Time for the Football world to care about the Football League for a while, it’s playoff time. Three lucky sides will get a taste of the good life, and on a Everest style drastically sliding scale as the Championship side promoted could be worth up to 200M GBP for promotion. Far less for Leagues One and Two, but for some of those lower league sides the promotion will be reward enough.
Brighton & Hove Albion went into the final day on the same points as Middlesbrough and it all came down to their game on the last day of the season. A win for either side meant instant promotion, the 1-1 end result suited Middlesbrough and sent the Seagulls to the agony of the playoffs. Hull and Derby looked likely top 6 sides for a while, as has Sheffield Wednesday, but the Owls waited until the second last week to confirm their spot.
Here’s our guide to all the action, don’t forget that Fox Sports will have all of the finals on their new BeIn Sports channels.
Plus a quick results update to keep you in the know, before heading to the BBC website for better coverage.
3rd – BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION – Season 89pts +30 – Last 6 Form 16pts +12 (2nd)
4th – HULL CITY – Season 83pts +34 – Last 6 Form 13pts +7 (4th)
5th – DERBY COUNTY – Season 78pts +23 – Last 6 Form 11pts +4 (5th)
6th – SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY – Season 74pts +21 – Last 6 Form 6pts -1 (14th)
Brighton’s season was bookended with great runs, with their season ending on a run of 14 unbeaten games after starting the season with a 21 game unbeaten run. In between they looked like dropping out of the Top 6 with a winless run of seven games.
Their manager Chris Hughton, universally praised as one of Football’s good guys and an underrated manager, has tasted promotion with Newcastle. He has not playoff finals success however.
Looked good for automatic promotion, but like a lot of top 10 sides in the second half of the year they lost their way a little and ended up 6 points from the top three sides. The recent loss to already relegated Bolton who had beaten very few sides this year and a 5-1 win over a lowly Rotherham side that took an early lead at home is an indication of the mixed form from Hull. Steve Bruce is the only manager of the four clubs to have won a playoff final, he did it with Birmingham in 2002. He has also been in charge of promoted sides twice more – once with Birmingham and once with Hull.
Derby County can take solace in Leicester’s story, who came close to promotion but failed a few times before finally winning through. But the Rams have assembled one of the best squads in the Championship, so a playoff spot would be seen as a disappointment given their ambition, but it beats last year’s fade out from long time leaders of the division to missing the playoffs completely, that manager Steve McLaren would go on to provide his polish for Newcastle, and Derby turned to ex Real Madrid assistant manager Paul Clements for this year’s tilt.
Saw off their only competition for the last playoffs spot against Cardiff in the second last weekend, and have done well to be best of the rest to finish in sixth and have looked just that for quite some time. Their recent form has been hit and miss, after a run of four straight wins, their last 6 has yielded just one win, and they head into the playoffs in the worst last 6 form of the four sides.
Looking back at recent series, it is interesting to see if the end of season finishing position makes any difference to the chances of going up, and staying up.
The perceived wisdom is that whoever wins the playoffs is at a massive disadvantage to survive in the EPL, that may be true over a number of years, but some clubs lately have done a good job at surviving – Swansea, West Ham and Crystal Palace. Whether that is coincidental with more money or better run clubs is up for debate.
Since 2000 eight of the 16 playoff finals have been won by the third placed team, 5th place is the next most successful with 4 wins, then 6th with 3 and just the once for 4th place.
Brighton’s unbeaten run will continue to the final, but will lose out to Hull at Wembley, perhaps not tipped totally on form but in stubbornness after selecting Burnley, Middlesbrough and Hull to go up in March.
|GAME||AUS TIME||UK TIME||HOME||AWAY||SCORE|
|Playoff Leg 1||SAT 14th||4:45||FRI 13th||19:45||Sheffield Wednesday||vs||Brighton||2-0|
|Playoff Leg 1||SAT 14th||21:30||SAT 14th||12:30||Derby||vs||Hull||0-3|
|Playoff Leg 2||TUE 17th||4:45||MON 16th||19:45||Brighton||vs||Sheffield Wednesday||1-1|
|Playoff Leg 2||WED 18th||4:45||TUE 17th||19:45||Hull||vs||Derby||0-2|
|FINAL||SUN 29th||0:00||SAT 28th||15:00||Hull||vs||Sheffield Wednesday||TBC|
Sheffield Wednesday 2 Brighton & Hove Albion 0
The Owls take the upper hand into the second leg with am impressive win over Brighton. Should have been three with another goal cancelled 30 seconds after the celebrations stopped. Can Brighton overturn two disappointing outings in a row after being a top 3 side for most of the season.
Derby County 0 Hull City 3
Derby are shocked at home by a Hull side who look the goods for the final at a minimum, if not the EPL. Looks like keeping the majority of their relegated EPL side has worked come the pressure of the finals.
Brighton & Hove Albion 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1
The Owls surprise the Seagulls and most of the Championship playoff followers by progressing past a side who were just one goal from automatic promotion. Injuries to Brighton didn’t help.
Hull City 0 Derby County 2
A carbon copy of the first game, where the home side were thoroughly outplayed. But the 3 goal first leg win was enough, and why wouldn’t a side take it easy with such an advantage.
