Coventry sealed their spot in the Championship play-off final as they overcame Middlesbrough 1-0 on Wednesday night.
Following on from a goalless draw in the first leg, it was Coventry who struck the killer blow at the Riverside Stadium as Gustavo Hamer netted in the second half.
In League Two as recently as 2018, Coventry are now just 90 minutes from a first return to the Premier League since 2001.
They will face Luton in the final at Wembley on Saturday May 27 – live on Sky Sports Football.
Hamer strike sends Coventry to Wembley
It was Middlesbrough who dominated the possession, as expected, but it was Coventry who had the big early opening. A mistake from Tommy Smith with a misplaced backpass was seized upon by Viktor Gyokeres, but Zack Steffen was quick to react to deny the Swede.
Coventry stepped on the gas in the second half and on 57 minutes the deadlock in the tie was finally broken. Gyokeres was the instigator again, as his fine work saw the ball fall into the path of Hamer – who steadied himself, shifted the ball onto his right foot and then bent one into the top corner.
Middlesbrough boss Michael Carrick rang the changes, but it was Coventry who looked more likely, with Hamer again threatening with a free-kick that rattled the crossbar.
And there would be no way through for Boro. They will again play in the Championship next season, and their wait for top-flight football will stretch to at least seven years.
Carrick: We didn’t do enough, but we’ll be back stronger
Middlesbrough’s Michael Carrick on Sky Sports Football:
“We didn’t probably end up creating enough chances to score a goal. I thought we played some good football over the two legs and we got into good areas, didn’t quite create clear-cut chances enough, but I can’t knock the boys. We’ve had a fantastic few months and with their attitude and willingness to learn, put themselves out there, I’m so proud of the group.
“It tends to be the thing that is said in this situation, but I’m proud of the boys and the staff for what we’ve done, it’s just that we’ve come up a little bit short tonight. I’m gutted for the fans as the support we’ve had has been pretty special. It’s a tough one. These experiences are never nice – they are the best ones to learn from in many ways, but they are never nice when you go through them. We’ve got to take it on the chin.
“Fair play to Coventry. They are a good team, well organised. Mark and his staff have done an unbelievable job. Credit is due.”
Robins: The longest game of my career
Coventry’s Mark Robins on Sky Sports Football:
“I think that’s the longest game of my career! Middlesbrough are so good. You give them any sort of time, any space and they’ll hurt you.
“Over the three games, we’ve done really well in marshalling probably the two best centre-forwards in the division.
“The supporters have driven us on. It’s been an unbelievable team effort. Six long years of trying to get us to this stage. Next stage, a really tough game at Wembley now but we’ve got to enjoy tonight, we’re going to have a few drinks.”
The rise of Coventry under Robins
‘Coventry were tactically perfect’
Jobi McAnuff on Sky Sports Football:
“Coventry were tactically absolutely perfect in both legs because this is such a potent attacking force we’ve seen under Michael Carrick.
“To keep them goalless takes organisation but will and desire from the players to buy into what the manager is asking.”
Hal Robson-Kanu on Sky Sports Football:
“This is the stuff that fairytales are made of. These boys have been through it over the course of multiple seasons. It’s phenomenal to see. It was about who was willing to work harder and the Coventry players put a shift in, and some. They fully deserved that victory.
“It shows when you have togetherness, what you can do as a group. When you look at the teams in this league, there are some big, big clubs which have just come down from the Premier League who are unable to make the play-offs. These players, on paper, maybe just scrape the play-offs but their performance over the course of the season is incredible to see.”
Player of the Match – Gustavo Hamer
Coventry’s Gustavo Hamer on Sky Sports Football:
“We train a lot on counter-attacks and I think we had stats and facts that we are one of the best teams in the league with counter-attacks. I got the ball from Vik and thought that if I shot straightaway I was going to miss the target, so I took a little bit more time for myself and I shot it in the top corner!
“I think the final is extra motivation for us and the fans who are travelling with us. I’ve never played there, so for me it’s going to be a new thing.”
While Middlesbrough will remain in the Sky Bet Championship for the 2023/24 campaign, Coventry will play Luton in the play-off final at Wembley Stadium at 4.45pm on Saturday May 27 for a place in the Premier League.