Lincoln City will take on Blackpool in the League One play-off final after a 3-2 aggregate victory over Sunderland at the Stadium Of Light.
A noisy 9,971 supporters filled the stadium and inspired the Black Cats to a hearty performance and a 2-1 win on the day but it wasn’t enough as the Imps edged their way into the showpiece event at Wembley Stadium next week.
Lee Johnson made four changes for this one with Callum McFadzean, Grant Leadbitter, Chris Maguire all coming into the starting line-up. For Michael Appleton’s side there were just two alterations with Alex Palmer and Lewis Montsma returning to the side.
It was Sunderland who started on the front foot as the noise and energy from the stands clearly looked to rub off on the team as the hosts took the lead after 12 minutes when Aiden McGeady weaved his way to the byline on the left flank and found Ross Stewart who converted from close range.
The Wearsiders were really enjoying the occasion and could have drawn themselves level on aggregate when Charlie Wyke found himself through with an open goal in front of him, however he wasted the chance as TJ Eyoma blocked it on the line.
Thankfully for Wyke, he had his chance at redemption after 33 minutes when he slotted him from inside the area to draw the tie level.
Sunderland were firmly on top and could have had a penalty when a diagonal ball from Aiden McGeady found Stewart in the area only to be clipped by Lincoln goalkeeper Alex Palmer who appeared to bundle him over. The referee said no, much to the fury of Lee Johnson and his coaching staff.
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In truth it was a pretty torrid first half for Michael Appleton’s side, and early suggestions in the second period hinted that the next 45 minutes could be the same as Chris Maguire volleyed an ambitious effort just over the bar within minutes of the restart.
Lincoln did start to cause some problems of their own as Regan Poole surged forward down the right flank, causing problems and winning a corner for his side.
As a result Poole got on the end of the in-swinging corner and rattled the crossbar with a header.
Brennan Johnson had a quiet first half but soon found himself in the thick of the action after going down in the penalty area following a challenge from Luke O’Nien. However the Nottingham Forest loanee was booked for diving.
Lincoln got their reward for a bright start to the half when Tom Hopper headed home with a powerful effort to restore the visitors’ lead.
Things went from bad to worse for Sunderland not long after when Josh Scowen brought down Connor McGrandles in the area, however his blushes were spared as Lee Burge saved Jorge Grant’s spot-kick.
Sunderland were pushing forward for a way back into the game but were almost caught out as McGrandles did well to get through the defensive line but fired his effort just over the top of the bar.
Lee Johnson’s side were pushing forward and came agonisingly close to drawing the tie level when McGeady fizzed an effort effort the post before Wyke hit the side-netting with the rebounded effort.
Next it was Aiden O’Brien’s chance to go close as he found himself through on goal only to be denied by Palmer at the near post.
While Sunderland kept pushing until the final moments it wouldn’t be enough as Lincoln City secured their place in the play-off final where they’ll take on Blackpool at Wembley.