Will Huddersfield bounce back from play-off heartbreak with promotion in 2023? It looks unlikely

·10-min read

Huddersfield Town have written to the refereeing chiefs demanding an explanation after what appeared a clear penalty was not given in their play-off final defeat to Nottingham Forest. Jon Moss ignored spot-kick claims after Max Lowe bundled over Lewis O'Brien in the box and VAR Paul Tierney refused to step in, leaving Town fans and officials furious. Their anger is only set to simmer over the summer and won't be helped by looking at the fate of the other beaten finalists since the second tier's rebrand to the Championship in 2004. Rather than the driving force for a successful promotion bid in 2022/23, Town's play-off final failure is more likely the prelude to a slow slide down and eventually out of the division as Planet Sport's look back shows.

Preston 2004/05

Preston lost out 1-0 to West Ham in the 2004/05 play-off final after finishing fifth and went one better in 2005/06. However, sadly in the league rather than the play-offs, finishing fourth under Billy Davies. They then went on to lose in the semi-finals of the play-offs to Leeds United, going down 3-1 after drawing the first leg at Elland Road 1-1. They made the play-offs again in 2009 but again bowed out at the semi-final stage. Still, a Championship side - after a brief spell in League One between 2013 and 2015 - that defeat to West Ham is the closest they have ever got to the Premier League.

Leeds United 2005/06

Going into the play-offs, Leeds' form was the worst of all the teams in the Championship barring the bottom four and although they got past Preston to reach the final, they put in a dismal performance to lose 3-0 to Watford.

The following season proved a disastrous one for the Elland Road side. A bad start saw Kevin Blackwell dismissed and caretaker boss John Carver couldn't halt the slide. Results did pick up a little under Dennis Wise but not enough to escape the bottom three and with relegation confirmed Leeds went into administration, incurring a ten-point penalty. The following season, their first in the third tier, saw them start with a further 15-point penalty. They recovered well to reach the play-offs but lost out to Doncaster and would spend a further two seasons in League One before returning to the Championship. They finally achieved top-flight status by winning the Championship in 2020.

West Brom 2006/07

A 1-0 defeat to Derby County ended West Brom's promotion bid in 2007 and Tony Mowbray had a complete clearout in the summer. Jason Koumas, Diomansy Kamara and Curtis Davies were among those sold to Premier League clubs, with Chris Brunt, Craig Beattie and James Morrison among the 14 permanent and loan signings who joined in the transfer window. The dramatic move worked, with the Baggies going on to win the Championship despite losing 11 of their 46 games. They were relegated the following season but bounced back at the first attempt and went on to spend eight seasons in the top flight before relegation in 2018.

Bristol City 2007/08

A spectacular Dean Windass strike broke Bristol City hearts at Wembley as Hull City earned their first ever elevation to the top flight. The following season they could only manage 10th, taking just eight points from their final 36, beginning a gradual decline which saw them relegated to League One in 2013. They spent just two seasons in the third tier before gaining promotion back to the Championship where they have remained since. However, 2019, when they finished eighth is the closest they have come to making the play-offs again.

Sheffield United 2008/09

Despite finishing third in 2009, Sheffield United suffered disappointment in the play-off final as Burnley sneaked past them 1-0 - one of eight finals since 2005 to have ended in the same scoreline after 90 minutes. The Blades started the following season with seven unbeaten but four successive defeats in October and a run of six defeats in nine between the end of January and start of March derailed their promotion ambitions as they eventually finished eighth. They did finally return to the Premier League in 2019 but not before a four-year stint in League One. Again made the play-offs in 2021/22, losing out to Nottingham Forest.

Cardiff City 2009/10

All the goals came in the first half as Cardiff twice threw away a lead to lose 3-2 to Blackpool in the 2009/10 Championship play-off final. Top in mid-November the following season, they dropped down to fifth before climbing to second with four games remaining. However, they could only win one of their last four to finish fourth and were then eliminated in the play-off semi-finals at the hands of Reading. A further failed play-off campaign followed in 2011/12 before they were promoted to the Premier League in 2013 as champions. They lasted just one season in the top flight, as they did after gaining promotion again in 2018 and finished 18th in the Championship in 2021/22.

Reading 2010/11 and 2016/17

Beaten 4-2 by Swansea in the 2011 final, Reading lost four and drew one of their opening six fixtures the following season to sit down in 23rd place. However, a stunning second half to the season, which saw Reading win 17 of their 23 games saw them promoted to the top flight as champions.

