Sunderland 2-0 Wycombe: Alex Neil’s side end four-year stay in League One with Championship promotion

The Black Cats finally won a seventh-time play-off campaign thanks to goals from Elliot Embleton and Ross Stewart in each half, meaning they join Wigan and Rotherham in winning promotion to the second tier.

They deserve this success at Wembley as they were the in-form side at the end of the regular campaign, the last defeat suffered in February, and it justifies the decision to sack Lee Johnson in January and replace him with the former boss of Preston, Alex Neil.

Neil will suit the Wearsiders perfectly in the Championship and, after several years in the desert, they will finally consider the prospect of taking on the challenge of returning to the Premier League.

Wycombe’s quest for an instant return to second tier has been denied meaning 40-year-old Adebayo Akinfenwa’s 755th and final appearance ended in disappointment.

Given their miserable history in the play-offs, where they had lost three finals and three semi-finals before, Sunderland were keen to do their business early and, roared by 46,000 raucous supporters, they got off to an electric start.

Alex Pritchard hit the side netting with a 20-yard free-kick that made some of those fans believe, while Stewart couldn’t make enough contact with a cross that worked its way to the back post.

The breakthrough came in the 12th minute and rewarded the good start.

Embleton justified his recall to the squad by exploding forward and unleashing a deflected shot from 25 yards out that would give Wycombe keeper David Stockdale nightmares as he drove straight through him.

Sunderland continued to look the most likely and Stewart forced Stockdale into an extended stoppage, while Pritchard had another effort that was straight at Wycombe’s goalkeeper.

The Chairboys are too competitive and savvy to be blown away, however, and have started to gain a foothold in the game, regularly posing questions to the Sunderland defense with balls in the box.

The Black Cats had been parked in the early rallies of the second half, but had the perfect chance to give themselves some breathing room in the 51st minute.

Pritchard, involved in everything Sunderland has done, threw an inviting cross for Stewart, who put his head just wide.

Despite all their bluster, Wycombe hadn’t looked like they wanted to get back into the game, but their big chance came on the hour mark.

Bailey Wright misjudged Anthony Stewart’s long ball, allowing Sam Vokes to close in on goal, but he couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet fast enough and goalkeeper Anthony Patterson rushed in to perform a big stop.

It was an important moment as Sunderland were able to secure the promotion 19 minutes later.

Pritchard was involved again, kicking off Stewart to fire home into the bottom corner all season long for his 26th – and most important – goal of the season.

That settled things and Sunderland saw the time remaining with ease before the celebrations could begin in earnest.


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