Sunderland are set for another memorable day out at Wembley after Will Grigg led the Wearsiders to a 2-0 victory over Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium .
Goals from Grigg and Lewis Morgan either side of half-time were enough to see off Rovers in a clinical performance that puts the Mackems through to the Checkatrade Trophy final.
Portsmouth await after the Black Cats proved to be the more decisive side in either box against Bristol. Just five years after a special weekend and major cup final against Manchester City, Sunderland fans will once again descend upon one of football’s most famous venues.
Aiden McGeady forced Jack Bonham into a great early save, his cross-cum-shot was heading for the top corner before Bonham’s intervention at full-stretch.
Bristol Rovers showcased greater quality and confidence in possession than in the league match ten days ago. They nearly opened the scoring when Tom Flanagan barely managed to deflect Liam Sercombe’s driven cross wide.
Sunderland dodged another bullet just before the half-hour mark. Jonson Clarke-Harris’ powerful strike was spilled by Jon McLaughlin who just recovered in time to block the on-rushing Stuart Sinclair before he could tap into an empty net.
From nowhere Grigg broke the deadlock just before half-time. Max Power released the frontman with an inch-perfect through-ball and the Northern Ireland international turned and finished clinically.
Sunderland doubled their lead straight after half-time. Morgan was first onto the loose ball after Bonham parried a Lynden Gooch strike. Morgan’s first touch created the space he needed to roll the ball under the keeper.
The Mackems nearly threw away their two-goal advantage immediately. Tom Lockyer was unmarked when he headed over from the penalty spot after the Black cats switched off at a Bristol corner.
Rovers reacted well to Sunderland’s second, but couldn’t create the golden chance they needed to make the visitors sweat. Sunderland forced the hosts to settle for a series of crosses and corners that the Mackems dealt with well for the most part.
Despite plenty and toil and effort Rovers couldn’t make a breakthrough or put Sunderland under major pressure. Wembley awaits for 40,000 plus Mackems.
Jon McLaughlin, 7/10: His handling was more suspect than usual, but he came up with big stops when the team needed them.
Luke O’Nien, 5/10: Had an absolute stinker going forward.
Tom Flanagan, 7/10: Produced alert, effective defending throughout.
Jimmy Dunne, 7/10: Excellent in dealing with a series of Bristol Rovers’ crosses.
Adam Matthews, 7/10: A timely reminder of just how good a technician the Wales international is at this level.
Max Power, 6/10: Produced a majestic assist for Grigg’s opener.
Grant Leadbitter, 7/10: Great on the ball too lightweight off it.
Lewis Morgan, 7/10: Bagged the crucial second goal and showcased his brilliant touch and control throughout.
George Honeyman, 6/10: Struggled to impact the game, before coming off injured.
Aiden McGeady, 7/10: One of those games where his final ball is slightly off.
Will Grigg, 7/10: Produced the moment of class the match was crying out for.
(SUB) Lynden Gooch, 7/10: Added a greater threat to Sunderland’s play on the counter after his introduction just before half-time.
(SUB) Duncan Watmore, 5/10: Made little impact after being brought on at a time when Jack Ross’ men were looking to kill the game.
(SUB) Dylan McGeouch, 5/10: Barely had time to make an impression.
Man of the Match: Adam Matthews