That was back on May 4, 2013, on what proved to be a joyous ‘Survival Saturday’ for Huddersfield Town and Barnsley, whose fans staged an impromptu ‘love-in’ on the John Smith’s Stadium pitch after a 2-2 draw secured their second-tier status courtesy of relegation rivals Peterborough United losing to an 89th-minute goal from Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak.
The sight of Reds’ goalkeeper and captain Luke Steele, a son of Peterborough, with the ball at his feet in open play for fully two minutes at the end with home and away players urging him to keep it – after news of events at Selhurst Park filtered back to Yorkshire – is simply impossible to forget .
It harkened back to the famous Germany versus Austria ‘Anschluss’ game in the 1982 World Cup.
For the relegation-haunted duo of Rotherham United and Sheffield Wednesday, about to embark on their own fateful sporting D-Day on Saturday, there will not be any shared joy.
Derby County remain in the box seat to stay up with a two-point advantage over the Millers, who head to Cardiff, and three points ahead of the Owls, who deliciously and devilishly visit Pride Park.
But what drama awaits.
Finales to seasons have provided a kaleidoscope of emotions for Yorkshire clubs at both ends of the table over the years and Saturday will be the latest instalment.
Across the county, that aforementioned May date in 2013 was one which served up mass relief and joy. On that very same afternoon as events unfolded at Huddersfield, Hull City – on the cusp of promotion to the Premier League – missed a late penalty through Nick Proschwitz and were then pegged back by a spot-kick from visitors Cardiff in a 2-2 draw at the KCOM Stadium.
City players faced an agonising wait before rivals Watford finished their delayed game with Leeds, who won 2-1 thanks to a late strike from Ross McCormack. The Hornets would have gone up automatically at the Tigers’ expense if they had grabbed a late winner.
It is a time of year when strange alliances can be forged.
That feted May day also saw Rotherham clinch promotion and York City avoided relegation from the Football League.
Final-day joy for three clubs arrived much earlier at the end of 1989-90 when Leeds and Sheffield United returned to the big time in the sunshine at Bournemouth and Leicester.
Middlesbrough did the pair a favour by beating the third side in the promotion mix in Newcastle United, while Leeds’s win at Dean Court helped Boro stay up.
But the day was marred by Sheffield Wednesday’s relegation from the top flight after losing to Nottingham Forest, allowing Luton Town to survive on goal difference.
A season earlier on the final day of 1988-89, Wednesday had a far more positive experience after going head to head with Boro to stay up.
Steve Whitton scored the only goal of the game at Hillsborough as the Owls survived at the expense of Boro, who dropped into the bottom three of Division One for the first time that season and were relegated.
The final day of the season throws up stories to behold and ones to lament in equal measure – more’s the pity that for the second successive season in the Football League, supporters will not be present to participate.
As for the most stunning one-off game, there is the ‘pièce de résistance.’
It happened the week before Town and Barnsley’s fabled meeting, at the end of the League One season on April 27, 2013.
One of the most amazing finishes to a campaign in Football League history transpired for Doncaster Rovers at Brentford in the space of 18 madcap seconds.
History will recall how the Bees spurned a late chance for automatic promotion when Marcello Trotta’s penalty hit the bar. Amid the mayhem, Rovers broke and James Coppinger netted at the other end as they rapidly went from envisaging the play-offs to being title winners within the blink of an eye.
As encores at Griffin Park go, Clarke Oduor’s ‘91st-minute’ winner for Barnsley in Brentford’s final league game at their West London home last July, was pretty impressive and similarly fateful for the Reds, who staged the mother-of-all relegation escapology acts.
Final days can sting. Bradford City and Middlesbrough both passed up tickets to reach the top flight in 1987-88 by losing home games to Ipswich and Leicester, respectively, and tears were shed, allowing Aston Villa to clinch automatic promotion.
There was redemption at least for Boro, who went up by the back-up route of the play-offs, as Doncaster did in 2007-08 after missing out on a top-two finish in League One after losing to Cheltenham.
It is never over until it’s over. It sadly will be for either the Millers or the Owls on Saturday, or maybe both. Let’s hope there will be salvation for one.
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