Between the two games, Swindon Town sack Paulo Di Canio and the media report that Southampton want to sign Sean Morrison. Should we overcome the odds, Norwich City await us in the final after they overcome Bristol City in their tie.
We’re 6/4 favourites in front of 8,714 fans at St. James Park as we look to overturn a two-goal deficit against Newcastle United. Gordon Strachan, Bristol City’s manager, is in attendance and is rumoured to be interested in signing Jonny Hayes and Dacian Varga. Both play as I name an unchanged starting XI. Newcastle have come with a plan and preventing us building up any pressure. The first action of note comes in the 36th minute when an inswinging Bertin Matip corner is headed over by Bradley Johnson at the near post. A minute before half time, Jonathan Bond denies Sturridge from 18 yards and we clear for a thrown. Going into the dressing room at half time, we’re going out with a whimper.
Sturridge finds the net nine minutes into the second half, but it’s the side netting from 12 yards. I make my first change in the 55th minute as Aiman Mustafa comes on for Hayes; Mustafa goes up front, with Cenci moving to right wing. The change has an immediate impact as Cenci slides in Mustafa and he fires home from 10 yards for his second goal of the season. Twelve minutes later, Mustafa turns provider as Johnson scores from 16 yards for his 17th goal of the season to put us two-up on the night and level the aggregate score at 3-3! We’re piling the pressure on and Taylor goes into the referee’s notebook in the 72nd minute after a foul on Mustafa. Matip shoots just over from 20 yards in the 80th minute. In the 83rd minute, Jenkins plays in Sturridge and he finishes from 8 yards, but the flag’s up. It’s still level on aggregate. I decide to go for it, with Stephen Darby coming off and Manuel Gavilan coming on as I go with three at the back and two up front. A minute from time, Sturridge squares the ball to Diane and he finishes from 6 yards. We all look across to the assistant, but the flag is not up this time and Newcastle have pinched it. We kick off and go forward. Gavilan passes to Cenci. Cenci shoots from 16 yards. It’s in!!!! We’ve equalised the aggregate score in stoppage time through Cenci’s 11th goal of the season. What an ending and we’re off to extra time.
Daniel Berger comes on for Varga as I go back to having four at the back. There’s a couple of bookings: Jagos Vukovic in the 101st minute for fouling Sturridge and the 103rd minute for Jenkins for a foul on Cenci. With three minutes of extra time left, Lansbury plays in Diane and he scores from 8 yards. He looks offside, but the flag stays down. Newcastle are 5-4 up on aggregate with three minutes to play. We kick off and go forward. Michel shoots from 20 yards. It’s wide and Newcastle lose 3-2 on the night, but win 5-4 on aggregate. Diane’s 2 goals earn him Man of the Match along with a rating of 8.8. It’s an incredibly disappointing end to the season, but at the start of the season when the media predicted we’d finish 22nd, we’d have taken this. Now it’s time to start preparing for the 2016/17 season.