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'A really great result ' - Sunderland AFC fans and former players celebrate League One play-off semi-final win and Wembley return

Sunderland fans and former players have been sharing their joy at the Black Cats’ play-off semi-final win over Sheffield Wednesday.

By Kevin Clark
Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 12:48 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 1:05 pm

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Alex Neil’s side traveled to Hillsborough last night defending a 1-0 lead from Friday’s first leg.

The tie had looked to be heading for extra time when Wednesday scored with just 15 minutes to go to make it 1-1 on aggregate.

But Patrick Walker struck three minutes into added-on time to secure the win and earn Sunderland a Wembley date with Wycombe Wanderers, who overcame MK Dons 2-1 over their two legs.

Sunderland AFC fans and former players have had their say on last night's League One play-off semi-final win

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Fans’ Museum founder Michael Ganley was unable to make last night’s match but is looking forward to Wembley – especially after fans were denied the chance to see the team secure their first win at the national stadium since 1973 last season.

"We lost the chance to see the Lads win the Papa John’s Trophy due to Covid – it is heart-breaking for fans like me who have been eight or nine times to Wembley and never seen us win,” he said.

He said last night’s match had been a bit of a hair-raiser but he had been confident things would go Sunderland’s way, even after the Owls scored.

“My heart rate was through the roof in that second half. It was just crazy, wasn’t it?,” he said.

Fans Museum founder Michael Ganley

“But even when Wednesday went one up it was still comfortable – it is amazing to see how much they have come on. We are on a great run.

“As a team, they played amazingly."

He was full of praise for Alex Neil, especially given the turmoil at the club when he arrived: “He has done an amazing job when you think about the situation he inherited,” said Michael.

"We got beat 6-0, we sacked our manager, we signed Defoe, then we found out Dreyfus has only got a 41 per cent share instead of 71 per cent – there were just so many things happening at once

Micky Horswill

“But the fans aren’t interested in what goes on behind the scenes, we want to know what is happening on the pitch and you can’t fault these lads for doing their job.

“I want to see Alex Neil lift that cup in front of 50,000 Sunderland fans.”

Michael thinks the team can get a result at Wembley: “I am very confident,” he said.

"We have a Premier League fanbase, we have a Premier League stadium and now we have got the team to progress.”

Father Marc Lyden-Smith

And he hopes promotion will allow the club to tie down a few of the squad: “I hope we can keep a few of these lads who are out of contract, such as Lynden Gooch,” he said.

"He does not want to leave Sunderland, he wants to stay.”

A Love Supreme’s Paul Dobson was at last night’s match and was full of praise for the performance across the pitch: "It was exactly what we needed,” said ‘Sobs’.

"The central defence were rock solid and the two wide men kept Wednesday pegged back. I think the fact we came back from a goal down tells the story. If we had held out for 0-0, it would have been fair enough, but the fact we came back to win it makes it a bit nicer.”

The team’s reaction after conceding had been exemplary, he added: "The best thing is that they kept on going, they did not seem to get panicked, they just kept to the game plan, they kept getting it out wide.”

And the players had coped well with Wednesday’s somewhat physical approach: “It was like a battlefield – Bailey Wright probably looks like Rocky Balboa this morning, he took that many bangs – but he got up and he got on with it.”

Jimmy Montgomery

Paul thinks the standard of officiating will be key at Wembley: “I feel confident but we need a good referee, because we know what Wycombe are going to do.

"They will try all the little niggles going. They will probably try to do a job on Stewart as Sheffield did – he got more nudges than a pinball table.

“Wembley’s wide pitch is likely to suit us – they are going to want to stop Clarke and Walker but if they do that, they will leave gaps through the middle.”

FA Cup hero Micky Horswill said he had been confident Sunderland would win last night and is expecting a repeat at Wembley.

“I was not worried,” said Micky. “I always said we have got a good goal in us and we will score some time. I knew they would have to get two and they never looked like they were going to.

“It is fantastic for everybody – the club, the supporters and the team themselves - it is a really great result..”

Micky reckons Wycombe are nothing to fear: “We will beat them – they have not got anything that can harm us at all,” he said.

"We are too strong for them, especially as we will have a lot of people fit again – Broadhead will be fit again – and Alex Neil will have a good few players to choose from.

“It does not matter what they try to do, we will be able to deal with it. I am really feeling confident this time.”

Club chaplain Father Marc Father Marc Lyden-Smith admitted to a few butterflies during the early stages of last night’s game.

“I am more confident now than I was watching the first half,” he said. “I felt very nervous but I think they settled down in the second half.”

He has been impressed by Alex Neil and the team spirit he has forged.

“He has come in with a job to do and he has got on with it,” said Marc.

"There is a real sense of unity among the players now. They are genuinely friends and really get on. I have seen teams over the years when players have come in and got along as colleagues, but I think there is a real sense of togetherness, which is fantastic.”

He is optimistic about the final: "I feel very positive, I just feel like this is our time now – a new manager has come in, he has not put a foot wrong. I feel very happy.

“Everybody in that league would agree Sunderland should not be in that league – it is such a big club.

"It is unthinkable that a club like Sunderland has spent four years now in League One.

"I just feel like this is the time we are going to get out of it. We will be making a start to get back to where we should be, which is at the very top of English football.”

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FA Cup double save hero Jimmy Montgomery reckons Sunderland will have enough to get the job done on the back of last night’s performance.

“I think they all did brilliantly,” he said.

"They defended superbly, they kept closing people down and the two wide men were excellent.

“The work rate was superb.”

Although he is bullish about the Lads’ chances at Wembley, he suspects the game will not be one for the footballing purists: “I thought Mk Dons might be a better game because they are a footballing side,” said Jimmy.

"I think with Wycombe, it might be a bit more of a direct game. They will be up and at you - but we can cope with that.”