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Sunderland boss Alex Neil ‘over the moon’ after reaching play-off final

Alex Neil’s Sunderland are heading to Wembley (Zac Goodwin/PA)
Alex Neil’s Sunderland are heading to Wembley (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Sunderland boss Alex Neil felt his side were worthy of their place in the League One play-off final after they left it late to see off Sheffield Wednesday.

The semi-final appeared to be heading for extra-time after Lee Gregory put hosts Wednesday ahead on the night in the 74th minute.

But Patrick Roberts struck during stoppage time to earn a 2-1 aggregate victory and book a meeting with Wycombe at Wembley on May 21, when promotion to the Championship will be on the line.

Neil, who arrived at the club in February, said: “I’m just over the moon for the players because they deserve it.

“We’ve done the business with an unbelievable run of fixtures in terms of the results we’ve put together and all these players deserve a huge amount of credit.”

There were chances at either end before Wednesday scored when Barry Bannan released Marvin Johnson on the left and his low cross was turned in by Gregory from close range.

But in added time a long ball found Jack Clarke on the left and he delivered a low cross which Roberts fired past Bailey Peacock-Farrell to make it 1-1.

Neil said: “I thought it was no more than we deserved. I thought we switched off once in the game and we got punished for it.

“Other than that, I thought we defended extremely well, but we didn’t set out to be defensive.

“I thought we were the better team and we didn’t deserve to be trailing.

Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland – Sky Bet League One – Play Off – Semi Final – Second Leg – Hillsborough
Sunderland’s Patrick Roberts (third from left) celebrates his equaliser against Sheffield Wednesday in the League One play-off semi-finals (Zac Goodwin/PA Images).

“That’s probably the first time that I’ve not made early changes and the reason I didn’t make them is that I had so much belief in that team to win this game or get the result we needed. I’m really pleased that I stuck to my guns.

“The minute Jack got in behind, I thought ‘we’re in business here’ and then Patrick’s movement and the quality of his finish is great.”

Wednesday manager Darren Moore said: “My concern for me is for my players because they’re gutted in there.

“I’m really disappointed for them because they put a lot into the game and having got back into the game, it looked like we were on to go on and force a winner.

“When I look back at the two games, it’s two lapses of concentration which cost us and that’s football.

“The players are really disappointed because they’ve been a spirited group all season and they’ve carried a lot of hope all season.

“Right now, I said to them, ‘My words probably won’t penetrate at the moment because obviously there’s so much disappointment, so the best thing you can do is get home with your loved ones’.

“I’ll give them a couple of days and then I’ll see them when it’s sunk in and we can have a proper chat. It’s the end of a journey.”