Can Leeds make it sixth time lucky in the play-offs?


On Sunday afternoon, Leeds will take on Southampton in the Sky Bet Championship play-off final.

After a goalless semi-final first leg, Daniel Farke’s side blew Norwich away with a 4-0 win to book their place at Wembley, where they are in with a chance of returning to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

It is a similar story for Saints, who beat West Brom 3-1 in the second leg at St Mary’s.

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Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final second leg between Leeds United and Norwich City

This weekend’s game marks the first time Leeds have reached a play-off final in any division in 16 years, but how have they fared in the notorious end-of-season lottery on the previous five occasions they have reached it?

Ahead of Sunday’s final – which is live on Sky Sports Football and Main Event from 2pm; kick-off 3pm – we take a look…


EFL


Sunday 26th May 9:15am


1986/87 – Lost in Second Division play-off final replay

Peter Shirtliff's extra time double saw Charlton beat Leeds in the 1986/87 Second Division play-off final replay
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Peter Shirtliff’s extra-time double saw Charlton beat Leeds in the 1986/87 Second Division play-off final replay

Leeds’ first involvement in the play-offs came in the late 1980s, when they finished 10 points behind Second Division champions Portsmouth in Billy Bremner’s second season in charge at Elland Road.

They took on Oldham in the semi-finals and progressed to the final on away goals after a 2-2 draw, which set up a two-legged final against Charlton, who had finished fourth from bottom in the First Division and were fighting to retain their top flight place.

Jim Melrose’s goal saw the Addicks win the first leg 1-0, before Brendan Ormsby did the same for Leeds in the second leg, which forced a replay on neutral ground; Birmingham’s St Andrew’s in this case.

After 90 minutes, the teams could not be separated, so the tie went to extra time. John Sheridan’s free-kick put Leeds ahead for the first time, but Peter Shirtliff’s four-minute double settled the tie in Charlton’s favour.

2005/06 – Lost in Championship play-off final

Leeds' first Championship play-off final ended with a 3-0 defeat to Watford in Cardiff
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Leeds’ first Championship play-off final ended with a 3-0 defeat to Watford in Cardiff

Owing to the fact Leeds spent 14 of the next 17 seasons in the top flight, there was a long wait for their next play-off campaign.

Under Kevin Blackwell, the Whites consolidated their place in the Championship in the first season after relegation from the Premier League, then really looked to have a go at making their second tier stay a short one.

After a 2-1 win away at Crystal Palace on March 4, Leeds were third in the table. They were 20 points behind Steve Coppell’s historic Reading team – which still holds the record for the most points achieved in a Championship season – but only six points behind second-placed Sheffield United, and with a game in hand.

Automatic promotion was still very much a possibility at that point – but their their killer instinct evaporated into thin air – Blackwell’s side took nine points from their final 10 games.

They overcame Preston 3-1 on aggregate to book a place in the play-off final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, but Jay DeMerit’s opener, a Neil Sullivan own goal and a Darius Henderson penalty earned Watford a convincing 3-0 victory.

2007/08 – Lost in League One play-off final

James Hayter's header earned Doncaster a 1-0 win over Leeds in the 2007/08 League One play-off final
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James Hayter’s header earned Doncaster a 1-0 win over Leeds in the 2007/08 League One play-off final

Leeds were relegated to League One in the summer of 2007, having been handed a 10-point deduction for going into administration, and they suffered another blow in the lead-up to their first ever season in the third tier of English football, when they were handed a further 15-point penalty for off-field issues.

However, under Dennis Wise, they won 11 of their first 13 games and were in the play-off places by October as a result.

Leeds legend Gary McAllister struggled to replicate the same form when he took over after Wise left to become director of football at Newcastle in late January, though seven wins from the last nine ensured they finished comfortably in fifth.

They subsequently lost the play-off semi-final first leg 2-1 at home to Carlisle, before Jonny Howson’s double at Brunton Park took overturned the deficit in the second leg to book a spot at Wembley, where James Hayter’s second-half header sealed a 1-0 win for Doncaster.

2008/09 – Lost in League One play-off semi-finals

Millwall reached the 2008/09 League One play-off final after a 2-1 aggregate win over Leeds
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Millwall reached the 2008/09 League One play-off final after a 2-1 aggregate win over Leeds

There was no immediate sign of a hangover for Leeds the following year, which was the first in three seasons without a points deduction, and they were even starting to trouble the automatic promotion places.

That flirtation was brief, though. Between October 28 and December 20, Leeds lost six of their eight league games and were not far off dropping into the bottom half of the table, so on December 21, McAllister was sacked. He was replaced by boyhood Leeds fan Simon Grayson two days later.

Grayson turned things around so quickly and so successfully that his side finished fourth and only missed out on automatic promotion by five points. They went into the play-offs with the momentum of nine wins from their last 11.

Leeds lost the semi-final first leg for the second year in succession, with Neil Harris’ strike proving the difference for Millwall at The Den. Luciano Becchio put them in front in the second leg, after Jermaine Beckford had earlier missed a penalty, but when Jimmy Abdou equalised for Millwall 16 minutes from time, they could find no way back.

2018/19 – Lost in Championship play-off semi-finals

LEEDS, ENGLAND - MAY 15:  of Leeds United of Derby County during the Sky Bet Championship Play-off Semi Final, second leg match between Leeds United and Derby County at Elland Road on May 15, 2019 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Leeds lost 4-3 on aggregate to Derby in 2019

After eight seasons back in the second tier – and six bottom-half finishes in that time – Leeds finally started to believe it was their time during Marcelo Bielsa’s first season in charge. He united the city and had Leeds fans dreaming.

Having finished six points off the automatic promotion places they had challenged for throughout the campaign, Leeds had to settle for a place in the play-offs again, and led Frank Lampard’s Derby 1-0 in on aggregate going into the semi-final second leg.

Stuart Dallas doubled that lead midway through the first half, but just after the hour mark it was 3-3. Jack Marriott, Mason Mount and Harry Wilson had made it 3-1 on the night, before Dallas struck again to level up the tie.

When it seemed as though extra-time would follow, Marriott lifted his second of the night over Kiko Casilla to silence Elland Road and break Leeds hearts once again.

And if that wasn’t enough…

Leeds’ record in London is not for the faint-hearted…

Since beating QPR 3-1 at Loftus Road in December 2017 – thanks to a Kemar Roofe hat-trick – Leeds have played 36 games in all competitions in the capital, with results comprising four wins, four draws and a staggering 28 defeats.

Across that run, they have scored 32 goals and conceded 74.

To make matters worse, they have lost nine of last 10 in London, with the last the 4-0 defeat against QPR on April 26.

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Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship match between QPR and Leeds United

Will their luck change on Sunday? Watch all the action on Sky Sports Football from 2pm on Sunday to find out…

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