3rd – WALSALL – Season 84pts +22 – Last 6 Form 13pts +5 (4th)
4th – MILLWALL – Season 81pts +24 – Last 6 Form 15pts +8 (2nd)
5th – BRADFORD – Season 80pts +15 – Last 6 Form 13pts +7 (3rd)
6th – BARNSLEY – Season 74pts +16 – Last 6 Form 12pts +5 (5th)
Walsall (3rd) just missed out on automatic promotion and 6th placed Barnsley fans would probably not have thought playoffs would be a possibility when they went on a 8 game losing streak, thankfully not long after that run ended there came a seven game winning streak and the season was saved. Bradford and Millwall have looked safe in the playoffs for a while, Millwall looking to jump back into the Championship at first attempt, Bradford are on their way back through the divisions after dropping in a plunge that took them from the EPL to League Two in six seasons during last decade.
Last year halted a run of four straight playoff wins for 4th placed sides, but it is still the most successful finishing position with 6 successes compared to 5 for 3rd place. 5th (3 times) ad 6th (Twice) is less successful but not impossible. The last time that sixth place went through was Scunthorpe who are sixth again this year.
Millwall to join Wigan and bounce straight back to the Championship after beating Walsall in the final.
|GAME||AUS TIME||UK TIME||HOME||AWAY||SCORE|
|Playoff Leg 1||SUN 15th||2:30||SAT 14th||17:30||Barnsley||vs||Walsall||3-0|
|Playoff Leg 1||SUN 15th||21:15||SUN 15th||12:15||Bradford||vs||Millwall||1-3|
|Playoff Leg 2||FRI 20th||4:45||THU 19th||19:45||Walsall||vs||Barnsley||1-3|
|Playoff Leg 2||SAT 21st||4:45||FRI 20th||19:45||Millwall||vs||Bradford||1-1|
|FINAL||MON 30th||0:00||SUN 29th||15:00||Barnsley||vs||Millwall|
Barnsley 3 Walsall 0
Barnsley only secured top 6 status on the last day of the season, but now have the upper hand against 3rd placed Walsall, who made it two losses from two of the top seeded sides in the playoffs. No side has ever turned around a first leg 3 goal deficit.
Bradford 1 Millwall 3
Four first half goals, and the final three to Millwall after a 13th minute penalty is converted by Bradford. The Lions have some cushion heading into their home fixture.
Walsall 1 Barnsley 3
Barnsley prove the first leg was no fluke and destroy Walsall over 2 legs 6-1. A final appearance is probably the last thing on the mind of the Tykes after losing 8 straight games during the season.
Millwall 1 v Bradford 1
A draw is enough for the Lions to roar across town to take on Barnsley at Wembley
4th – ACCRINGTON STANLEY – Season 85pts +26 – Last 6 Form 14pts +7 (2nd)
5th – PLYMOUTH ARGYLE – Season 81pts +26 – Last 6 Form 10pts +6 (10th)
6th – PORTSMOUTH – Season 78pts +31 – Last 6 Form 9pts +0 (12th)
7th – AFC WIMBLEDON – Season 75pts +14 – Last 6 Form 13pts +4 (5th)
Like the divisions above, except it goes from 4th to 7th and also similar to the divisions above the top side lost out in a tight battle for automatic promotion. Accrington Stanley did extremely well to defy the constant tip of relegation and were in the top 3 right until Bristol Rovers scored an 92nd minute goal to get automatically promoted ahead of them. They take on AFC Wimbledon who have fought their way through from the very bottom of the English Football pyramid after the team was moved to and renamed Milton Keynes.
In the middle are two teams starting with P from the south coast, one of them Plymouth (5th) were in the mix for automatic promotion for a while, and Portsmouth (6th) are looking for the first step back after multiple quick relegations in the fall from the EPL and new ownership by their fans after almost folding.
Fourth is the most successful finishing place to win the playoffs with 6 since 2000, but only just in front of 5th (5 times) and 7th (4 times). 6th is the least successful finishing position with just one success.
Wimbledon to set up a mouth-watering season against Milton Keynes in League One next year as they overcome Plymouth in the final.
|GAME||AUS TIME||UK TIME||HOME||AWAY||SCORE|
|Playoff Leg 1||FRI 13th||4:45||THU 12th||19:45||Portsmouth||vs||Plymouth||2-2|
|Playoff Leg 1||SUN 15th||4:30||SAT 14th||19:30||AFC Wimbledon||vs||Accrington||1-0|
|Playoff Leg 2||MON 16th||3:00||SUN 15th||18:00||Plymouth||vs||Portsmouth||1-0|
|Playoff Leg 2||THU 19th||4:45||WED 18th||19:45||Accrington||vs||AFC Wimbledon||2-2|
|FINAL||TUE 31st||0:00||MON 30th||15:00||Plymouth||vs||AFC Wimbledon||TBC|
Portsmouth 2 Plymouth 2
Plenty of early goals with the home side scoring in the 3rd minute and Plymouth grabbing two by the 19th. a 51st minute equaliser gave Portsmouth a draw but Plymouth have the upper hand with 2 away goals.
Wimbledon 1 Accrington 0
Wimbledon ensure none of the top ranked sides got anything from their games. Into the second half before a shot on target for either side. The game changed when the man known as The Beast and Gurgler lower division Football favourite Adebayo Akinfenwa came off and terrorised Accrington. His shot that hit the post and almost caused an earthquake in Central London was a preview to the winning goal later.
Plymouth 1 Portsmouth 0
Plymouth are the first team officially into their respective playoff final after a 91st minute goal sealed a 1-0 home win after the hard yards were done at Portsmouth with a 2-2 draw.
Accrington 2 Wimbledon 2
Accrington looked home and hosed before the big man, Adebayo Akinfenwa aka The Beast scored a goal that levelled the tie at 2-2. The game went into extra time and a second goal for the Dons sent their fans into celebrations that a potential meeting of the MK Dons in League One could bring.