Sunderland Association Football Club is something which brings us all plenty of joy and sadness, and not usually in equal measure.
When things are bad, they are dreadful, but every now and again we get a night that almost seems to make up for weeks and weeks of utter crap.
Monday night at Hillsborough was one of these nights.
We went to the iconic stadium with a fairly simple objective; don’t lose. Avoiding defeat would be enough to see us to our fourth Wembley final in just under three years.
The Owls had made some effort to recreate the cauldron of noise we turned the Stadium of Light into in the home leg, and with their impressive home record there probably weren’t many neutrals who tipped us to make it to the final.
Quietly, very quietly, I can’t say I was all that confident about our chances, mainly due to the fact I was adamant the unfinished chances on home soil would come back to haunt us.
Half-time at Hillsborough came at a good time for us, after a bright start we seemed to run out of steam and the hosts were looking the better side. You could sense a big chance was coming in the second half and in fairness to Wednesday, they took their chance on the only occasion we switched off at the back.
The renewed noise from the home crowd coupled with a fresh wave of momentum from the Owls almost certainly tilted the odds in favour of Wednesday pushing on and sealing the win. Sunderland teams of the past would have buckled at this point and went on to concede again.
Yet this isn’t a Jack Ross, Phil Parkinson or Lee Johnson Sunderland. This is an Alex Neil Sunderland side, and they have become synonymous with not knowing when they are beaten.
Following Lee Gregory’s goal, Neil may have been forgiven for making changes and moving away from a plan which could have become null and void following the Wednesday goal. However, the gaffer made the bold decision of sticking to what he believed would get us a goal which, as injury time crept closer, would have been enough to get us over the line.
Jack Clarke had arguably his best game so far in a red and white shirt, as did Patrick Roberts and this combo linked up to find the goal that did get us all dreaming of another afternoon under the Wembley arch.
We needed the goal on the night in the end, but we wouldn’t have been in a position to only need the one if not for some stellar defensive displays. Bailey Wright and Danny Batth have had their critics this season, but their performances at Hillsborough were nothing short of miraculous.
Very few headers were lost and both stuck their body on the line on several occasions, with Wright finishing the match with some of his own blood staining his shirt. Monday night in South Yorkshire was amazing, but it will only be truly fondly remembered if we get the business done in the capital and break our Wembley hoodoo.
You’ve been superb in the last few months lads, we just need one more huge effort to get us over the line.