It’s been 15 years since League 1 side (for seven of the last eight seasons) Swindon Town last competed in the Championship, England’s second-division league. Following a strong start to the 2013-14 League 1 season, Mark Cooper’s side faded late in the season and missed out on the promotion playoffs.
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Fast forward a year, and the Robins comfortably booked themselves a playoff place after finishing fourth in the league, 14 points north of the playoffs cut-off. Following their first leg defeat of Sheffield United, a semifinalist in this year’s League Cup, all looked to be going according to plan ahead of the second leg, which was to be played at Swindon’s County Ground.
What, almost certainly, wasn’t in Cooper’s plan was to concede five goals in that second leg. It would have been an all-time-great playoffs capitulation, except for the five goals Swindon contributed to Monday’s 10-goal thriller and booked their place in the promotion playoffs final, where they’ll face Preston North End at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, May 24.
That, right there, is the full rundown of Monday’s events (via WhoScored.com), with Swindon on the left and United on the right.
To recap quickly, with just 18 minutes on the clock, Swindon held a 5-1 lead in the two-legged tie. 21 minutes later, that lead had been cut to 5-3. It was then 6-4 with 25 minutes left to play. Jonathan Obika made it 7-4 with just six minutes left to play. Then it was 7-5 four minutes later. Then 7-6 barely another minute on the clock.
Is the Championship, League 1 or League 2’s quality anything close to that of the Premier League? Of course it’s not, but those leagues have the one thing the Premier League is missing: promotion playoffs. This time of year, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more thrilling, intense 90 minutes of soccer.
And the only thing better than the promotion playoff semifinals? The promotion playoffs finals, of course. League 2 – May 23; League 1 – May 24; Championship – May 25.