Portsmouth 0-0 Sunderland - SAFC win 1-0 on aggregate
Sunderland AFC are heading back to Wembley following a League One Play-Off Semi-Final victory over Portsmouth.
Chris Maguire’s Stadium of Light strike proved to be the goal that sent the Lads back to the capital, with a goalless draw at Fratton Park on Thursday evening ending Pompey’s promotion hopes.
A battling display on the south coast saw every player rise to the challenge, as the home side were frustrated throughout.
Clear-cut chances were few and far between, but when Pompey did muster attempts on goal, there was no way past the superb Jon McLaughlin.
Once again, Wembley beckons for the Lads in red and white.
Jack Ross made two changes for the game, as Grant Leadbitter and Maguire replaced Lynden Gooch and Lewis Morgan.
But it was the Pompey teamsheet that sparked pre-match debate, as Kenny Jackett named top scorers Jamal Lowe and Ronan Curtis on the bench.
Sunderland started on the front foot, with Leadbitter’s long-range effort forcing Craig MacGillivray into an early save, and thunderous challenges from Gareth Evans and Tom Flanagan did little to quell a fiery atmosphere on the south coast.
Tempers continued to flare as Maguire and Tom Naylor came together in the corner, with the latter following Evans’ into the referee’s notebook.
Bryan Oviedo was next to test the Pompey backline, but after weaving his way through numerous blue shirts, his thumping effort cannoned against a defender.
Maguire was the next man to be booked, with the home side’s first chances coming soon after, but Sunderland held firm and bodies were thrown on the line to ensure Jon McLaughlin remained untested.
With 28 minutes played, and with Charlie Wyke down injured, Pompey almost crafted an opening for Oli Hawkins, but the cross was a fraction too high for the towering forward.
The home side should have levelled before the break when Hawkin’s teed up Nathan Thompson, but with the goal at his mercy, the defender was denied by McLaughlin.
At half-time, it was so far, so good for the boys in red and white.
Sunderland burst out of the blocks following the restart, with Oviedo’s effort fizzing over the top.
The home side volleyed with back with a chance of their own, but once again McLaughlin refuses to be beaten, as Hawkins’ header was clawed over the top.
Ross’ men frustrated Pompey in the stages that followed, as former Black Cat James Vaughan forced another save moments after coming off the bench.
And that frustration was felt by the home side throughout the closing stages, as Sunderland saw out the game and ensured they will be playing for promotion one week on Sunday.
Sunderland: McLaughlin, O’Nien, Ozturk, Flanagan, Oviedo, Cattermole, Power (Morgan 79), Leadbitter, Maguire (Gooch 68), Honeyman, Wyke (Grigg 84).
Subs not used: Ruiter, Dunne, Watmore, Matthews.
Portsmouth: MacGillivray, Thompson, Clarke, Burgess, Brown, Naylor, Close, Solomon-Otabor (Lowe 53), Pitman, Evans, Hawkins (Vaughan 68).
Subs not used: Bass, Walkes, Morris, Dennis, Curtis.