Sunderland ended their poor run of results at Wembley Stadium as they won the 2020/21 Papa John’s Trophy with a narrow 1-0 win over Tranmere Rovers.
They hadn’t won a cup final at Wembley since 1973, but narrowly edged out the League Two side.
Lynden Gooch scored the only goal of the game, as he fired clinically past Scott Davies, after a defence-splitting through ball from experienced midfielder Aiden McGeady.
The Black Cats survived a scare towards the conclusion of the game though, with Otis Khan and Corey Blackett-Taylor both going close, as they were denied by Lee Burge in the Sunderland goal.
Sunderland went into the game full of confidence, with the Black Cats beating promotion-chasing rivals Portsmouth in their most recent match, which saw them cement their place in the top-six in League One this term.
Whilst Tranmere beat relegation-threatened Southend United in their most recent match, and will have been keen to follow in the footsteps of fellow League Two side Salford City, who beat Portsmouth on penalties in the 2018/19 final on Saturday.
But Keith Hill’s side had beaten both Oxford United and Peterborough United in previous rounds of the competition, and certainly provided a stern test for promotion-chasing Sunderland on Sunday.
The Black Cats started the match brightly, with the likes of Josh Scowen and Grant Leadbitter dictating the play in the centre of midfield, with the in-form Charlie Wyke looking menacing as he pressed the Tranmere defence.
Tranmere grew into the game though, and almost went ahead, as Danny Lloyd’s deflected effort looped goalwards, before Lee Burge managed to keep the ball out with an impressive save after 14 minutes.
Sunderland’s first clear-cut opportunity in the match came through their two in-form players, as Aiden McGeady spun his marker with neat piece of skill, and found Charlie Wyke in space in the Tranmere penalty area, but the 28-year-old couldn’t quite get enough on his effort as the League Two side cleared their lines.
Chris Maguire and Aiden McGeady both wasted chances to put the Black Cats in front, and they were almost made to pay for it, as Liam Feeney’s strong run out wide saw the midfielder pull the ball back for Lloyd once again, but the 29-year-old saw his effort blocked by a Sunderland defender, as both teams went into the break level.
Tranmere almost took the lead within minutes of the second-half, as full-back Otis Khan beat two Sunderland players out wide before firing a well-struck effort towards goal, but Sunderland goalkeeper Lee Burge was equal to it, as he parried it away from danger, in the most clear-cut chance of the game at the 47th minute mark.
Sunderland responded soon after though with a good chance of their own, as McGeady and Wyke combined again, but the Black Cats forward couldn’t divert the ball goalwards from inside the six-yard area, as he poked the ball wide of Scott Davies’ goal.
They made that pressure in the second-half count, as they took the lead after 57 minutes, when Aiden McGeady’s defence-splitting through ball found Lynden Gooch clean through on goal, and the American held his nerve and slotted the ball past the onrushing Scott Davies to open the scoring for Lee Johnson’s side.
Tranmere fought their way back into the game though, with Jay Spearing’s deflected effort almost finding the bottom corner of the Sunderland net. The League Two side out a considerable amount of pressure on the Sunderland defence as they went in search of an equaliser on the day.
Corey Blackett-Taylor then came close to finding the equaliser for Keith Hill’s side, as his turn and pace took him into the penalty area, only to see his fiercely-struck effort saved by Burge once again.
The League Two side couldn’t find the goal they were chasing though, as Sunderland held on to win the Papa John’s Trophy at Wembley.
Sunderland are set to return to action on Wednesday evening, when they take on Accrington Stanley, in what is likely to be a tricky test for Lee Johnson’s side.
Whilst Tranmere face struggling Grimsby Town in their next league match, where they’ll be looking to turn their attentions to their promotion bid in League Two.