Sunderland are going back to Wembley with a resolute performance against Portsmouth where Jon McLaughlin and the Sunderland defence shone throughout.
Sunderland and Jack Ross had a game plan to not let Portsmouth through and they were hugely successful. It may not have been the greatest game ever in a scrappy affair but the only thing that mattered was the scoreline. Book your coach or train tickets we’re going back to Wembley!
Sunderland travelled to Portsmouth set to play the biggest game of the season with a 1-0 lead following Chris Maguire’s stunning volley at the Stadium of Light.
Jack Ross made two changes following the first leg win with Maguire coming in for Lewis Morgan and Grant Leadbitter replacing Lynden Gooch.
Aiden McGeady was out of the squad with injury and didn’t make the trip. However, Duncan Watmore made a return to the squad and started on the bench.
After all the 1-1 draws that’s all that the lads needed to secure a place in the playoff final and a return to Wembley.
The first attempt on goal was from Sunderland and the ball dropped to Leadbitter from range and tested Craig McGillivray who held on to the ball well.
Through the opening ten minutes, Sunderland had started well and were getting forward on multiple occasions looking to assert themselves on the game.
After a poor start, Portsmouth had grown in the game, they hadn’t tested McLaughlin but did look dangerous from crosses.
Not surprisingly there was a real edge to the game, and it was a match with a lot of fouls, both teams had men booked.
Brad Pitman almost released Oliver Hawkins with a chipped ball to the back post picked out the striker at the far post.
Leadbitter lofted the ball up Maguire who managed to dink it over the keeper but couldn’t regain his footing and slipped over – a great chance spurned.
For all of Sunderland’s good work defensively, when the lads got the ball, they were very wasteful and struggled to retain possession.
Portsmouth looked destined to score as Hawkins outjumped Flanagan and nodded it to Gareth Evans, but McLaughlin stayed big and made a huge save.
From the resulting corner, Portsmouth hit the bar as Matthew Clarke’s header bounced off the ground and hit the bar, another escape from the lads.
McLaughlin made another big save eight minutes into the second half as he beat Flanagan again in the air but couldn’t beat the Scot in goal who tipped it over the bar.
The game was so stop-start, neither team could gain any momentum and in truth, it wasn’t the best game of football.
McLaughlin was turning into Sunderland’s man of the match, Pitman hooked it to the back post and substitute James Vaughan headed it down where McLaughlin stopped with his feet.
With not long left Sunderland were digging their heels and trying to prevent Portsmouth from creating any chances.
Vaughan was incredibly lucky to escape a red card he had already been booked and barged Oviedo in the back when the ball was nowhere near him – an incredibly lucky man.
With only minutes to spare the ball was lifted into the box and McLaughlin looked to have been fouled but the ref played on and Sunderland thankfully cleared.
Jon McLaughlin with an absolutely heroic performance, a ten out of ten performance from the big Scot to seal the win.
Full Time: Portsmouth (0) 0-0 (1) Sunderland
ALS Man of the Match: Jon McLaughlin