Swindon Town 5 - 5 Sheffield United (aggregate 7-6)
Swindon narrowly edged their League One play-off semi-final against Sheffield United last night 7-6 on aggregate. Their progress into the Wembley final to meet Preston North End was far from simple though, on a night when the play-off system was fully vindicated, as both teams shared in a ten-goal thriller that went right down the wire.
Swindon started second leg as favourites
Going into the second leg the home side were the strong favourites, after clinching a vital 2-1 victory in the first leg at Bramall Lane last Thursday. That match had also featured late drama, as Swindon had come back from a goal down to snatch an injury time winner from Nathan Byrne.
Home side storm into early lead
Swindon's Wembley place seemed to have been confirmed early on, as they swept into an impressive 3-0 lead on 18 minutes. Two goals from Ben Gladwin and another from Michael Smith meant that the Robins looked untouchable at 5-1 ahead on aggregate. United's game plan was seemingly going 'up in smoke' and manager Nigel Clough was seen to bury his head in his heads on the touchline. By contrast, Mark Cooper must have been delighted that his side looked to have already settled the outcome of the tie.
Sheffield rallied before the break
Clough's men rallied though soon after, pulling two goals back before half-time as a Nathan Thompson own goal and Chris Basham header reduced the arrears. Half-time gave a brief respite for those already mesmerised by the frenetic action at the County Ground. Yet the goals continued after the break as neither defence seemed capable of stemming the flow.
More goals in the second-half
Smith's penalty for the home side just before the hour mark put them 4-2 ahead, only for Steven Davies' goal to claw the Blades back into the game again. Cue a breathless last ten minutes of action.
Swindon's Jon Obika must have thought that his goal on 84 minutes, his side's fifth, had settled the match once and for all. Sheffield were unbowed though and set up a grandstand end to the match, scoring twice in three minutes to draw level at 5-5 in the game. Matty Done and Che Adams were the men on target in the dying seconds.
Time ultimately defeated them though and their brave effort proved fruitless in the end. Yet another year where they have been frustrated in the play-offs. After eight successive play-off defeats, United's fans must wonder if it well ever be their time to celebrate promotion via that route.
Swindon will now face Preston at Wembley on 24th May in the League One play-off final. The winners will be promoted into the Championship. Preston's passage through to the showpiece finale to the League One season proved to be far more decisive. They defeated Chesterfield 4-0 on aggregate over the two legs, including a stunning strike from Jermaine Beckford in the second leg at Deepdale. #Football