The playoffs…a three-game tournament at the end of the football league season which sends every football loving fan into a frenzy of emotion for those who are taking part; and for the neutral who loves to be involved in the chitter chatter. This is before a ball is even kicked.
In the run-up to this season’s play-off semi-final games against Sheffield Wednesday, we know now (at the time of writing) that Fulham and Reading battled it out for a draw at Craven Cottage. Some may say advantage Reading, some may point to Fulham playing better away from home. The bottom line is that whatever happens in these fixtures is a lottery. A lottery which with a bit of luck will swing your way…whatever that may be.
Having supported Huddersfield Town for several years I was asked; other than the play-off final wins, what would you describe as your most vivid playoff memory. The answer as I half-smirked remembering the flood of memories that came back to me was the home leg of the semi-final against Bournemouth in 2010-11 League One season.
Town had secured a 1-1 draw away at Bournemouth and were looking to continue their fine form in which had seen them secure 27+ games unbeaten. What followed on that night in May had the fans from both sides experiencing adulation and nail biting hysteria.
Goals from Lee Peltier, Steve Lovell, Danny Ward, Danny Ings and Antony Kay produced end-to-end football any neutral would feast upon. For those that were concerned with it, the grand finale of the penalty shoot-out reared its head.
Having spent the evening in what is now known as the Revell Ward Lower Stand, I was in prime position to view the drama that continued to unfold in front of my eyes. The first spot kick I remember not being able to watch, but the reassurance of the noise from the crowd told me not to worry. The remaining three penalties that Town took; were down to a tee. Antony Kay stepped up and lashed the ball home to send the roof flying off what was the Galpharm at the time.
Adrenaline, happiness and sheer joy for the home supporters as the realisation that we were going to Old Trafford had become a reality. For the away fans silence and the low sinking feeling of being so close yet so far to the golden day out was almost as deafening. Lost in the euphoria all I could think about was being one step closer to the dream. Peter Clarke our “Captain Fantastic” was spirited in consoling several Cherries players before making his way over to the Terriers and celebrating expectedly in a happy fashion.
Magnificent, what a night it truly was. Our play-off final against Sheffield Wednesday is right around the corner and from a personal perspective, I will be backing the team in what has been an unbelievable season of humble overachievement.
The playoffs are here again, let’s enjoy the ride folks; and maybe….just maybe whatever will be, will be. We may just end up at Wembley.