Roberts goal sends Sunderland to play-off final

by 24britishtvMay 9, 2022, 10:20 p.m. 11
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Last updated on .From the section League One

Sunderland will play Wycombe in the League One play-off final after Patrick Roberts' stoppage-time goal at Sheffield Wednesday.

Wednesday then looked the more likely to go on and get a second but the Wearsiders caught them cold.

Jack Clarke escaped down the left and pulled the ball back for Roberts to crash a shot home.

Wednesday still had time to find a second goal that would have sent the tie to extra time because of the 10 minutes that were added on following Sam Hutchinson's head injury earlier in the second half - but they could not fashion one more big chance.

They will now spend at least another campaign in the third tier after being relegated from the Championship on the final day of last season.

Sunderland's progress means that the play-off final will be contested by the teams who finished fifth and sixth in League One, after the Chairboys got past third-placed MK Dons.

Alex Neil will look to guide them to a victory at Wembley that will end a four-year spell in League One after their successive relegations from the Premier League.

Wednesday had the better of a tetchy first half but the closest they came to a goal was when Anthony Patterson easily held George Byers' well-executed bicycle kick.

Roberts sent a shot straight at home goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell after an enterprising run from Clarke, before Gregory levelled the tie with a close-range finish after Barry Bannan's incisive pass had freed Marvin Johnson down the inside left and he cut back first time.

Thereafter it looked like the home side were the more likely to go on and find a second goal that would have taken them to Wembley.

However, Tottenham loanee Clarke got away down the left and pulled the ball back for the onrushing Roberts to convert and spark wild celebrations among the travelling fans.

Neil to succeed where others failed?

Neil will now look to succeed where Jack Ross, Phil Parkinson and Lee Johnson all failed and lead the Black Cats back to the Championship

The Scot took over in February after Johnson was sacked the previous month following a humbling 6-0 defeat at Bolton Wanderers.

Former Manchester United midfielder and Black Cats boss Roy Keane had been the leading candidate to take over at one stage but ex-Norwich and Preston boss Neil has proved an astute appointment.

They have lost just one of his 17 matches in charge and they dug in at Hillsborough to get the result they needed.

Sunderland have never previously won promotion through the play-offs, with six failed attempts, but in Neil they have a man who has guided both Hamilton and the Canaries up through the play-offs.

His tie-winner Roberts was influential throughout the two semi-final games.

The 25-year-old joined the Wearsiders on a deal until the end of the season after being released by Manchester City in January following a long spell at City that had seen just one Premier League appearance and numerous loan spells.

The former England Under-20 man scored for loan side Derby on the final day of last season to send Wednesday down from the Championship and popped up again in time added on to haunt the Owls once more.

'A bridge too far' for Owls

Like the Black Cats, the Owls have a poor record in play-offs and they have now been unsuccessful in their past three attempts, including defeat by Hull City in the 2016 Championship play-off final.

Their fans felt they were on the wrong end of a number of 50-50 decisions and were enraged when a penalty was not awarded for handball when Dennis Cirkin fell onto the ball in the area in the first half, but in truth they did not make Patterson in the Sunderland goal make a real save of note prior to or after Gregory's goal.

Wednesday boss Darren Moore told Sky Sports the game was "a bridge too far" for his side, who had finished one point and one place above their opponents.

They will be one of the favourites for promotion once again next season and will hope to avoid a similar fate to city rivals Sheffield United, who spent six seasons in the third tier between 2011 and 2017.

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