Match report: Sunderland head to Wembley

Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Sunderland AFC – SAFC win 2-1 on aggregate

Sunderland AFC will face Wycombe Wanderers at Wembley Stadium in the Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final following a 1-1 draw against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.

The opening 45 minutes ended as it began, with half-chances falling by the wayside and hopeful penalty appeals waved away for the hosts.

Frustrated at the interval, Wednesday continue to search for a way past the Black Cats’ backline during the second period – and they found one with 74 minutes played.

Marvin Johnson raced down the left and fired a cross into the six-yard box, which was hammered home from close range by Lee Gregory to level on aggregate.

Ten minutes of additional time had the home crowd anticipating a memorable finale, but Patrick Roberts’ 93rd-minute winner stunned the Owls and sent Sunderland to Wembley.

Alex Neil named an unchanged starting XI for the second-leg match-up in South Yorkshire, but Nathan Broadhead was included amongst the substitutes.

Sheffield Wednesday boss Darren Moore did shuffle his pack, making two changes as Josh Windass and Jack Hunt replaced Saido Berahino and Liam Palmer.

A feisty start to proceedings saw Sam Hutchinson and Dennis Cirkin crunch into early challenges, but Wednesday crafted the first opening and brave defending from Wright prevented Johnson’s cross from reaching the six-yard box.

The Australian suffered a head injury in the process and required treatment, but he quickly dusted himself down and made an exceptional block to deny Gregory with 11 minutes played.

Clever play from Jack Clarke put the home defenders on their toes shortly after, as the winger’s low cross was thumped clear before Windass’ effort was blocked.

George Byers and Barry Bannan had both collected yellow cards by the half-hour mark, compiling a frustrating opening half-hour for the Owls.  

Byers’ overhead kick nestled into the grasp of Patterson and Harlee Dean headed over before the break – and penalty appeals were waved away when Windass toppled in the box – but it remained goalless heading into the final 45 minutes of the tie.

Wednesday looked to push forward after the restart, but a key chance fell to Clarke on 49 minutes and the winger dragged a 10-yard effort wide following a well-worked corner.

Bailey Peacock-Farrell denied Roberts after Clarke tore into opposite territory and stormed into the box before the hour mark – and the former Manchester City man was denied again, seemingly by a rogue defensive hand, moments later.   

A thumping low cross from Windass deflected just wide and Patterson claimed a looping header, but the Lads’ resistance was broken by Gregory with 74 minutes played.

The equaliser cranked the volume up to 11 in South Yorkshire, as the home side rallied their team and sensed the opportunity to end the tie inside the 90 minutes.

But the Black Cats stood up to the challenge and battled determinedly against the blue and white tide, knowing that with time ticking away, one final opening could fall in their favour.

Ten minutes of additional time set up a nervy finale, with both sides knowing that their respective seasons were balanced on the edge of a knife.  

Ecstasy followed.

Clarke tore down the left and picked out his man, teeing up Roberts to convert from close range and spark wild celebrations in a 2,000-strong away end.

Sunderland and Wycombe Wanderers are the final two teams standing.

At Wembley Stadium, only one will prevail.

Sheffield Wednesday: Peacock-Farrell, Hutchinson (Palmer 70), Gregory, Bannan, Windass (Paterson 78), Byers (Berahino 95), Dean, Johnson, Luongo, Hunt (Mendez-Laing 71), Storey.
Subs not used: Wildsmith, Kamberi, Dunkley.

Sunderland AFC: Patterson, Evans, Batth, Gooch, O’Nien, Stewart, Cirkin, Pritchard (Matete 97), Clarke (Doyle 98), Wright, Roberts (Broadhead 97).
Subs not used:
Hoffmann, Embleton, Neil, Hume.

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