SUNDERLAND manager Alex Neil was proud of the way his players didn’t let the occasion get the better of them as 45,000 supporters watched them win their play-off semi final first leg against Sheffield Wednesday.

Thanks to Ross Stewart’s goal on the stroke of half-time, the Black Cats take a slender 1-0 win to Hillsborough on Monday night.

“I thought we were excellent, to handle such a high-pressure environment” said the Sunderland boss.

“The atmosphere was electric, I thought they were an absolute credit to the club tonight. It was brilliant. The players have then got to take that expectation, that atmosphere, soak it up and manufacture that into a really good performance, which I think they did.”

It was a cagey game between the two sides with one slip-up from Sam Hutchinson allowing Stewart in to take his chance.

Sunderland had a flurry of chances in the opening stages of the second half with Alex Pritchard crashing a shot off the bar. The Black Cats lack of killer instinct to extend their advantage was the only downside for the boss.

Neil continued: “The only disappointment from our point of view is that we didn't add to the scoreline, we had two or three glorious chances between half time to 75 minutes, I felt we deserved another at that point.

“I thought the first half, we completely controlled it albeit we would have liked to have created a few more chances. But it's hard when a team sits in as a five, our change of shape I thought worked really well, we just didn't quite get the ball into the final third enough.”

Sunderland are on a fourteen match unbeaten under Neil. Once again, the defenders stood up to the task of coming up against an experienced Sheffield Wednesday side who forced the issue in the closing stages of the game.

Neil added: “Our defensive structure has been excellent for a while now and our two centre-backs stood up really, really strong tonight, because of late there's always been that spare defender when we've played with a three.

“It was a good all-round performance and we've given ourselves an advantage.”

Meanwhile, Sunderland will continue to assess the fitness of Nathan Broadhead who was left out of the matchday squad due to a muscle injury.