Sunderland 2-0 Wycombe Wanderers: Black Cats seal promotion to the Championship with League One Play-Off Final victory
(Photo by Eddie Keogh/Getty Images)

Sunderland were promoted back to the Championship after they beat Wycombe Wanderers 2-0 in the League One Play-Off Final.

The Black Cats got their noses in front on 12 minutes and never looked back when Elliot Embleton's strike from distance found the back of the net.

They doubled their lead – and secured their promotion – 11 minutes from time when club top scorer Ross Stewart's right-footed effort left Chairboys goalkeeper David Stockdale rooted to the spot.

With the win, Sunderland ended a run of 49 years without a win at Wembley Stadium with supporters in attendance – their last with fans being that iconic FA Cup triumph in 1973.

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Story of the game

On arrival, Wembley was once again a sea of red and white.

After a takeover of Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden last night, over 46,000 Mackems descended on HA9 this afternoon with one objective: to get out of the third tier of English football.

The man in charge of that task is Alex Neil, who made one change to the Sunderland side that knocked Sheffield Wednesday in the semi-final leg, with Elliot Embleton – who was on the winning side in this very fixture last year with Blackpool – coming in for Spurs loanee Jack Clarke.

Wycombe kept the same side that dug deep to see off bookies favourites Milton Keynes Dons in their semi-final tie – with the onus firmly kept on 17-goal striker Sam Vokes to score the goals to fire them to promotion.

There was no 'settling in' period to this final, and inside five minutes, Sunderland could easily have been 2-0 up.

After Dennis Cirkin won a free-kick on the edge of the area, Alex Pritchard came very close to breaking the deadlock when effort from 25-yards caressed the side netting.

A large section of the fans packing out the west side of the stadium did think he had opened the scoring – and quite comically, it wasn't until the referee signalled for a goal-kick that they stopped celebrating.

Three minutes later, Ryan Tafazolli's attempted headed clearance went all wrong, and it presented the ball to Ross Stewart at the back-post.

But unfortunately for the man the fans dub as the 'Loch Ness Drogba', he couldn't convert from point blank range despite desperately sliding for the ball.

On 12 minutes, however, they got their deserved lead – and sent one half of Wembley into raptures.

Embleton picked up the ball in the middle of the field and drove at the Wycombe midfield with a purpose, before taking aim from range and beating David Stockdale.

His strike – that was straight at the Chairboys goalkeeper – looked to have taken a deflection. But on review, it did not. It was a case of poor goalkeeping, as opposed to an unfortunate ricochet.

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The Black Cats didn't let up after getting their noses in front and searched for the second.

Within the space of a few minutes, Pritchard and Stewart went close, but this time Stockdale was up to the task.

It took until the half-hour mark for Wycombe to muster up a half-chance with Daryl Horgan's cross being met by Vokes, but the Welsh forward got under the header and it skied over the crossbar.

Shouts for a Sunderland penalty were cancelled out by the offside flag shortly before the break when Patrick Roberts – who had been one of the shining lights of this final so far – looked to have been fouled in the box. 

As the half came to an end, from a red and white perspective it could have not gone much better. They were in complete control of the game.

But the overriding worry for manager Neil would have been that his side had not killed The Chairboys off in that opening 45 minutes.

Stewart strike seals Black Cats a Championship spot

Despite Wycombe coming out the aggressor straight after the interval, it was Sunderland who had the first major chance of the second half.

Pritchard found space down the left-wing before cutting back on his right foot and crossed onto the head of Stewart.

He glanced his header over to the opposite post, and just when it looked like the ball was going to creep into the far corner, it went narrowly wide of the goal.

Sunderland survived a major scare right on the hour mark when Garath McCleary crossed into the box towards Vokes, who fluffed his lines when it mattered most.

It was a routine clearance header gone wrong for Bailey Wright who misjudged the height of the ball, leaving Vokes to get in behind and be one-on-one with Anthony Patterson.

He looked to poke the ball underneath the onrushing 22-year-old, but the goalkeeper won the battle and ensured his side stayed in the lead.

On 78 minutes, Wycombe had another golden opportunity that went begging.

Joe Jacobson unleashed substitute Brendon Hanlon down the left-hand side who won a lucky bounce to leave him space to shoot, but he dragged his shot straight into the goalkeeper's hands.

And one minute later, they are punished emphatically by Stewart who put this tie beyond any doubt.

The Scot received a square ball from Pritchard on the edge of the area before shifting the ball onto his right foot and expertly dispatching his strike into the bottom-left corner – leaving Stockdale rooted to the spot.

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In recent years – and even months – this Black Cats side would have crumbled on this stage. "Typical Sunderland," as their fans would say.

But this is not Sunderland we are all used to. Now, they're measured, solid and well drilled.

And that comes down to one man: Alex Neil.

The last time Neil was in a play-off final, he was on the winning side. Today, he tasted that again.

It was a performance of Premier League quality from The Black Cats to finally send them back to the Championship.


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Starting XI's

Sunderland: Patterson; Gooch, Wright, Batth, Cirkin; Roberts, Evans, O'Nien, Embleton; Pritchard; Stewart. (4-4-1-1)

Wycombe: Stockdale; McCarthy, Stewart, Tafazolli, Jacobson; Gape, Scowen; McCleary, Horgan, Obita; Vokes. (4-2-3-1)