Grant Leadbitter deserves the utmost respect after emotional evening as Sunderland ace Jon McLaughlin proves his class again
Sunderland booked their place in the League One play-off final thanks to a 1-0 aggregate victory over Portsmouth.
Here’s what we learned from the goalless draw at Fratton Park that sealed Sunderland’s play-off triumph.
Jon McLaughlin proves his class again.
Sunderland can boast one of - if not the - best keeper in League One in their side and the Scot produced a superb performance when it mattered most.
McLaughlin made three big saves, including from Gareth Evans and James Vaughan, but it was his overall command of his area that impressed so much.
Sunderland’s game plan was executed perfectly but his performance was a key factor in securing the draw that saw them progress to the Wembley final.
Emotional evening for Grant Leadbitter.
The midfielder was restored to the Sunderland side for the trip to Fratton Park and big games need your big players to step up and he did that and so much more.
His composure and intelligence on the ball helped seal the draw that saw Sunderland through.
Sunderland AFC means everything to Leadbitter, who returned to the club in January.
And his performance was even more impressive given Leadbitter’s mum had tragically lost her battle with cancer the day before the second leg.
An emotional Leadbitter stood on the pitch for several minutes post match as the emotions washed over him.
It was an incredible performance from him given the circumstances and he deserves the utmost respect. Our thoughts are with Grant and the Leadbitter family.
Alim Ozturk superb once again.
Sunderland didn’t concede a goal in the play-off semi-final win over Portsmouth and Ozturk played a key role in that.
Thankfully he was able to play last night after his ban for seeing red in the first leg was overturned on appeal.
No-nonsense. Ozturk was a rock at the back.
Now one of the first names on the team sheet. Credit to him for keeping himself fit and ready to play towards the back end of the season after so long without a game.
Jack Ross got his tactics spot on.
There was some concern pre-match about the lack of width and pace in the Sunderland side but Ross had pulled it out the bag with his team selection.
The midfield trio of Lee Cattermole, Max Power and Grant Leadbitter superb, helping control the tempo and flow of the game.
All three played a huge part in Sunderland winning the midfield battle and ultimately the tie over two legs.
One more game to achieve the No.1 target.
Portsmouth won’t take much comfort from the Checkatrade Trophy win now their season has ended so abruptly.
At one stage they were running away with League One but their mixed form in the second half of the season cost them and Sunderland had the last laugh over them in the play-offs, at least.
Sunderland had nothing to fear from Pompey and they are now just one more win away from an instant return to the Championship.
All eyes and focus now on May 26 and another trip to Wembley.
A word on the superb Sunderland support.
Sunderland were backed by 1,300 supporters at Fratton Park, their support non-stop throughout the 90 minutes.
Lee Cattermole said afterwards they had their club back and this season, however it ends, has at least seen the club reconnect with the fanbase after a dismal few years at the Stadium of Light.
Another trip to Wembley is the reward but the only result that matters in London on May 26 is promotion back to the Championship.