SUNDERLAND will play Portsmouth in the Checkatrade Trophy final at Wembley after beating Bristol Rovers 2-0 on Tuesday night.

Sunderland made the long journey down from the North East for the second time in a fortnight for the semi-final of the Checkatrade Trophy and sadly Rovers were unable to find a way past their expensively-assembled opponents.

However, the Gas put Blackpool to the sword at the Memorial Stadium last Saturday.

Starting with Jonson Clarke-Harris and Tom Nichols up front, Rovers wasted no time setting about the Tangerines by showing far more attacking intent than in recent outings. That intent was rewarded just six minutes into the game when Clarke-Harris latched onto a deflected Sercombe cross and slotted home from three yards out.

The Gas kept up the intensity to double the lead when some excellent passing around the Blackpool box sliced open the visitor’s defence and Clarke-Harris finished emphatically from a tight angle on 37 minutes.

The Seasiders kept on plugging away despite being two down but the Rovers back line stood firm and we deservedly went into the break two goals ahead. A competitive second-half saw Clarke-Harris grab his first senior hat trick. Blackpool keeper Mark Howard could only push Sercombe’s fierce shot into the big striker’s path who gleefully slotted home on 68 minutes to claim the match ball. And Rovers still weren’t finished. Blackpool attempted to rally and forced Bonham into a couple of saves but were leaving increasingly large spaces at the back as they desperately looked for a way back into the game.  In injury time, Jakubiak played a lovely cross-field ball to Sercombe who found himself with the freedom of the Mem, took a touch and finished neatly past Howard to give Rovers a superb 4-0 victory.

After winning 3-0 at Bloomfield Road earlier in the season Rovers have done the double over their play-off chasing opponents and thoroughly deserved it too, with every man on the pitch performing well. The result leaves us still two points from safety but with a game in hand and a much better goal difference than teams around us.

We can now concentrate on League One survival with a trip to strugglers Scunthorpe this Saturday.