Monday, May 25, 2009

The Bank Holiday weekend playoff final frenzy has become a firm tradition in England now, with many looking forward to the three games.

As is often the case, two of this years games were nervy affairs where quality football often takes a back seat but the excitement of the occasion is always at the forefront, no matter what you're watching on the pitch.

Saturday's League 2 playoff between Gillingham and Shrewsbury looked to have the makings of a nil nil, neither side giving anything affair that was destined to go to penalties. That was before Simeon Jackson popped up to head home a 90th minute winner for the Gills, in front of an impressive and staggering crowd of 53,706.

You do have to wonder of course where all these fans are when their Clubs need them the most during the regular season.

If there's one player that will want to forget the League 2 play off campaign from this season then it's going to be Shrewsbury's Neil Ashton.

To say that he had a bit of a nightmare would be an understatement. In the first leg of their semi final against Bury he scored an own goal in the only goal of the game. In the second leg, he conceded a penalty, which Bury missed. In the playoff final, he was the defender beaten on the line by Jackson's header. That's a threesome you don't want a long summer to be left thinking about.

The League 1 final was the pick of the bunch. A cracking, end to end feast of attacking football saw Scunthorpe win by the odd goal in five against Millwall to reclaim their place as a Championship side.

It was another late winner for the Lincolnshire Club, in front of a pro Millwall crowd of 59,661. It was a great triumph for Scunny, who were two minutes away from not making the playoffs at all, until a late goal against Tranmere sealed their place and broke Wirral hearts.

It was great to see another unfashionable Club in the Championship and I'm sure that Newcastle will be relishing their trips to their 9,183 capacity Glanford Park instead of Old Trafford.

And talking of the Championship, an early Burnley goal saw the team that has excited us across three competitions this season deservedly claim their place in the Premiership after a 1-0 win against Sheffield United.

It wasn't a classic but the Burnley fans in the 80,518 crowd had a happy journey home at the end of a season that saw them play 63 competitive matches and establish Owen Coyle as a manager with a very bright future.

And with that, it was all over for another season in the English Leagues.

What awaits in store next season? More of the same excitement would be nice for starters, as some of the best games this season have come outside of the Premiership.

Let's just hope that some of the crowds that saw this weekends action will become regulars and much needed paying punters at lower league grounds throughout England next season.


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