EFL Play-Off semi-finals round-up
Last nights meeting between Port Vale and Swindon concluded the EFL Play-Off semi-finals. Matches at all levels were full of drama and controversy, on and off the pitch. Attention will now turn to the Play-Off finals at Wembley but which teams will be playing there? And how did they make it through the semi-final stage?
Championship Play-Off semi-finals
- Huddersfield Town vs Luton Town
On Monday night, Huddersfield Town confirmed their place in the Championship Play-Off final after a 2-1 aggregate victory over Luton Town.
The first leg ended in a 1-1 draw at Kenilworth Road so it was all to play for in the second leg. First half goals from Huddersfield’s Danel Sinani and Luton’s Sonny Bradley ensured the first leg ended all square at Kenilworth Road.
A late Jordan Rhodes goal in the return leg at the John Smith’s Stadium handed the Terriers a 1-0 win on the night and sent them on their way to Wembley. Rhodes turned the ball past Luton goalkeeper Matt Ingram from a tight angle after meeting a free kick from his fellow substitute Sorba Thomas.
Huddersfield will now compete in their second Championship Play-Off final in the last five years. The West Yorkshire outfit defeated Reading on penalties in the 2017 final following a 0-0 draw.
- Nottingham Forest vs Sheffield United
An action packed second leg in the East Midlands saw Nottingham Forest win the tie on penalties thanks to heroics from goalkeeper Brice Samba, the semi-final ended in a 3-3 draw on aggregate after more than 210 minutes of football.
The Reds were victorious in the first leg at Bramall Lane, winning the game 2-1. Forest created an abundance of chances but only managed to come out on top by a goal. Jack Colback gave Steve Cooper’s men a first half lead and Brennan Johnson doubled their advantage after the interval. Sheffield United gave themselves a glimmer of hope in stoppage time through Sander Berge’s header.
Sheffield United were a different animal at the City Ground and also won their away leg 2-1 however, the Blades didn’t get off to great a start. Johnson extended Forest’s lead in the tie after 19 minutes and held on until half time. United manager Paul Heckingbottom must have given his side a kick up the backside at the break and this was clear from get go. Morgan Gibbs-White levelled the scores on the night just two minutes into the second half and John Fleck made it 3-3 on aggregate in the 75th minute.
The game went into extra-time but no goals were scored in the additional period and the tie went to penalties. Nottingham Forest won 3-2 on penalties and their success can be put down to the performance of Samba, he saved 3 penalties in the shoot-out including the decisive spot kick from Gibbs-White.
Nottingham Forest will now play in their first ever Play-Off final and they will also make their first appearance at the new Wembley.
Both ties saw fans pitch invade in the second leg and this sadly overshadowed what the winners had achieved.
Luton Town manager Nathan Jones was quick to criticise the behaviour of the Huddersfield fans after their game.
“The fans were an absolute disgrace… the fans were an absolute disgrace”, said Jones. How one of us hasn’t been (injured).”
Sheffield United forward Billy Sharp was assaulted by a Forest fan following the pitch invasion at the City Ground and Heckingbottom was furious with the incident.
Sharp was knocked to the ground and needed stitches after the attack, Heckingbottom said.
“It’s assault,” he said. “We’ve seen one of our players attacked. He’s shook up, bleeding, angry.”
The 2021/22 Sky Bet Championship Play-Off final will take place on Sunday 29th May between Huddersfield Town and Nottingham Forest.
League One Play-Off semi-finals
- MK Dons vs Wycombe Wanderers
Wycombe defeated MK Dons 2-1 on aggregate as they look to secure an immediate return to the Championship.
The first leg at Adams Park saw Wanderer’s win 2-0 and take control of the tie. Ryan Tafazolli gave the hosts the lead after 38 minutes and Sam Vokes doubled the score with eight minutes remaining. MK Dons midfielder Josh McEachran was sent off in the second half after receiving two yellow cards.
Mk Dons managed to win the return leg at Stadium MK but the 1-0 score line wasn’t enough to see them level the tie. Tottenham loanee Troy Parrott headed the Dons into a first half lead and despite 29 shots at the Wycombe goal, they couldn’t find that elusive second goal.
Wycombe will return to Wembley after winning the League One Play-Off final in 2020. The Chairboy’s beat Oxford 2-1 at the home of English football and the result ensured that they would compete in the second tier for the first time in their history.
- Sheffield Wednesday vs Sunderland
A late Sunderland goal in the second leg saw the Black Cats win 2-1 on aggregate, the Mackem’s are looking to end their four-season stint in the third tier.
Ross Stewart’s goal on the verge of half time handed Sunderland a 1-0 first-leg win at the Stadium of Light but they were disappointed it wasn’t more after numerous chances were squandered by the home side.
Sheffield Wednesday have the best home record in England’s top four divisions for the 21/22 season but they couldn’t make home advantage count in the second leg. However, the Owls did take the lead through top scorer Lee Gregory in the 74th minute.
As the clocked ticked over 90 minutes, the fourth indicated that there would be 10 minutes of stoppage time and Sunderland took advantage of this.
Patrick Roberts scored in the 93rd minute to put Sunderland 2-1 ahead on aggregate and send them on their way to Wembley.
Sunderland lost the 2019 League One Play-Off final against Charlton and they will look to go one better this time.
The 2021/22 Sky Bet League One Play-Off final will take place on Saturday 21st May (tomorrow) between Wycombe Wanderers and Sunderland.
League Two Play-Off semi-finals
- Northampton Town vs Mansfield Town
Northampton were dealt a huge blow on the final day after Bristol Rovers 7-0 win over Scunthorpe saw them overtake the Cobblers on goal difference to claim the last automatic promotion spot and things got worse for them in the Play-Offs. Nigel Clough’s Mansfield won the tie 3-1 on aggregate, winning both legs in the process.
Mansfield won the first leg 2-1 at One Call Stadium after holding off a late rally from Northampton. First half goals from Rhys Oates and Jordan Bowery gave Mansfield a secure lead at the interval but Ali Koiki reduced the deficit just after the hour mark.
The Stags claimed their place in the final after a 1-0 second leg win at Sixfields. Stephen McLaughlin scored the only goal of the game after 31 minutes but the goal came with controversy because an earlier offside in the lead up to the goal wasn’t spotted by the officials.
- Port Vale vs Swindon Town
Port Vale will play at the new Wembley for the first time following a win on penalties against Swindon, the tie ended 2-2 after both legs and extra time.
Swindon Town ran out 2-1 winners in the first leg at the County Ground as Harry McKirdy scored a brace. Goals in both halves by McKirdy gave Swindon a 2-0 lead but a late goal from Vale forward James Wilson halved the deficit.
Wilson scored again in the return leg at Vale Park and this proved to be the only goal of the game. Wilson gave the hosts the lead and levelled the tie on aggregate in the 8th minute, chances fell the way of both sides but the two sides couldn’t be separated after normal and extra time so penalties were required.
Vale won 6-5 on penalties after Swindon’s Ellis Iandolo blazed his decisive penalty over the bar.
The 2021/22 Sky Bet League Two Play-Off final will take place on Saturday 28th May between Mansfield Town and Port Vale.