They were relegated from the Premier League after finishing 19th and narrowly missed out on making the play-offs the following season. They were back in the play-offs, and back in the final, in 2017 but again suffered disappointment, losing out on penalties to Huddersfield after a goalless draw. The 2017/18 season saw Jaap Stam sacked in March and Reading survive relegation by just a point under Paul Clement.

Blackpool 2011/12

Ricardo Vaz Te proved the match-winner as West Ham edged out Blackpool 2-1, laying the foundations for Blackpool's eventual slide into League Two. Ian Holloway was again in charge at the start of the 2012/13 season but left for Crystal Palace in November and Steve Thompson and Michael Appleton both had spells in charge before Paul Ince saw the Tangerines through to the end of the campaign in 15th. With unrest behind the scenes, relegation from the Championship eventually came in 2015 before they sunk into the fourth tier the following campaign. They have fought their way back up through the divisions, however, and last season finished 16th in the Championship.

Watford 2012/13

After a dramatic final day to the regular season in which they missed out on promotion after losing to Leeds United, the Hornets suffered further heartbreak courtesy of an extra-time defeat to QPR in the play-off final. They started the following season confidently, winning at Birmingham before thrashing Bournemouth 6-1 but would eventually finish 13th, 12 points adrift of the play-offs. The 2014/15 season did, however, result in promotion, with Watford finishing second under Slavisa Jokanovic.

Derby County 2013/14 and 2018/19

Steve McClaren
Steve McClaren

Fourteenth when Steve McClaren replaced Nigel Clough at the end of September, Derby would climb to third come the season-end. However, despite thrashing Brighton 6-2 on aggregate in their play-off semi-final, they would come unstuck against QPR in the final, losing 1-0 to an injury-time Bobby Zamora goal. The following season they led the Championship in late February but would fall away dramatically to eventually finish eighth - they won just two of their final 13 fixtures. They were again to finish in the play-off places in 2015/16, 2017/18 and 2018/19, reaching the final in the last of those under Frank Lampard. However, a 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa followed and Lampard left for Chelsea in the summer.

Phillip Cocu replaced him but with the Rams in 17th it was the arrival of Wayne Rooney that got Derby to the brink of the play-offs.

They finished six points adrift in tenth and as financial problems bit, struggled in the following two campaigns. They eventually bowed out of the Championship in 2021/22, with a 21-point deduction for entering administration and also breaching EFL accounting rules proving insurmountable.

Middlesbrough 2014/15

Middlesbrough bounced back from their 2-0 play-off final defeat to Norwich by finishing runners-up in the Championship the following campaign under Aitor Karanka. They rather limped over the line, with four successive draws, including a nervy final-day stalemate against Brighton, seeing them pip the Seagulls to promotion on goal difference. Boro lasted just one season in the top flight and remain in the Championship, finishing just a place outside the play-offs in 2021/22.

Sheffield Wednesday 2015/16

Sheffield Wednesday fans may have heavily outnumbered Hull fans at the 2016 final but it was the East Yorkshire club who prevailed in the most telling statistic, winning the match 1-0 thanks to a fine Mo Diame strike. Sixth that year, Wednesday improved to fourth in 2016/17 but this time lost at the semi-final stage. Three seasons of mid-table finishes followed before the Owls were relegated from the Championship in 2020/21. Further play-off misery followed in 2021/22, this time in League One, as Wednesday lost out to Sunderland at the semi-final stage.

Aston Villa 2017/18

Villa reached the 2018 play-off final off the back of a fourth-placed finish but would lose out to Fulham 1-0.

The following campaign, after a woeful start saw them down in 16th in late October, they recovered to finish one place worse off in fifth. However, this time it was they who tasted Wembley success as they beat Derby County 2-1 to secure their Premier League status.

Brentford 2019/20

Brentford were another team who put their Wembley heartbreak behind them to secure promotion to the Premier League at the same venue the following season.

Despite finishing third, the Bees lost 2-1 after extra time to Fulham in 2020's play-off final.

They went on to better their 2019/20 points tally by six only to again finish third before beating Swansea City 2-0 in the final to get their first ever crack at the Premier League.

Swansea City 2020/21

Nottingham Forest celebrations, promotion
Nottingham Forest celebrations, promotion

As just mentioned, it was Swansea City who were the unfortunate club at Wembley in 2021. However, while they were unable to gain a measure of atonement, finishing eighth in 2022, their manager was.

Steve Cooper left the Swans in July of 2021 and went on to join Nottingham Forest in September with the side bottom of the Championship.

Forest then went on to lose just six more games, climbing to finish fifth and then going on to beat the Terriers in the play-off final.

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