IN 2013, Jon McLaughlin suffered one of his worst afternoons in football as his Bradford City side were thrashed by Swansea City in the Capital One Cup final. Three months later, however, the Bantams returned to Wembley, and with McLaughlin in goal, won the League Two play-off final against Northampton Town.

Sometimes, football offers a chance of immediate redemption. Like the rest of his Sunderland team-mates, McLaughlin was distraught when March’s Checkatrade Trophy final ended in a penalty shoot-out defeat to Portsmouth. Thanks to last week’s two-legged play-off win over the same opposition, though, he has not had to wait too long for an opportunity to make amends.

“We've gone to Wembley and had a taste of that, we know what it's all about, and hopefully we can use that experience,” said McLaughlin, whose three second-leg saves at Fratton Park played a crucial role in Sunderland’s semi-final success. “It was the same with Bradford, we lost the League Cup final but went on to win the play-offs. We'd had our Wembley experience, got all the stars in your eyes stuff out the way, and were really focused on the final.

“That’s why the celebrations weren’t crazy (at Portsmouth) when we won the game. Of course, we were delighted to get through such a test and give ourselves a shot, it’s big. But we know that we’ve achieved nothing so far.”

Having seen off a Portsmouth side that finished a place above them in the table, Sunderland now find themselves going up against a Charlton Athletic team that won seven of their last eight matches of the conventional season to finish third.

Lee Bowyer’s side needed penalties to get past Doncaster Rovers on Friday night, but while the concession of three goals in the second leg at the Valley suggests there are defensive weaknesses to Sunderland to exploit at the weekend, the fact that Charlton scored three goals of their own over the two legs highlights their attacking strengths.

Lyle Taylor turned down the chance to join Sunderland before opting for the Addicks last summer, and his tally of 21 league goals made him the joint second-highest scoring player in League One.

Joe Aribo offers a creative threat from midfield, but while McLaughlin is respectful of Charlton’s threat, he and his team-mates are hardly overawed by Sunday’s opposition.

Sunderland beat Charlton on the opening weekend of the season, with Lynden Gooch claiming a stoppage-time winner, and were the better side for much of January’s 1-1 draw at the Valley, which saw a second-half own goal from Reece James cancel out an early opener from Luke O’Nien.

“It’s going to be tough again,” said McLaughlin. “We know they’re a very good team. They’ve been tough games when we’ve played them.

“We’ve not lost though, so we know it'll be tough, but we’ve got enough in the locker to achieve what we want to achieve, which is promotion.

“If we don’t, it’ll be seen as a failure, we know that and understand the pressure of that, but we’ve got the opportunity to do it.”

Sunderland’s players have handled the pressure of the promotion race reasonably well all season, and have also displayed commendable reserves of character to bounce back from the disappointment of missing out on automatic promotion.

Given this season’s history between the two clubs, Portsmouth were probably the toughest opposition Sunderland could have faced in the semi-finals, but they came through a difficult test with flying colours.

That should ensure they are battle-hardened for Sunday, with McLaughlin confident they will not be fazed by whatever Charlton are able to throw at them.

“If you can get through in the way we have, it’s probably better preparation than finishing third and having an easier run through,” he said. “Having got through against Portsmouth, hopefully it will get the lads right up for it.

“They know how tough it’s been so far. We’ve had to work really hard, and not been able to be complacent for a second. It'll give us a lot of confidence, and put us in a good place mentally.”

Meanwhile, Adam Matthews looks set to leave Sunderland this summer, with a number of Championship clubs ready to offer him a move to the second tier.

Matthews, who has been unable to dislodge Luke O’Nien from Sunderland’s right-back spot in the last five months, is due to become a free agent next month, and is unlikely to be offered a new deal on Wearside.

Sheffield Wednesday, QPR and newly-promoted Barnsley have all expressed an interest in the 27-year-old.