Lee Johnson delivers this verdict on Sunderland's Wembley performance & its key moments

Lee Johnson hailed his players for coming through a stern mental test as they became the first Sunderland in nearly 50 years to win at Wembley.

Sunday, 14th March 2021, 7:32 pm

The side that edged past Tranmere Rovers in a tense 1-0 encounter featured a number of players who had beaten twice at the national stadium two years ago and Johnson said it was credit to their resilience that they came through a tough first half to win.

Johnson also revealed that Lynden Gooch's fine goal, assisted by a stunning Aiden McGeady pass, was the result of some specific training ground work in the build up to the game.

"I thought it was a leggy game," Johnson said.

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Lynden Gooch celebrates his goal at Wembley

"Both teams became stretched, which we didn't plan for but had to adapt to.

"It should have played into our hands but we were quite sloppy in the first half.

"Second half was much better and then we had to ride out that spell after our goal where they threw caution to the wind.

"Last five or six minutes, I thought we managed really well and when Jack came on, he gave us that outlet we needed.

"There were a lot of tired legs out there and I think emotionally there was a lot of tiredness out there as well.

"Some of these boys have experienced defeat here so I'm proud of them that they've put that ghost to rest.

"When we look back at the highlights in ten years time it won't be the sloppy passes that went out of play," Johnson said.

"It'll be that magic moment where McGeady finds Gooch and he finishes with aplomb.

"We did work on that, the out to in run that Gooch made as we thought we might be able to catch them on that.

"It obviously paid off for us in a difficult game."

A first-half injury to Tom Flanagan meant that it was another game where Sunderland finished with a makeshift defence; three of the back four out of position.

Luke O'Nien produced a man of the match display at the heart of defence while substitute Conor McLaughlin also excelled.

Johnson also moved to pay a special tribute to club captain Grant Leadbitter, the boyhood Sunderland fan who has now secured silverware for his club.

"Luke was fantastic," Johnson said.

"All the boys deserve credit today but O'Nien, Goochy playing in different positions for us, Max Power at right back, Conor at centre-half, all these players out of position.

"We dug in and saw it through.

"There is no such thing as an easy final.

"Another one I'm really proud of is Grant Leadbitter, with what he's gone through.

"He's had a fantastic career and is a top player, but he loves Sunderland and his family do too. That was a very nice moment for him."

Sunderland’s Head Coach also revealed a post-match chat with his family as he reflected on being the first manager since Bob Stokoe to win silverware at Sunderland.

"I’ve spoken to the family, and my nan who I think has had a few too many!

“It’s a lovely moment, we’ve got football in our blood and there’s a lot of pride.”

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