In less than 4 days time, over 40,000 football fans will be sitting in the home of English football, Wembley Stadium, nervously awaiting the arrival two teams, Brentford and Yeovil, for the League One Playoff Final.
Just 90 minutes separate the lucky side from the ‘dreamland’ that is the privilege of Championship football next season. But judging by Brentford’s rollercoaster 3 weeks, this game is by no means a foregone conclusion. Anything could, and probably will, happen.
Rewind to 27th April; a glorious summers day, perfect weather for the end of the season. This was Brentford versus Doncaster, where the winner would take the final automatic promotion place and the loser would have to settle for another gruelling 3 matches in the playoffs.
Brentford started brightly, they hit the post through Bradley Wright-Phillips but could not quite break down Rovers’ solid back-four. Until the 93rd minute that is. Diagouraga was fouled, Michael Oliver awarded a penalty, Marcello Trotta wrestled the ball from club legend Kevin O’Connor, stepped up, struck the ball and saw it crash against the Neil Sullivan’s crossbar. Rovers’ broke, Paynter squared the ball to Coppinger and the rest is history.
Swindon proved to be tough playoff semi-final opponents but after outclassing the Bees at the County Ground, the Wiltshire side were dumped out after losing on penalties at Griffin Park. This game was not short of drama either as, in the last minute of injury time with Brentford winning 3-2, towering Swindon centre-back Aden Flint met Gary Roberts’ inswinging corner with his head to send the game to extra-time.
The game was decided by penalties and goalkeeper Simon Moore was the hero that day, expertly diving to his left to keep out Miles Storey’s placed penalty before young midfielder Adam Forshaw cemented a place in the final with his decisive spot-kick. Cue a mass pitch invasion and stunned silence from Swindon fans who doubtless exited the ground in the knowledge they were second best on the day.
Yeovil had a slightly less eventful conclusion to the campaign and can count themselves lucky to finish in the top-six after starting the season in terrible form with a run of seven losses from eight games through September and October. Needless to say, their form improved dramatically after this and since the turn of the year, the Glovers have lost just 6 games.
The West Country side faced Sheffield United in the playoffs and despite losing the away leg of the tie one-nil, they defeated the Blades two-nil at Huish Park to set up a Wembley date with Brentford thirteen days later.
Yeovil will go into the final with full confidence having beaten their opponents twice this season, the score being 6-1 on aggregate and with the deadly strike-partnership of young Paddy Madden and veteran James Hayter yielding 38 goals thus far, manager Gary Johnson will be confident his men can win the game and start next season as a Championship side.
The winner, whoever it may be, will be heading into uncharted territory with the Glovers having only been a Football League side since 2003 and Brentford without an appearance in the second-tier of English Football since relegation in 1993.
My Prediction: Playoff heartache is something Brentford fans understand all too well and although Yeovil have the upper hand in terms of results this season, I think this Brentford squad has more than enough determination, strength and passion to break the playoff “hoodoo” and send the fans home happy. 2-1.