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2000 Football League Second Division play-off Final

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2000 Football League Second Division play-off Final
After extra time
Date28 May 2000
VenueWembley Stadium, London
RefereeRob Styles (Hampshire)

The 2000 Football League Second Division play-off Final was a football match played at Wembley Stadium on 28 May 2000, to determine the third and final team to gain promotion from the Second Division to the First Division of The Football League in the 1999–2000 season. Gillingham faced Wigan Athletic in one of the last competitive fixtures to be played at the original Wembley Stadium.

The match was Gillingham's second consecutive appearance in the Second Division play-off final after a defeat to Manchester City in a penalty shoot out the previous season. Wigan had been defeated in the semi-finals the previous season and had never previously reached a play-off final. The teams reached the final by defeating Stoke City and Millwall respectively in the semi-finals.

Gillingham took the lead in the first half of the final, but Wigan equalised to send the game into extra time. During the extra period Wigan took a 2–1 lead, but Gillingham scored two goals in the last six minutes through substitutes Steve Butler and Andy Thomson to win 3–2. Gillingham thus gained promotion to the second tier of English football for the first time in the club's 107-year history, in what proved to be manager Peter Taylor's final match in charge.

Route to the final[edit]

Football League Second Division final table, leading positions
Pos Team P W D L F A Pts
1. Preston North End 46 28 11 7 74 37 95
2. Burnley 46 25 13 8 69 47 88
3. Gillingham 46 25 10 11 79 48 85
4. Wigan Athletic 46 22 17 7 72 38 83
Pos=Position P=Games played W=Wins D=Draws
L=Defeats F=Goals for A=Goals against Pts=Points

Gillingham had finished the 1999–2000 Football League season in third place in Second Division, one place ahead of Wigan. Both therefore missed out on the two automatic promotion places and instead took part in the play-offs to determine the third promoted team.[1] On the final day of the league season Gillingham had the opportunity to finish in second place in the table and thereby clinch an automatic promotion place, but a 1–0 defeat away to Wrexham meant that Burnley were able to overtake them thanks to their 2–1 win over Scunthorpe United.[2] Wigan had looked on course for an automatic promotion place in the first half of the season but the team's form fell away dramatically after Christmas.[3] Both teams were appearing in the play-offs for a second consecutive season. In the 1998–99 season both Wigan and Gillingham had qualified for the play-offs but been defeated in the semi-finals and final respectively by eventual winners Manchester City.[4]

In the play-off semi-finals, Wigan were paired with fifth-placed Millwall and Gillingham with sixth-place finishers Stoke City. Wigan drew 0–0 in the first leg against Millwall,[5] but Darren Sheridan's goal gave them a 1–0 win in the second leg and therefore a 1–0 aggregate win.[6] Gillingham lost the first leg of their tie 3–2 away to Stoke,[5] but overturned the deficit with a 3–0 second leg win. Barry Ashby, Iffy Onuora and Paul Smith scored the goals in an emotionally charged match in which Stoke had two players sent off.[6]

Wigan Athletic Gillingham
Opponent Result Legs Round Opponent Result Legs
Millwall 1–0 0–0 away; 1–0 home Semi-finals Stoke City 5–3 2–3 away; 3–0 home


Gillingham fans waving banners before the match

The two teams were competing for promotion to the second tier of the English football league system, at the time called the First Division, a level which neither club had ever previously reached.[7] The attendance of 53,764 was significantly down on the figure of 76,935 registered at the equivalent fixture in the previous season,[8] and there was a significant disparity in the number of tickets sold to the fans of the two clubs, with only around 10,000 Wigan fans in attendance compared to over 40,000 Gillingham fans.[7] A specific revenue figure for the match was not made public, but half of the gate receipts went to The Football League to distribute amongst its member clubs, with Gillingham and Wigan each receiving twenty-five per cent and no additional television broadcast fee.[9]

Gillingham manager Peter Taylor picked eight of the players who had started the previous season's playoff final,[8] but made the decision to drop the team's captain, Paul Smith, from the starting line-up due to personal issues, which led to the player requesting a transfer.[10] Wigan manager John Benson, who was taking charge of the team for the last time before the appointment of a new manager,[7] included five players in the starting line-up who had played at Wembley in the previous season's Football League Trophy final,[11] but left out captain Carl Bradshaw, as well as first-choice goalkeeper Roy Carroll, who had missed both semi-final matches following an appendix operation.[12]



