Leeds United and Sheffield United leading the charge as SIX Yorkshire rivals battle for promotion

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SINCE the Football League was reorganised in 1958, a quartet of Yorkshire sides have celebrated promotion at the end of a season on just two occasions.

A quick glance at the current EFL league tables over a morning coffee – whether you be in Skipton or Sheffield or Richmond or Rotherham – would suggest that the prospects of a third such eventuality are certainly well within the realms of possibility.

No fewer than six teams across the Broad Acres are currently in the promotion shake-up at the top end of their respective EFL divisions, making for a decidedly healthy sight for Yorkshire sporting enthusiasts to beat off those January blues.

That number was recently augmented by Hull City, whose winter renaissance is threatening to become one of the stand-out Championship stories of 2018-19.

Just like at the mid-January juncture of 2016 – when Middlesbrough and Hull led the way at the top of the second-tier – the current top two positions are also both occupied by White Rose clubs in Leeds United and Sheffield United.

This time around, Boro and the Tigers find themselves in the play-off mix, as do South Yorkshire rivals Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers in League One.

Leeds United's Pablo Hernandez celebrates his winning goal against Sheffield United.

Leeds United's Pablo Hernandez celebrates his winning goal against Sheffield United.

It is the fourth occasion in the past eight seasons that Yorkshire has had half a dozen teams in the promotion picture at this stage of a campaign.

But only once have four teams cracked open the champagne come season’s end – back in 2012-13 when Hull, Doncaster, Rotherham United and Bradford City all went up.

The only previous time that has happened in the last 60 years occurred back in 1983-84 when Steel City rivals Sheffield Wednesday and United secured Division One and Division Two football respectively, while York City and Doncaster finished in the top two in the old Division Four.

That proved a historic campaign for Denis Smith’s all-conquering Minstermen, who became the first team to reach a century of points in the Football League following the introduction of three points for a win in 1981.

The end to that 2012-13 season when four Tyke teams went up was similarly memorable, with Hull, Rovers and the Millers all clinching automatic promotion in their final matches of the season – in arguably the most dramatic end to a regular season that Yorkshire has ever witnessed.

Leon Wobschall

It was a feat that the Blades emulated in 2016-17 when they returned to the Championship, but back in that famous 83-84 season, their route to second-tier promotion was far less straightforward.

The Bramall Lane outfit went up by the skin of their teeth after Yorkshire rivals Hull – needing to win by three clear goals in a re-arranged end-of-season Division Three fixture at Burnley on May 15, 1984 – could only muster two in a 2-0 victory, with Brian Marwood’s brace being in vain.

The end to that 2012-13 season when four Tyke teams went up was similarly memorable, with Hull, Rovers and the Millers all clinching automatic promotion in their final matches of the season – in arguably the most dramatic end to a regular season that Yorkshire has ever witnessed.

The compelling action over the space of one intoxicating week began on April 27, 2013 when a scarcely-believable finale saw Doncaster go from likely play-off participation to League One champions in the space of 17 madcap seconds after James Coppinger struck an injury-time winner at rivals Brentford – straight after an infamous penalty miss from Bees striker Marcelo Trotta.

On the same afternoon, Rotherham’s return to the third tier was rather more conventional as they beat Aldershot 2-0, with the stage then set for Bradford to accompany the Millers to League One via the play-offs.

Seven days on from events at Griffin Park and the AESSEAL New York Stadium, Hull were promoted to the top-flight by a point following a dramatic 2-2 draw at home to Cardiff, with the Tigers ultimately indebted to a favour from Leeds, who won 2-1 at Watford, Hull’s big top-two rivals.

It would be pushing it for the final games of the Championship and League One seasons to replicate that intrigue, but given some head-turning developments across the county of late, it is wise to expect the unexpected.

While the sight of four Yorkshire teams being promoted in one season has been rare, the instances when three sides have all been celebrating elevations in May is more commonplace.

It occurred on the last occasion when six sides were in the promotion mix in mid-January back in 2017 when Huddersfield Town, the Blades and Rovers all went up, while Wednesday and Bradford suffered play-off heartache and Leeds missed out on the top six.

The previous season in 2015-16, Boro and Hull reached the top-flight in a season noteworthy for the stunning transformation of Barnsley.

In 17th spot with 30 points from 25 games in League One at the mid-January point of 2016, the Reds produced a staggering run of form in the second half of that season which culminated in promotion at Wembley – 56 days after triumphing there in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

From a comparatively low base of ninth place at this point of proceedings in League Two six years ago, Bradford became the fourth and final Yorkshire side to secure promotion in a stellar 12-13 campaign which also saw them visit the hallowed turf twice.

This time around, the team aiming to fly up the rails are tenth-placed Hull, four points behind sixth-placed Derby County.

For Leeds, the Blades, Boro, Barnsley and Rovers, it is about holding ground and building upon their hard-fought gains of the first half of 2018-19. A collective holding of nerve, too.