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Crawley Town
League Two
May 19, 2024 at 1pm UK
The People's Pension Stadium
Crewe Alexandra

2 - 0

Orsi (41'), Kelly (85')
Addai (90+3')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Rowe (19'), Adebisi (59'), Tabiner (66')

Greatest League Two playoff finals ever

Ahead of Sunday's Wembley showdown between Crawley Town and Crewe Alexandra, Sports Mole takes a look at the greatest League Two playoff finals.

The 2023-24 League Two campaign will come to a close when Crawley Town do battle with Crewe Alexandra in the playoff final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

After sneaking into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, Crawley are now gearing up for their first-ever Wembley appearance, courtesy of a surprise yet deserved 8-1 demolition of MK Dons in the playoff semi-finals.

Meanwhile, Crewe sensationally overturned a two-goal first-leg deficit against an in-form Doncaster Rovers outfit before winning 4-3 in a penalty shootout to reach their first playoff final since 2011-12.

Some of the most dramatic games filled with captivating drama, last-minute winners, penalty shootouts and stunning strikes have been delivered in the EFL playoffs over the years.

With that in mind, Sports Mole takes a look at the top three greatest ever League Two playoff finals.

3. Dagenham & Redbridge 3-2 Rotherham United - 2010 League Two playoff final

Fourteen years ago, a pulsating five-goal thriller saw Dagenham & Redbridge pierce a dagger into the hearts of Rotherham supporters en route to securing promotion to the third tier for the first time in their fledgling history.

Founded in 1992, Dag & Red were competing in just their third season as a Football League club, and despite losing several key players at the start of the campaign, manager John Still worked his magic in the transfer market, recruiting shrewd free transfers and loan signings to build a squad that sneaked into the playoffs before celebrating glory at Wembley.

Following a blistering end-to-end start to the contest, Paul Benson swivelled and fired Dag & Red in front on the 38-minute mark, but their celebrations were short-lived as Rotherham went up the other end and equalised less than a minute later courtesy a near-post header from Ryan Taylor.

The Daggers' advantage was restored just before the hour mark when Danny Green's low-driven strike from the edge of the area flew into the bottom corner, but Rotherham would not go down without a fight and Taylor fired home another leveller just five minutes later, not long after Millers midfielder Danny Harrison had clipped the crossbar.

However, it was Still's side who would have the last laugh 20 minutes from time. Barbados international Jon Nurse watched his poked effort on goal take a deflection off Kevin Ellison before bobbling into the net, and despite Rotherham's best efforts to equalise for a third time, Dag & Red held on for a memorable playoff triumph.

2. Blackpool 2-2 Torquay United (Torquay win 5-4 on penalties) - 1991 Fourth Division playoff final

Both Blackpool and Torquay experienced rollercoaster campaigns before securing their spots in the 1991 playoff final. The Tangerines were languishing sixth from bottom when Billy Ayre took the reins in December, and he eventually steered the club to a fifth-placed finish in the playoffs, helped by a club-record 13-game winning streak at home, although a defeat on the final day meant that they missed out on automatic promotion by just one point.

The Gulls, meanwhile, replaced manager Dave Smith with John Impey in April - one month before the final - after slipping from the summit to mid-table, and the change ultimately paid off as they admiralty climbed back into the top seven with five wins from their final eight matches.

Blackpool could not have asked for a better start to their maiden Wembley appearance. Paul Groves poked the Tangerines into a seventh-minute lead after receiving a brilliant outside-of-the-boot pass from Mark Taylor. However, Torquay turned the enthralling contest on its head before half time, with a towering header from captain Wes Saunders followed less than 10 minutes later by Dean Edwards's composed penalty, after Dave Bamber was penalised for handling inside the area.

With less than a quarter of an hour remaining, Torquay's Chris Curran scored a comical own goal in an attempt to clear the ball from danger after David Eyres hit the underside of the crossbar with an audacious overhead kick. There were a plethora of chances at both ends, but neither side could be separated in normal time or extra time, forcing the tense final to penalties.

After Torquay's Mark Loram and Blackpool's Tony Rodwell had the first two spot kicks saved, each of the next nine were converted, including one from Gulls goalkeeper Gareth Howells, before Bamber - who has a night to forget at Wembley - sliced his effort from 12 yards wide of the goal to hand Torquay a 5-4 shootout victory and secure promotion to the third tier.

1. Stockport County 3-2 Rochdale - 2008 League Two playoff final

If at first you do not succeed, try, try again. Jim Gannon played for Stockport Country in each of their previous four defeats at the home of football, but as a manager, he savoured a deserved victory for his team at the fifth time of asking following a thrilling finale under the famous Wembley arch in 2008.

County were made to work for their playoff victory, though, as their Manchester-based rivals Rochdale drew first blood when Rory McArdle nodded home at the near post. However, Stockport equalised 10 minutes later after Nathan Stanton diverted Tommy Rowe's teasing cross into his own net.

Anthony Pilkington, an influential figure for Stockport all afternoon, showed superb technique to stoop his header on target and put Gannon's side ahead for the first time just four minutes after the interval, before County's main man Liam Dickinson increased their lead with a low-drilled shot at the near post - his 21st goal of the campaign.

Keith Hill's Rochdale gave it their all in the closing stages and pulled a goal back 13 minutes from time, thanks to Adam Rundle's sweetly-struck volley, to set up a nail-biting finish until the final whistle. However, the Dale ultimately came up short in their centenary season and their hopes of securing their first promotion for nearly 40 years were crushed.

Honourable mentions:

Lincoln City 0-2 Southend United (AET) - 2005
Bournemouth 5-2 Lincoln City - 2003
Blackpool 4-2 Leyton Orient - 2001
Wycombe Wanderers 4-2 Preston North End - 1994

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