Opinion: Play-off talking points so far

Sunderland booked their second trip to Wembley this season thanks to a sturdy defensive performance and that earned them a place in the final against Charlton Athletic, who saw off Doncaster Rovers on Friday evening. 

Here are five things we learned from those two fixtures: 

DRAWESOME!

Nineteen league draws had left many fans frustrated because if we had turned some of those into wins, we would have been promoted automatically.

But, the 0-0 draw we earned on Thursday evening was just what we needed, and it was indeed drawesome!

The performances of the defence and goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin deserved the most praise as they kept Pompey quiet for most the game. When Pompey did breakthrough, they were faced with the challenge of beating McLaughlin who was in outstanding form.

Over the two games, Sunderland were able to keep Pompey off the scoresheet - a pretty impressive feat when you consider just how good they have been this season.

THE 12TH MAN

Sunderland fans could have been forgiven for not travelling in big numbers on Thursday night.

The longest away trip of the season in the middle of the week in a game that was broadcast on TV could have been enough reason for the support to stay away.

But they didn’t. The red and white army were with the team all the way, cheering them into challenges and producing a better atmosphere than those in the home crowd.

Equally, Charlton Athletic enjoyed some great support as they sold out the Valley for the first time since 2015.

Those fans stuck with their team throughout the game despite blowing a two-goal aggregate lead - including going a goal down in extra time.

Addicks fans were so happy that they had earned a place at Wembley that they invaded the pitch - but remember Charlton - your promotion hasn’t been achieved yet! 

OZ-TURKISH DELIGHT

Alim Ozturk did not know whether he would be playing or not earlier this week because of the red card he received in the first leg.

But his appeal was successful, and he was back in the starting XI for kick off against Portsmouth. 

His performance was steady and composed as he helped Sunderland to a crucial draw, and he deserves a lot of praise coming out of the game.

With the final next weekend, Ozturk has surely done enough to keep his place and play in the biggest game of our season - something that did not seem likely only a few months ago. 

FIFTH PLACE OMENS

Not since the 2005-06 season has a team finished fifth in League One and won promotion.

Yes, there has been 12 Play-Offs since then - but amazingly the fifth-place team has never won the promotion lottery.

The last time it happened, it was current Academy of Light manager Paul Reid who helped steer Barnsley towards a promotion.

Hopefully, Reid can help rub some of that fifth-place luck on the players next week at training.

1998 COMPARISONS

We all remember what happened in the 1998 Championship Play-Off Final. Sunderland and Charlton played out a thrilling 4-4 draw which was eventually settled on penalties.

Charlton won that day and the game rightfully went down as the most entertaining at the old Wembley Stadium. 

Funnily enough, Charlton actually drew 4-4 with Doncaster last night and went on to win the game on penalties. 

So, could we see Sunderland and Charlton play out another thriller at Wembley? I am not sure if my heart can take it!

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