club lift the EFL Trophy and be in the race for automatic promotion, they’ve struggled for form heading into the play-off campaign winning just one game out of their last ten in a run that stretches back to the beginning of April.

With plenty of noise expected at the Stadium of Light, Johnson wants him and his players to harness a pressure that players should relish in their careers.

“We always say that pressure is a privilege.

“We understand the expectation at this football club and I think you’ve got to enjoy it.

“I think you’ve got to enjoy the wins, I think you’ve got to play football to enjoy it.

“I think you’ve got to create a rapport with the fans. You’re not always going to get it right in terms of the performance.

“What we have to show is effort. For this game, we obviously need performance, effort and quality.

“If we’re talking about bigger picture now, we always have the opportunity to set the tone every time we perform in front of our fans and this one is no different.”

“There has to be a slightly different take on the game and the boys are ready.

“We know our jobs and we go into it wanting to be bold and wanting to be brave.

“As they cross the white line, it’s then 99.9% down to the boys.

“As long as they’ve got clarity, as long as they’ve got belief and confidence then we should put in a good performance.

Ahead of their biggest game of the season, Johnson emphasised the message to fans that he’ll be doing everything he can to bring the best out of the team and the supporters can do their bit as well.

“There’s not an agenda from me, it’s not about personal gain. It’s about delivering what everybody wants and I will work my absolute hardest to do that.

“I will make sure that they’re got a team they’re proud of in terms of performance levels and understanding that history and the culture of the club and the fans requirements.”

Concerning team news ahead of the game, Denver Hume and Conor McLaughlin are not available for the rest of the season through injury while Aiden McGeady can start the game after the club and player came to a resolution over a clause in his contract. Everyone else in the squad is available for the 3:30pm kick off at the Stadium of Light.