First half[edit]

Wigan started off the stronger team, with Darren Sheridan dominating the midfield play and Andy Liddell causing problems for Gillingham's defenders. After four minutes Simon Haworth headed for goal, but Gillingham goalkeeper Vince Bartram made a comfortable save. Haworth also hit the crossbar with a long-range shot on goal.[13]

Gillingham took the lead after 35 minutes after Andy Hessenthaler passed to Carl Asaba, whose shot was deflected into his own goal by Wigan defender Pat McGibbon, under pressure from Iffy Onuora.[13][14] Wigan's Arjan de Zeeuw attempted to keep the ball out of the goal, but after checking with his assistant referee, referee Rob Styles ruled that the ball had crossed the line and awarded a goal to Gillingham.[15][16] At half-time the score remained 1–0 to Gillingham.[13]

Second half[edit]

Wigan again dominated play after the half-time interval and equalised in the 53rd minute. Wigan's de Zeeuw crossed the ball from a wide position and Simon Haworth flicked it up and then hit a shot from six yards out past Bartram and into the net, to score what The Independent described as "one of Wembley's great goals".[13] In the 65th minute, de Zeeuw's header was cleared off the line by Gillingham's Nicky Southall, who appeared to be standing behind the goal line.[16] Wigan's supporters believed that the ball had in fact crossed the line and entered the goal, but the assistant referee ruled otherwise.[14] Gillingham had several chances on goal in the latter stages of the game, but Wigan goalkeeper Derek Stillie prevented any further goalscoring.[13] Shortly before the end of the game Wigan defender Kevin Sharp, who had earlier been cautioned for dissent,[15] was sent off for a foul on Southall, reducing his team to ten men.[13] The match remained deadlocked at 1–1 after 90 minutes and therefore went into a 30-minute period of extra time.[14]

Extra time[edit]

Darren Sheridan of Wigan, who was involved in a pivotal moment in extra time

In the early stages of extra time, Wigan again looked stronger despite their numerical disadvantage.[13] After approximately nine minutes of the extra period, Gillingham's Barry Ashby was adjudged to have fouled Darren Sheridan, resulting in a penalty kick for Wigan, which Stuart Barlow scored to give his team a 2–1 lead.[14] Gillingham's Andy Hessenthaler rallied his unsettled team, and in the 114th minute teammate Steve Butler, who had come on as a substitute a few minutes earlier, headed in a cross from Junior Lewis to level the match once again.[13] Four minutes later another Gillingham substitute, Andy Thomson, beat Stuart Balmer to the ball after a cross from Ty Gooden and scored to give the Kent club the lead with only two minutes remaining. Wigan were unable to score any further goals in the short time remaining, and the match finished 3–2 to Gillingham.[14]


Wigan Athletic2–3 (a.e.t.)Gillingham
Haworth Goal 59'
Barlow Goal 99' (pen.)
Report McGibbon Goal 35' (o.g.)
Butler Goal 114'
Thomson Goal 118'
Attendance: 53,764
Wigan Athletic
GK 13 Derek Stillie
RWB 14 Scott Green
DF 4 Pat McGibbon Yellow card
DF 5 Stuart Balmer (c) Yellow card
DF 6 Arjan de Zeeuw
LWB 3 Kevin Sharp Yellow card Yellow-red card 86'
MF 18 Ian Kilford
MF 32 Neil Redfearn Substituted off 84'
MF 22 Darren Sheridan
FW 9 Simon Haworth Substituted off 106'
FW 7 Andy Liddell Substituted off 105'
FW 11 Stuart Barlow Substituted in 84'
GK 1 Roy Carroll
MF 29 Jeff Peron Substituted in 106'
DF 15 Gareth Griffiths
DF 2 Carl Bradshaw Substituted in 105'
John Benson
GK 1 Vince Bartram
DF 17 Adrian Pennock (c)
DF 5 Barry Ashby Substituted off 105'
DF 6 Guy Butters Yellow card
MF 3 Roland Edge Substituted off 61'
MF 7 Nicky Southall
MF 8 Andy Hessenthaler Yellow card
MF 24 Junior Lewis
MF 11 Ty Gooden
FW 9 Carl Asaba
FW 29 Iffy Onuora Substituted off 97'
MF 4 Paul Smith Substituted in 61'
FW 26 Steve Butler Substituted in 105'
FW 27 Andy Thomson Substituted in 97'
GK 38 Steve Mautone
DF 12 Nyron Nosworthy
Peter Taylor

Match rules:

  • 90 minutes.
  • 30 minutes of extra time if necessary.
  • Penalty shoot-out if scores still level.
  • Five named substitutes.
  • Maximum of three substitutions.


