We’re going to Wembley!
Wanderers will play at the national stadium for the first time since 2011 when they face Plymouth Argyle in the final of the Papa Johns Trophy after a famous night at Accrington.
Two goals in the space of three defining minutes late on at the Wham Stadium secured Ian Evatt’s heroes a cherished place at Wembley and the chance to win the club’s first domestic trophy since success in the same competition in 1989.
Wanderers’ fans will now travel in their thousands to the capital on Sunday, 2 April as the club all but completes its journey back from near oblivion less than four years ago.
The landmark day was arguably beyond doubt once Accrington had been reduced to 10 men barely 20 minutes into the semi-final following the dismissal of Sean McConville.
But Stanley weren’t about to give up on their own dream of a first ever visit to Wembley.
They defended in depth and lived on their luck at times but were within sight of a possible penalty shoot-out when Wanderers finally made their superiority pay.
Elias Kachunga completed his own comeback from a tough time on and off the pitch with the crucial opening goal in the 82nd minute.
And moments later Aaron Morley guaranteed victory and the chance to add to Wanderers’ illustrious history with a brilliant second goal, fizzed into the net from 25 yards out.
Cue celebrations on and off the pitch as the Whites knew they had done it as they continue to marry a top-six challenge in League One with a chase for precious silverware.
With three players cup-tied and injuries also biting, Wanderers tested their squad strength and gave starting chances to Josh Sheehan and Kachunga.
Kachunga was a lively presence in a typically frenetic start before Wanderers managed to impose themselves on the contest and get their passing game into gear.
And it was an excellent through-ball from the back from Ricardo Almeida Santos which gave the Whites the chance to take the lead after 15 minutes.
Santos released Dion Charles but the striker was unable to punish his former club as on-loan Burnley keeper Lucas Jensen stuck out a leg to divert his effort wide.
Jensen – who previously had a loan spell with Wanderers – was a central figure as he also came out to block a Kachunga shot after Stanley had been reduced to 10 men.
Conor Bradley had been a major threat for the Whites down their right flank and when he was caught high by McConville, the Reds’ midfielder saw red to leave his side a man down for three-quarters of the tie.
Wanderers still needed to make the breakthrough, though, as they dominated possession and looked to punch a hole in a packed Stanley defence ahead of half-time.
With the Reds sitting deep and already potentially eyeing a penalty shoot-out as their best chance of progress, Wanderers needed to maintain their tempo in a bid to force the issue and get themselves in front.
But a lengthy stoppage just after the re-start delayed the game for well over five minutes after a clash of heads between James Trafford and Liam Coyle outside the penalty area saw the Stanley midfielder finish worse off and need to be replaced.
The Whites immediately got back on the front foot and after Charles had the ball in the net from an offside position, Kieran Lee hooked a shot just wide after Morley had given him a clear sight of goal.
Morley was invariably the man trying to pave the way for Wanderers as he had more touches of the ball than anyone in a masterful display.
And with just over an hour gone the Whites thought they had gone in front as Charles twice hit the woodwork within a matter of seconds either side of a fierce Declan John drive saved by Jensen.
Those chances came in front of the packed away end with the Wanderers’ fans urging their team on as the clock began to tick down.
Evatt made his first two changes inside the final 20 minutes and when the two substitutes combined the goal finally came.
Randell Williams laid off a diagonal ball to Gethin Jones and when Jones crossed, Kachunga was alert enough to pounce on the loose ball and drill a shot into the roof of the net to claim his first goal since a winner against Barrow in the first knock-out round of the competition and a month on from his moment of madness and red card against Forest Green.
If that brought waves of relief to the Wanderers’ ranks, then Morley’s strike a couple of minutes later got the party started.
The midfielder’s range of passing had been a delight but this time he went it alone and picked out the bottom corner with another stunning strike.
Even with nine minutes of injury time there was no prospect of a fightback from Stanley, even though a battered and bruised Trafford had to make one sharp save to guarantee another clean sheet.
The final whistle moments later confirmed Wanderers’ Wembley way and with that date inked in the diary – 100 years on from the Whites’ first FA Cup triumph – Evatt’s class of 23 has the chance to leave a lasting mark.
Wanderers: Trafford; Toal, Almeida Santos, Mbete (Jones 70); Bradley (Isgrove 97), Morley, Sheehan, John (R Williams 77); Lee; Charles, Kachunga. Substitutes: Dixon, Thomason, Khumbeni.
Booked: Trafford, Morley
Accrington Stanley: Jensen; Fernandes, Rodgers, Sangare; Longelo, Conneely (Adekoya 92), Coyle (Martin 57), McConville; Leigh (Mancini 92); Preesley (Woods 92), Whalley (Clark 75). Substitutes: Isherwood, Nolan, Martin.
Booked: Pressley, Coyle
Sent off: McConville
Referee: Sam Barrott
Attendance: 4,874 (2,625)