SHEFFIELD United are off to Wembley for the npower League One play-off final after Chris Porter’s late header clinched a tense semi-final victory over Stevenage.
It was just reward for a sustained spell of United pressure in a tense game.
And a marvellous personal moment for the 28-year-old former Derby County man - it was his first goal in 17 matches.
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United, who were held 0-0 in the first leg in Hertfordshire on Friday, received a healthy vocal backing from the Lane faithful as they kicked off the crunch meeting and they could have had more to sing about on seven minutes when Porter’s header from close in brought super two-handed save from goalie Chris Day, diving to his left.
Ryan Flynn then had a half-chance, but spooned his shot from just outside the penalty area over the target.
Visiting defender Mark Roberts was lucky to avoid a booking with one clumsy challenge as United tried to penetrate Stevenage with a break through the middle.
The Boro, who had the experience of being in a Play Off for third time in four seasons, concentrated on trying to break United’s midfield rhythm.
Stevenage defender Jon Ashton had to hook a clearance over his bar as United tried to rev things up.
United, without eye-infection victim Richard Cresswell struggled to get behind the Boro defence though.
Lee Williamson summed it up with a shot well wide of goal.
And it was no shock to anyone when both sides trooped in at the half-time whistle without a goal to show for their efforts.
TV pundit Chris Kamara tweeted: “not the best game in the world but Stevenage defending well & restricted Sheff U to one shot.”
Kevin McDonald was withdrawn through injury, replaced by Nick Montgomery.
Flynn had great chance two minutes into the second session, but his right footer was scuffed and a defender blocked it’s path before it could endanger Day.
United could not put their stamp on proceedings, players were not getting in dangerous positions.
Yet on 54 minutes, that changed with a full-pelt Williamson directing a right wing cross just inches wide of the post.
A long range effort from Flynn further upped the ante two minutes later- although it also arced wide of the same post.
Stevenage then took their turn to threaten Luke Freeman cutting in from the left, jinking around his marker but firing tamely at Steve Simonsen.
Minutes later Stephen Quinn had a chance outside the box, but lofted high and wide.
As did Williamson, who belted a free kick well over on 74 minutes.
Scott Laird suddenly threatened to turn the tables, he smashed the ball from 22 yards goal-bound, but Simonsen did well to deflect it over.
With nine minutes left the enterprising Matt Hill came up with a super long range drive, sadly just wide, as United turned the screw again.
Yet with five minutes to go, 6ft 1ins Porter lost his marker and headed home from close range at the Kop end after a smart cross from Matt Lowton.
The goal was enough to take United to Wembley - where they will play Huddersfield, if the Terriers see off MK Dons tomorrow. Town lead 2-0 from the first leg.
A memorable goal to end a semi-final series which had badly needed some inspiration.
UNITED: Simonsen, Lowton, Collins, Maguire, Hill, Doyle, Flynn, Williamson, McDonald, Quinn, Porter.
Subs: Montgomery, Howard, Taylor, McAllister, O’Halloran.
STEVENAGE: Day, Wilson, Laird, Ashton, Byrom, Roberts, Freeman, Bostwick, Agyemang, Lascelles, Shroot.
Subs: Julian, Charles, Reid, Beardsley, Mousinho.
Don’t miss James Shield’s analysis in Tuesday’s Star.
*Cricket legend and Owls fan Michael Vaughan tweeted a tongue in cheek attack on the attendance at Bramall Lane: “Must be travel problems in Sheffield.. The seats at Bramall lane will surely fill up once the traffic dies down.....”