From Wayne Hall to Dean Windass, Yorkshire has proud record in play-off finals

AS much as the first waft of barbecue smoke heralds the start of summer, so should the sight of a Yorkshire club striding out in a play-off final.

Hull City's Michael Dawson lifts the trophy after winning the Championship Play-off Final at Wembley against Sheffield Wednesday in 2016.

Although for Sheffield United and Leeds United in particular, that image holds limited appeal.

In 20 seasons since the start of the Millennium, a White Rose side has made it through to an end-of-season showpiece – whether at Wembley, Cardiff or on one occasion, Old Trafford – on an impressive 16 occasions.

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Of course, it remains to be seen what transpires at the end of 2019-20, with football attempting to tentatively emerge from the grip of Covid-19.

Doncaster Rovers' James Hayter (centre) celebrates scoring against Leeds United.

Should the promotion-chasing duo of Leeds and Rotherham United complete their seasons, you can bet your bottom dollar that they would much prefer the conventional route to promotion. More especially the former, given their wretched play-off record.

Nevertheless, a mass exodus of fans from the Broad Acres – full of hope and quite often, a liberal amount of alcohol if they are travelling by rail – is part of the football tapestry in these parts.

In 11 consecutive seasons from 2007-08, a least one Yorkshire club reached a play-off showpiece and there were finales to savour and forget, depending on your particular persuasion.

In terms of the play-off final story – taking away the two-legged home and away format staged until 1989 – it began back in 1993.

That ended in glory when York City full-back Wayne Hall blasted home the decisive penalty in their shoot-out against Crewe Alexandra in their final at Wembley.

Hall shared hero status alongside goalkeeper Dean Kiely, who saved Gareth Whalley’s spot-kick to secure promotion for York.

Finales in the fourth-tier of English football have largely served Yorkshire clubs well, with Peter Jackson’s Huddersfield Town also holding their nerve on penalties after their final against Mansfield Town ended goalless at the Millennium Stadium on May 31, 2004 – with Lee Fowler converting the all-important penalty.

It was more serene for Phil Parkinson’s Bradford City in their Wembley ‘double’ appearance season of 2012-13 when a three-goal salvo inside the first half-hour saw the Capital One Cup finalists account for Northampton Town in double quick-time.

The only downer had come three years earlier when Rotherham United lost 3-2 to Dagenham and Redbridge, with Ryan Taylor’s brace counting for nothing.

For the real tale of glory, you must look at the county’s majestic record in third-tier finals where nine clubs have triumphed in 11 showpieces with the tone set by Huddersfield and Bradford City, who reigned supreme at Wembley in 1995 and 1996.

Three clubs in Town, Rotherham and Barnsley have prevailed on two occasions apiece.

Not that the joy is shared by everyone, with Leeds and the Blades having the misfortune to be on the receiving end of painful losses to Yorkshire rivals.

Leeds fans descended on Wembley in their tens of thousands for their showpiece with Doncaster Rovers in 2008.

Travelling on the train via Doncaster, there seemed to be just as many Leeds fans waiting on the platform at the South Yorkshire town’s famous railway station as there were following Rovers.

Sizeable pockets of Whites supporters were present in the Doncaster end, but the day belonged to that fine Rovers side with James Hayter’s header entering folklore as the club secured a place in the second-tier of English football for the first time in over half a century.

The second all-Yorkshire final in the third tier arrived four years later in 2012 when a tense arm wrestle in blazing sunshine between Huddersfield and the Blades ended deadlocked at 0-0.

An epic penalty shoot-out, as dramatic as the previous 120 minutes were sterile, featured 22 spot-kicks and saw rival keepers Alex Smithies and Steve Simonsen take centre stage and it was Town who joyously prevailed.

The other all-Yorkshire final arrived in the Championship in 2016 when a wonder strike from Hull City’s Mo Diame broke Sheffield Wednesday hearts.

Hull had previously triumphed eight years earlier against Bristol City, thanks to a similarly magnificent goal from a proud Hullensian in Dean Windass.

As for the only other Yorkshire side to win a one-off second-tier final? Step forward Huddersfield, thanks to that penalty from Chris Schindler versus Reading in 2017.

Complete with ‘that’ reaction from chairman Dean Hoyle.

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