The Football League Play-Off Final is hotly anticipated across the Championship, League 1, and League 2 as one of the most dramatic and exciting encounters of the season. The present format was introduced in 1990 and during the 30 years that have followed, it has evolved to become a beloved staple of the modern game.
Of course, Scunthorpe supporters have experienced the drama of the Play-Off Final for themselves. Iron fans have tasted success in the League 1 play-off final in 2009 and in the League 2 – then Division Three – showpiece ten years earlier.
Over the course of those 90 minutes, and sometimes the 30 minutes and penalty shoot-outs that follow, dreams either come true or are shattered. For one team, a season’s efforts are rewarded, while for the other, it’s a case of going back to the drawing board.
In this article, we will count down the three most dramatic Play-Off Finals in the format’s 30-year history.
1992/93 – Swindon Town 4 Leicester City 3
Swindon’s win over Leicester in 1993 sent shockwaves throughout the sport as the Robins took their place in the recently inaugurated Premier League. Town edged a seven-goal thriller on the day after their opponents had clawed back a 3-0 deficit to draw level. Paul Bodin converted an 84th minute to restore a narrow lead for Swindon that would be enough to see them reach the promise land.
Fast-forward to the modern-day and a result like this is almost unthinkable.
Following their incredible Premier League title success in 2016, the Foxes are among the front-runners at the top of English football. Priced as 40/1 outsiders this season, they are ahead of the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal in current football betting markets.
My favourite game: Swindon reach the promised land – thank Hod: Glenn Hoddle was the inspirational player-manager as Swindon beat Leicester in a dramatic First Division play-off final Looking back, it was all rather surreal, even… https://t.co/zKvbpYYz6n #Swindon #LeicesterCity pic.twitter.com/IJec48nSe6
— JPDAILYSPORTS (@JCPGATA) May 20, 2020
2009/10 – Blackpool 3 Cardiff City 2
Another name not expected to be in the running for promotion at the start of the season achieved elevation with a stunning win over Cardiff. Under the ever-entertaining Ian Holloway, the Seasiders had finished the regular season in sixth spot and were seen as outsiders heading into the end-of-season series.
But victory over Nottingham Forest set up a decider with the Bluebirds, who appeared on course to earn promotion when Michael Chopra fired them in front after nine minutes. But Holloway’s side had other ideas and found a quick response through Charlie Adam four minutes later.
Joe Ledley again gave the Welsh side the lead, but goals from Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Brett Ormerod, all before half-time, handed the advantage back to Blackpool. The 3-2 lead would prove to be decisive as the Tangerines secured their elevation to the top level.
1997/98 – Charlton Athletic 4 Sunderland 4
Taking the top spot on our list is this eight-goal nail-biter contested by Charlton Athletic and Sunderland that would be decided by an equally tense penalty shoot-out. The two sides were worthy participants in the fixture, one of the last to be played at the ‘old’ Wembley, having finished 3rd and 4th at the end of the regular season.
The two sides served up an absolute classic, with a nervy first half followed by an incredible second period. Clive Mendonca put Charlton in front in the 23rd minute and the Addicks would take a 1-0 lead with them into the break.
A quickfire double, from Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, shortly after the restart turned the contest on its head for Sunderland, before Mendonca found a second to level the game again. Quinn completed a brace moments later, but Richard Rufus was able to equalise for Charlton five minutes from full-time.
Nicky Summerbee put the Black Cats in front nine minutes into extra-time, but Mendonca’s hat-trick strike meant the game would be settled on penalties. And after 13 consecutive spot kicks had been scored, Michael Gray’s shot was saved, sparking jubilant scenes as Charlton earned promotion to the Premier League.
— The Sun Football ⚽ (@TheSunFootball) May 24, 2019
We hope you have enjoyed this look back on three of the greatest Play-Off Finals of all time. With Premier League football up for grabs, the stakes are seldom higher in professional football. Of course, Iron fans everywhere long for the day when our club marches out to contest such an exhilarating fixture.