With the playoffs being the final opportunity to take the final promotion spots, teams will do their best to ensure their fans see that day of glory at Wembley and a chance of seeing their team go up to the next division and big games to play.
In League One, Wycombe Wanderers who had missed out on automatic promotion by a point, faced a tie against Plymouth Argyle, who finished thirteen points below. The league game between the two at Home Park had produced just a solitary goal. It certainly wasnt going to be the case in the first leg. Plymouth who hadn’t beaten Wycombe in the league at home since 2004, had looked dead and buried. Two goals in the first twenty-two minutes from the visitors left Plymouth rocking and a third goal not long into the second half looked like seeing a possible rout. With Wycombe only losing once away from home in the previous eighteen games, things were looking very bleak for the Argyle. As the game was heading to an end, the tie was wide open again. The final five minutes though saw goals from Ansah and Banton.
Hopes for a Plymouth day out at Wembley were killed off early in the first half of the second league. A goal in the first and final ten minutes of the first half virtually ended the tie. At 5-2 on aggregate with a whole second half to play, it would have taken a lot to come back with. The visitors did manage one reply, but that was as far as it went. Plymouth would be destined to another season in League Two, whilst Wycombe gave themselves an opportunity of promotion that would come just a season after avoiding relegation out of the Football League.
The other tie saw Stevenage and Southend battling for a promotion place, as Southend looked to bounce back into League one after last seasons relegation. A much quieter affair saw a 1-1 draw in a game that was held up due to a nasty head collision. Both goals came within the opening fifteen minutes of the second half. The Stevenage substitutes bench saw a familiar face to football fans in the form of Dave Beasant at the wise age of 56.
The second leg saw another 1-1 affair. Southend who had lost out on automatic promotion on the final game of the season, missed a stoppage time penalty which sent the game into extra time. The home side who were hoping to avoid three play off semi final defeats in fours seasons, broke through in the second half of extra time and then sealed the victory in the final minute of extra time.
Southend and Wycombe do battle once more in a tie that saw nine goals scored between them over the home and away league ties. The two sides have only met once in a tie to be decided over 90 minutes. The Auto Windscreens Shield back in 1997 saw Wycombe win by a single goal.
Having avoided the defeat that could have seen them miss out on the Play Offs, the luck seemed to be deserting Sheffield United. A first half lead turned into a second half defeat when Swindon grabbed an injury time winner. If they had thought that was bad, the Blades found themselves being battered two goals in the first ten became three in the first twenty. Swindon were 5-1 up on aggregate. The visiting fans suddenly wondered if the luck was coming back, as an own goal a minute later and a second in the 38th minute pulled the score to 3-2 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate. Could United end their dismal play off run or was there still another sting in the tail.
Swindon were back in control with a penalty on the hour mark, it was 4-2 on the night and 6-3 on aggregate, but it seemed that the visitors were not giving up. Davies pulled a goal back. Sheffield United had 25 minutes to grab three goals. A doable task but Obika scored a 5th in the 84th minute to surely put the nail in the coffin and make it 5-3 and 7-4 on aggregate. Not only was the score against them, but the time was against them. Three goals needed to level the tie and take it to extra time. They came close by getting two to close the aggregate score to 7-6. The defeat condemned Sheffield United to their eighth play off campaign defeat.
Swindon will face Preston North End, who beat Chesterfield in a one-sided affair. Preston scored a solitary 1-0 win in the first leg and a 3-0 win in the second. Preston will be hoping to repeat the score of the home game from this season, that saw them beat Swindon 3-0.
Whatever happens in the Wembley finals, I’m sure the fans will be hoping for respective wins and the neutrals for some more goals.