Jon McLaughlin's firm play-off verdict as Charlton keeper reveals his 'respect' for Sunderland focus

The final whistle sparked relief, jubilation and no small amount of pride.

Monday, 20th May 2019, 6:46 pm
Jon McLaughlin admits Sunderland have achieved 'nothing yet' ahead of the play-off final

A big moment for Sunderland as they edged out Portsmouth over two legs.

After a flat end to the season, the chance for an exhilarating end still very much in play.

The celebrations paled into comparison with Derby County, however, or indeed the vast majority of the sides who had previously booked their places at Wembley.

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For Jon McLaughlin, that was a sign of a side who knows its biggest challenge still awaits.

There was delight, without doubt, but also a recognition that it must be followed by another victory on Sunday afternoon.

To that end, he believes their previous experience at Wembley just weeks ago, could help.

“That's why the celebrations weren't crazy when we won the game,” he said.

“Of course, we're delighted to get through such a test and give ourselves a shot, it's big. But we know that we've achieved nothing so far.

“We've gone to Wembley and had a taste of that, we know what it's all about, and hopefully we can use that experience as well. It was the same with Bradford when I was there, we lost the League Cup final but went on to win the play-offs.

“We'd had our Wembley experience, got all the stars in your eyes stuff out the way, and really focused.

“It's going to be tough again against a very good team. They've been tough games when we've played them. We've not lost so we know it'll be tough, but that we've got enough in the locker to achieve what we want to achieve which is promotion.

“If we don't, it'll be seen as a failure, we know that and understand the pressure of that, but we've got the opportunity to do it.”

For Charlton, there was a pitch invasion and utter jubilation at making Wembley.

Goalkeeper Dillon Phillips admits he respected Sunderland’s focus at Fratton Park, though the added tension of a penalty shootout changed his own side’s approach.

“Both teams have got the same goal,” he said.

“It’s one game at the end of the day. I believe that we’re good enough to beat them and go through. I don’t see why not.

“All week, I’ve watched all the games and thought the celebrations were so good but none of the teams have actually achieved anything.

“But in the heat of the moment, it’s hard not to celebrate.

“I respected the way Sunderland celebrated on Thursday, it was clapping the fans and off you get. Let’s go again. But when you win like that, it’s hard not to [celebrate].”

Sunderland feel well prepared for the Charlton challenge after coming through the clash with Portsmouth.

There was widespread disappointment when the Black Cats dropped to fifth on the final day, but McLaughlin believes it could prove to be the perfect preparation.

“To be fair, if you can get through it it's probably better preparation than finishing third and having an easier run through,” he said.

“Now we've got through this, hopefully it will get the lads right up for it, they know how tough its been, we've had to work really hard, not been able to be complacent for a second. It'll give us a lot of confidence and put us in a good place mentally.”