After the final whistle Gillingham's temporary captain Adrian Pennock received the winners' trophy jointly with the team's usual captain, Paul Smith, who had come on as a substitute.[17] Peter Taylor commented that "These players, especially the ones that were here last year, deserved it. All season they've shown unbelievable character, and that's what they have done today. They never know when they are beaten." John Benson, commenting particularly on the goal which Wigan felt they were denied, said that "You feel cheated, but decisions like that are part of the game".[18]

In the aftermath of the match Gillingham offered a new contract to manager Peter Taylor, but two weeks after leading the club to victory at Wembley he left to take over as manager of Premier League team Leicester City.[19] Wigan manager John Benson had already announced before the play-off final that he would be leaving his post whatever the result,[12] and he was replaced by Bruce Rioch.[20] As a result of their victory, Gillingham gained promotion to the second tier of English football for the first time in the club's 107-year history,[14] and went on to spend five seasons at that level.[21] Wigan finally gained promotion to the second tier of English football in the 2002–03 season and achieved further promotion to the Premier League two years later.[22]


  1. ^ "Final 1999/2000 Football League One Table". Soccerbase. Retrieved 7 August 2008. (n.b. Soccerbase uses current titles for all competitions, irrespective of the name actually in use at the time)
  2. ^ "Late charge takes Clarets up". BBC Sport. 29 June 2000. Retrieved 7 August 2008.
  3. ^ "Football: Play-off final analysis". The Independent. London. 28 May 2000.
  4. ^ "League One Play-off 1998/1999". Soccerbase. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  5. ^ a b "Stoke secure slim lead over Gills". BBC Sport. 13 May 2000. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  6. ^ a b "Gills crush nine-man Stoke". BBC Sport. 17 May 2000. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  7. ^ a b c Pete Lansley (27 May 2000). "Football: Taylor believes Gills will pass character test". The Independent. London.
  8. ^ a b "League One Play-off – Final". Soccerbase. Retrieved 7 August 2008.
  9. ^ Lansley, Peter (16 May 2003). "Wolves silently hunting end to 16 years of play-off failure". The Times. London. Retrieved 19 August 2008.
  10. ^ "All the latest news for June". Gillingham F.C. Archived from the original on 20 June 2000. Retrieved 7 August 2008.
  11. ^ "Football League Trophy – Final". Soccerbase. Archived from the original on 5 January 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  12. ^ a b Szczepanik, Nick (27 May 2000). "Taylor on course to complete rebuilding process – Football Saturday". The Times. London. Retrieved 9 August 2008.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h Shaw, Phil (29 May 2000). "Football: Second Division Play-Off Final — Thomson's Goal Ends Agony". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 6 November 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  14. ^ a b c d e f "Second time lucky for Gills". BBC Sport. 28 May 2000. Retrieved 6 August 2008.
  15. ^ a b Brodkin, Jon (29 May 2000). "Gills save their best for last". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 9 August 2008.
  16. ^ a b "Gills edge out Wigan in a Wembley classic". The Guardian. London. 28 May 2000. Retrieved 9 August 2008.
  17. ^ "Ex-Gills in at Margate". Vital Gillingham. 22 May 2008. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  18. ^ Szczepanik, Nick (29 May 2008). "Gillingham's revival provides extra satisfaction this time – Football". The Times. London. Retrieved 9 August 2008.
  19. ^ "The Peter principle". BBC Sport. 12 June 2000. Retrieved 7 August 2008.
  20. ^ "Rioch bust-up riddle". BBC Sport. 28 February 2001. Retrieved 7 August 2008.
  21. ^ "Gillingham". Football Club History Database. Richard Rundle. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  22. ^ "Wigan Athletic". Football Club History Database. Richard Rundle. Retrieved 14 August 2008.

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