Team Sunderland 0-0 Salford University (Sunderland win 5-4 on pens),
Team Sunderland wing-back Harrison Rose held his nerve to bury home the crucial spot-kick to secure Team Sunderland the Northern Conference Plate.
A poor 120 minutes of football gave way to a dramatic shoot-out victory for Team Sunderland, who came from behind thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Karl Beggs, who made three vital saves in the shootout.
Choruses of ‘Championes, championes, ole, ole, ole’ and Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions’ could be heard from the victorious dressing room long after the decisive spot-kick was scored, as Sunderland ended their long wait for a trophy.
James Clark’s side thoroughly deserved the victory in the end and should have had the game wrapped up inside 90 minutes, with all of the big chances to win the match falling our way.
A defender’s motto of ‘making your presence felt nice and early’ was in full effect from the get-go as Salford’s Isaac Bass absolutely wiped out winger Ammar Abul on the touchline before anybody had a chance to get warmed up – resulting in the first of four yellow cards in the game.
Sunderland enjoyed most of the initial possession but without any real penetration, with a can of Guinness invading the pitch much to the bemusement of the supporters being the only real highlight of the first half an hour.
The final almost sprung to life when defender Marc Atkinson hit the post with an improvised effort off a set-piece, but that was the only notable highlight of a half where chances were few and far between.
As the rain started to pour, the travelling contingent from both teams seemed happy for that 45 minutes to end with both sides still very much feeling each other out.
The weather brightened up for the second-half and – ironically – so did Sunderland’s chances of scoring a goal.
Lewis Charlton replaced Abul and it proved to be a positive decision from the Clark, with the wideman a constant thorn in the Salford defences side due to his direct pace and crossing ability.
He created a golden opportunity when he put it on a plate for Ahmed Tarek on 72 minutes, only for the forward to place his effort inches wide.
Tarek was the danger man again moments later when he skinned two players on the right-hand side only to see his effort parried away by Salford goalkeeper Harry Pearce – who impressed for Salford between the sticks.
Extra-time arrived and followed the same pattern as the 90 minutes that preceded it, with Sunderland looking the more threatening in front of goal and having chances to break the deadlock, this time Stefan Rosca missing a free header from a whipping Tarek cross.
Penalties approached and the nerves the Durham University Sports Complex began to rise, but what followed was the birth of not one but two Sunderland heroes.
Salford had the chance to win it and were ahead for the majority of the shoot-out, but the heroics of goalkeeper Karl Beggs kept Team Sunderland in the game – with the Northern Irish stopper making three vital saves to keep his side’s hopes alive.
As the outstretched paw of Beggs denied Isaac Kanu in Pickford-esque fashion, cheers roared from anyone connected with Team Sunderland as for the first time it was now game, set and match in our favour.
With the pressure of cup final triumph on his shoulders, Rose showed nerves of steel to bury his penalty into the top right corner and send his team-mates, his dugout, and his supporters into a state of ecstasy.