Sunderland are heading back to Wembley in the Sky Bet League One play-off final to face Wycombe Wanderers, after scoring a 93rd-minute winner against Sheffield Wednesday on Monday night.
The play-off semi-final second leg was looking like it was heading for extra time, after Lee Gregory levelled the tie on aggregate with 74 minutes on the clock, but Roberts’ late equaliser on the night - the winner overall - means that Sunderland renew their Wembley history.
On the whole, it was a very composed performance from Alex Neil’s side, who rarely had a sniff of goal until the second half, and didn’t really trouble Peacock-Farrell until Roberts’ strike.
So, set the date in your diary: May 21st, Sunderland will face Gareth Ainsworth’s side under the Wembley arch for the final place in the Sky Bet Championship.
Alex Neil stuck with the same starting 11 that impressed on Friday night in the first leg. The most important inclusion was that of Nathan Broadhead’s return to the bench, whilst after netting the only goal of the first leg, Ross Stewart continued to lead the line.
The assumption pre-match was that Sunderland would need to control the opening stages of the contest, and so they did.
Happy to move the ball around from the back, it was a fairly confident start from the away side, but yet with Sheffield Wednesday’s first passage forward, the warning signs struck.
Marvin Johnson’s cross from the left was met at the front post by Lee Gregory, but his volley was blocked by Bailey Wright, before Barry Bannan’s ball over the top proved just too heavy for the chasing Josh Windass.
The tension was building across the Hillsborough pitch and in the stand as the Wednesday pressure was starting to tell upon an otherwise resolute Sunderland backline, as Bannan orchestrated another move, but Windass’ effort was blocked twice by Danny Batth.
In parts, the second leg mirrored the first: Sunderland were keen to silence the crowd and slow the game down at any opportunity, just like Darren Moore’s side did at the Stadium of Light, whilst the home side sought to push forward for the opener.
As the first half progressed, the match was slowly becoming more stretched, we were frantic in possession, unable to keep the ball as Wednesday looked more dangerous in the final third.
Bannan’s cross was missed by Gregory and was forced behind by Gooch, with Johnson waiting at the back post, before Wednesday’s biggest chance came when George Byers’ aspirational overhead kick proved to be a comfortable save for Anthony Patterson.
For Sunderland, the half-time interval came at just the right time, and after the break they came out of it looking more threatening. Jack Clarke dragged his effort wide of the left post from a well-worked corner routine before Patrick Roberts curled an effort into the gloves of Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
Suddenly, the match was becoming more open and Alex Neil’s side was looking to pick the holes in the Sheffield Wednesday backline, as Roberts forced a good block by Jordan Storey after the Black Cats broke away with Clarke and Stewart.
Tension began to reach new heights amongst the travelling Sunderland support and those watching on TV as Sheffield Wednesday came so, so close to levelling the tie on aggregate.
Josh Windass’ cross was fizzed across the face of goal, and was forced to be bundled away by Gooch, before Gregory could poke home, whilst from the resulting corner, Sam Hutchinson’s header forced a two-handed save from Patterson, a collision with Gooch that caused the Wednesday defender to be forced off the field.
The clock was ticking down, but with 74 minutes on the clock, Hillsborough was sent into pure delirium, with a moment of heartbreak for the Lads.
Barry Bannan sent a beautiful pass through a gap in the Sunderland defence to Marvin Johnson, who cut it across the face of goal to Gregory, who was afforded a simple sweeping finish past Anthony Patterson.
Sunderland looked like they had a mountain to climb, and Hillsborough was bouncing. Darren Moore’s side was dominant and in complete control of the contest, and we simply couldn’t get a foothold in the remaining stages of the 90.
Tiredness began to creep into both sides’ displays, but Sunderland were keen to take the match to Wednesday, and in the third minute of 10 added on, the Black Cats produced a sucker punch that has sent them to Wembley.
Jack Clarke carried the ball forward on the left, before cutting inside and sending the ball to Roberts, who superbly slipped it under Peacock-Farrell to send Mackems around the world into utter mayhem.
Yet, there were still six minutes of the match remaining, and in all, this is the play-offs and late drama could have been expected.
Arguably, there was very little - Berahino tried a very ambitious long-range effort, but it proved to be an easy save from Patterson.
But, Sunderland did what they have done best over the two legs, and defended their lead, and another trip to Wembley awaits. We are heading back to the main stage of English football, and another shot at rewriting our Wembley history awaits.
Only one match remains for Sunderland, one final step to overleap, one final mountain to climb. And it’s going to be a massive one at that. Wycombe have the status of the underdogs and will be an extremely tough final ahead.
But, at the moment, that’s tomorrow’s problem. For now, let it sink in. Sunderland are heading back to Wembley. Maybe, just maybe, is this our year?