The Blades have been involved in seven Play-Off campaign since the Football League was invented in 1888 - United were involved in the very first Play-Offs when the Second Division was created in 1892/93 and Sheffield United hold a record of being the first team to win promotion in England and possibly the World. With no semi-final contest it was a straight final between the Cutlers and Accrington with Jack Drummond scoring the game's only goal in Nottingahm. United held there top flight status until 1934 but by that time the Play-Off system had been abandoned.
However in the late 1980's a new Play-Off system had arrived involving a promotion/relegation battle. United had finished third from bottom in Division Two and Bristol City had finished 5th in Division Three - but in the battles Dave Bassett's side lost 1-0 at Aston Gate with a 1-1 draw in the return leg not enough and were duly relegated. However they lived a short life in the third tier and won back-to-back successive promotions and come the start of the 1990/91 season were in the top flight.
They were relegated in 1994 and three years later were involved in Division One Play-Offs against Ipswich Town, drawing 1-1 at Bramall Lane with Jan Fjortoft scoring and an action packed second leg saw United go through to the old Wembley Stadium on away goals after Petr Katchouro and Andy Walker registered a 2-2 draw at Portman Road. Under Howard Kendall, United lost the final 1-0 with a last minute goal from David Hopkin.
Twelve months later they were in the top six after a action packed season which saw the Blades reach the FA Cup Semi-Final with Newcastle United (0-1) preventing a first final appearance since 1936. They met Sunderland in the semis of the Play-Offs and took a deserved advantage to the Stadium of Light with a 2-1 home win - a Vass Borbokis free-kick and Marcelo scored for United with a reply from Kevin Ball. But in the second leg the Blades were out matched and lost 2-0 with Nicky Marker putting into his own net before the dangerous Kevin Phillips sealed the win.
United endured an epic season during the 2002/03 campaign as they attempted to reach the summit of English football; they reached the Semi-Finals of both the FA Cup and League Cup competitions, only to be knocked-out by Arsenal and Liverpool who both went onto win the cup respectively. In the league - under Neil Warnock, they finished third in the table behind Portsmouth and Leicester City and faced 6th placed Nottingham Forest in the Semi-Final over two legs.
By this time the away goals rule had been abolished from competition rules and after a 1-1 draw at the City Ground the pair headed to Bramall Lane for what is described as the best game witnessed by United fans - but were to endure punishment for 'bad marking' when they fell behind twice to goals from future Blades; David Johnson (30) and Andy Reid (58) but the game wasn't lost and Neil Warnock's Red and White Army hit back instantly - Michael Brown's free-kick (60) firing past Darren Ward in the Forest goal.
Eight-minutes later the game was all square when after pressure Stephen Kabba (68) chipped the ball over defender Des Walker before firing into the net and neither side failed to score before the full-time whistle blew, forcing extra-time. United continued to dominate the game and were awarded with just deserts when a long kick from keeper Paddy Kenny found Paul Peschisolido (112) who weaved round two defenders to slot the ball home.
A trip to the Millennium Stadium look on the cards when United doubled their lead when Brown crossed from the left hand side and despite Peschisolido laying in wait, Walker (117) headed into his own net! There was still time for another goal towards the end to give the visitors hope when Robert Page (119) put into his own net after Darren Huckerby looked to score. But the win was sealed and would face Wolverhampton Wanderers who bypassed Reading 3-1 on aggregate in the final.
In typical style United didn't show up and come half-time were three-nil down with goals from; Mark Kennedy (6), former Sheffield United striker Nathan Blake (22) and Kenny Miller (45) capped out a fine win for the Midlands side. The Blades did hit back in the second half and almost scored on a couple of occasions when the ball was cleared off the line whilst Michael Brown saw his penalty saved by Matt Murray in what was a disappointing day for the thousands of traveling fans.
In May 2006 the Blades won automatic promotion to the Premier League but twelve months later were back in the Championship and under the guidance of Kevin Blackwell were battling for promotion in 2008/09 and almost secured an automatic position on the final day but was piped to the post by Birmingham City. The Blades demolished Preston North End 2-1 on aggregative at the semi-final stage after United finished 3rd in the league behind automatic promotion teams Wolverhampton Wanderers and Birmingham City.
In the first leg at Deepdale the two sides drew 1-1, though it was the home side who struck first, Sean St Ledger (21 minutes) was lucky not to be offside after Nick Montgomery headed back following a free-kick and the former Peterborough United defender tricked Paddy Kenny to score with ease.
United's performance in the first half was disappointing but they made up for it in the second forty-five minutes when straight from kick-off the visitors attacked straight away and resulted in a goal; Darius Henderson saw his close range shot saved by the spectacular Andrew Lonergan in the Lilywhites net; the ball fell wide to Jamie Ward who lofted the ball over for Brian Howard to score on the volley - the goal was timed at 21 seconds.
Like previous finals the Blades were left disappointed when Elliot Ward's (13 minutes) strike was the only goal of the game as United lost 1-0 to Burnley which saw the Blades create a lot of chances put produce little. To make matters worse they lost substitute Jamie Ward who was sent-off after two yellow cards whilst during an after-match incident Lee Hendrie was red carded by referee Mike Dean.
Danny Wilson's Blades qualified for the 2012 League One Play-Off Final after seeing off Stevenage over two legs. Again they could have sealed automatic promotion and look set to do so but was piped to the post at the last by rivals Sheffield Wednesday and conceded a play-off place. After a 0-0 draw at Broadhall Way the two teams headed back to Sheffield were the winner would face either Milton Keynes Dons or Huddersfield Town who's tie had yet to be decided.
It was a game which was mostly dominated by United with the opposition having too few chances, but the opposition did test keeper Steve Simonsen before the Blades struck the decisive blow. The game looked to be heading into extra-time and possible penalties when a well worked move was eventually crossed into the box was met by the head of Chris Porter (85) who headed home past a deluded Chris Day in the Boro goal. It would be United who heads for Wembley.
|Sheffield United's Play-Off Record (Including 2011/12)|
Sheffield United were on the wrong end in a three-nil score-line when the Blades and the Terriers met at Bramall Lane earlier in the season; defender Marcus Williams, who had joined on loan from Championship side Reading made his debut at short notice due to a suspension to Lescinel Jean-Francois and wasn't a match to remember. Lee Novak (20 & 37 minutes) netted twice in the game whilst Oscar Gobern (40) trebled their lead before half-time. However the result didn't match the display as United failed to score despite playing well in the majority of the game.
In the return league fixture at the Galpharm Stadium the Blades soaked up intense pressure from the opposition with deadly striker Jordan Rhodes hitting the post in their best opportunity of the game; but it was United who wheeled away with a victory due to defender Neill Collins header five minutes into the match.
Blades boss Danny Wilson will be without forward James Beattie, who will serve a four match suspension following his red card against Exeter City on the final day of the regular season and will serve the third of a four match ban. Having been sent-off earlier in the season at Charlton Athletic the former Glasgow Rangers and Stoke City striker will serve more than the usual three match ban. Meanwhile fellow defenders Lescinel Jean-Francois (knee) and Chris Morgan (knee) are both absent through injury whilst striker Will Hoskins is sidelined after an operation and Ched Evans is unavailable.
Veteran striker Richard Cresswell is hoping to be involved in tomorrow's showcase final; he missed the second leg win over Stevenage over a week ago due to an eye infection and hasn't cleared 100%. In his absence it may mean fielding Chris Porter as a lone striker with winger Ryan Flynn supporting the midfield. It will be the former Leicester City and Stoke City strikes 100th start in a Blades shirt should he start under the arches.
Possible Blades Line-Up: