Sunderland have played over 4400 minutes of league action, scored 81 goals, played at Wembley in the Checkatrade Trophy final, fought out two legs of a play-off semi-final and now only 90 minutes stands in their way if they want to secure promotion back to the Championship.
Sunderland and Charlton will go head-to-head in the League One play-off final, with more on the line than just promotion. The Black Cats will want revenge for 1998 after Charlton beat Sunderland on penalties 7-6 after the play-off classic ended 4-4 after extra time. Was it destined that Sunderland would face the Addicks in this season’s play-off final?
Both teams played out a fantastic League One season, with Charlton finishing above Sunderland in third, meaning they faced Doncaster in the semi-finals of the play-offs, while Sunderland took on Portsmouth.
Only one goal separated Sunderland and Pompey in their two-legged tie, as Chris Maguire’s sublime volley in the first leg was the difference between the two sides.
Charlton made hard work of their play-off semi-final against Doncaster. Last Friday, they took a 2-1 league into the second leg at the Valley and scored early through Bielik, but Donny responded only nine minutes later through Tommy Rowe.
As the game progressed, the visitors were becoming more confident and with two minutes left, they sent the match into extra time after a Butler header. In the additional thirty, John Marquis had given Doncaster the lead and for a moment, Wembley was in sight, but only one minute later, Darren Pratley made the match head to penalties.
After John Marquis’ penalty was saved by Phillips, Naby Sarr could have won it for the Addicks, but missed. Then, more drama occurred as Donny knew they had to score to send the shootout to sudden death, but Rowe fired wide to send Charlton into the play-off final.
Sunderland have experienced Wembley this season already after we played there in the Checkatrade Trophy final. Aiden McGeady had given Sunderland the lead in the first half where they were fairly dominant, but in the second half, Portsmouth came out all guns blazing and equalised through Nathan Thompson.
The match progressed into extra time and, after Jamal Lowe looked like he had won the trophy for the southerners, Aiden McGeady scored his second of the match. In the penalty shootout, Lee Cattermole missed the only spot kick, meaning Pompey won 5-4 on penalties. Obviously, everyone will want to win this time around, including Luke O’Nien, who said that he wants to “put things right” and “make sure we are on the end of the right result this time”.
Over 290 days ago, Sunderland’s second ever League One season got under way with a 2-1 win over Charlton. And now, Sunderland will end the season against Charlton in the League One Play-Off Final with the club’s fate still not decided.
From pre-match to post-match, the Sunderland fans will be enjoying their time throughout, and from possibly partying in Trafalgar Square to hopefully seeing their side lift the League One play-off trophy.
For Sunderland, Aiden McGeady is available for the Black Cats after missing both legs of their play-off semi-final against Portsmouth. Also, Duncan Watmore may feature after sitting on the bench for the second leg of that semi-final.
Meanwhile, for Charlton, Lyle Taylor - their top scorer - will most likely start for the Addicks, and will pose a huge threat for Sunderland’s two central defenders. He already has 22 goals this season and scored against the Black Cats in the opening game of the season from the spot.
Both Sunderland’s and Charlton’s biggest game of the season can’t come soon enough, but hopefully by Sunday evening, the Sunderland fans will be travelling a long way home with promotion to the Championship.