All-White Rose playoffs always promise to be intriguing encounters, filled with the drama, emotion, and passion that characterizes local derbies. The only previous occasion when two teams from the south of Yorkshire converged was the Steel City FA Cup semi-final match in April 1993, featuring Sheffield United and Wednesday; the latter won that match and haven’t won at the home of football since then.
The Broad Acres playoffs have been more dramatic in nature, if not exciting in terms of goals scored. Scratch beneath the surface, and you’ll find stories of heartbreak, triumph, and clubs resurrecting from the ashes of possible oblivion. Doncaster Rovers faced Leeds United in the first all-Yorkshire playoff showdown on May 25, 2008, a match that saw Doncaster returning to the second tier of English football for the first time in 50 years. It was a poignant moment, considering that ten years earlier, the club had bowed out of the Football League and was quite possibly headed into oblivion.
The revival of Rovers was spearheaded by charismatic Chairman John Ryan, who was front and center of the club’s renaissance. John was drenched in champagne by jubilant players after their victory over Leeds in the 2008 final. Four years later, in May 2012, Huddersfield Town and Sheffield United battled it out in a rather forgettable final that was characterized by the absence of goals and chances. The tension peaked in an epic penalty shootout, which saw Huddersfield winning 8-7 after United failed to score from three of their opening four spot-kicks. The peerless on-pitch leader for Huddersfield in that match was Peter Clarke, whose goal changed the narrative and saw Town prevail.
The most recent all-Yorkshire playoff final was in May 2016 when Sheffield Wednesday faced Hull City in a Championship match that saw Mo Diame score the only goal of the match to end Wednesday’s dream of ending their 16-year exile from top-flight football. This was a bitter-sweet day for Wednesday fans, who had made up two-thirds of the crowd, as they witnessed their team suffer from stage fright, despite having the support of their passionate fans.
In all, White Rose playoff finals have been eventful occasions that are filled with stories of triumph against all odds, resurgence, and heartbreak. Even when there are few goals, they remain a remarkable advertisement for the passion and emotion that local fans have for their clubs. Local derbies produce unique moments and are a momentous occasion on the calendar of football fans in Yorkshire and beyond.