|Event||2008–09 Football League Two|
|Date||23 May 2009|
|Venue||Wembley Stadium, London|
|Man of the Match||Simon King|
|Referee||Clive Oliver (Northumberland)|
The 2009 Football League Two play-off Final was a football match played at Wembley Stadium on 23 May 2009, at the end of the 2008–09 season. The match determined the fourth and final team to gain promotion from League Two, the fourth tier of the English football league system, and featured Gillingham, who finished fifth during the league season, and Shrewsbury Town, who finished seventh.
The match was Gillingham's first appearance at the new Wembley Stadium and Shrewsbury's second. The teams reached the final by defeating Rochdale and Bury respectively in the semi-finals. The match remained scoreless until the last minute, when Simeon Jackson headed in Josh Wright's corner kick to give Gillingham the lead with seconds remaining. The Kent-based club thus won promotion back to League One one year after being relegated.
Route to the final
Gillingham had finished the 2008–09 season in fifth place in League Two with 75 points, two places and six points above Shrewsbury. In the play-off semi-finals, the "Gills" faced Rochdale, who had finished in sixth position. The first leg at Rochdale's Spotland Stadium on 7 May 2009 finished in a 0–0 draw. In the second match at Priestfield Stadium three days later, Simeon Jackson scored from an Andy Barcham cross to give Gillingham the lead in the 13th minute, only for Chris Dagnall to equalise in the 36th minute. Jackson scored a second goal with a penalty kick in the 58th minute after John Nutter had been fouled by Rory McArdle. Gillingham thus won the match 2–1 and won their semi-final on aggregate by the same score.
Shrewsbury, who had only qualified for the play-offs by defeating Dagenham & Redbridge in the final match of the regular season, played fourth placed Bury in their semi-final. The first match at Shrewsbury's home ground, New Meadow, was decided by a late own goal from Shrewsbury's Neil Ashton, who accidentally lobbed the ball over his own goalkeeper Luke Daniels to give Bury a 1–0 win. In the second leg at Gigg Lane, Daniels saved Phil Jevons' penalty kick and Shrewsbury's Kevin McIntyre scored a goal in the 88th minute to level the tie. With no further score, a penalty shoot-out was required to decide which team would advance to the final. Daniels saved penalty kicks from Andy Bishop and Danny Racchi and Shrewsbury won the shoot-out and thus reached the final.
|Rochdale||2–1||0–0 away; 2–1 home||Semi-finals||Bury||1–1
Shrewsbury won penalty
|0–1 away; 1–0 home|
The two teams were competing for promotion to League One, the third tier of the English football league system. The match was Gillingham's first appearance at the new Wembley Stadium, although the club had played at the original Wembley in 1999 and 2000. Shrewsbury had previously played at the new Wembley in the 2007 League Two play-off final and at the original in the final of the 1996 Football League Trophy. The attendance of 53,706 was significantly higher than the 35,715 registered at the previous year's League Two play-off final. 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 Shrewsbury each receiving twenty-five per cent and no additional television broadcast fee. Gillingham manager Mark Stimson named the same eleven players who had started the second leg of the semi-final against Rochdale, while his opposite number Paul Simpson made two changes from the team which contested the second leg of the semi-final against Bury, replacing David Worrall and Omer Riza with Chris Humphrey and Nick Chadwick.
Shortly before kick-off, sports betting organisation Sky Bet gave identical odds of 6/4 on both teams to win, with 9/4 on a draw. The match referee was Clive Oliver, whose son Michael took charge of the League One play-off Final the following day. This was the first time that a father and son had refereed in Football League play-off finals. Pre-match entertainment included teams from Killamarsh Junior School and Thurlby Community Primary School contesting the final of the Football Association Community Cup, a parade by members of the British armed forces, and a performance of the National Anthem led by operatic vocalist Will Martin.
The early part of the game was largely uneventful, with both teams' defenses looking unsettled. In the first minute Gillingham's captain Barry Fuller was forced to hack the ball clear of his goal area after confusion among his teammates. Gillingham began to take control of the game, but the first serious goalscoring opportunity did not come until the 31st minute when John Nutter shot for goal after a corner kick, only to be denied by Shrewsbury goalkeeper Luke Daniels. Josh Wright and Dennis Oli both had goalscoring chances blocked by Shrewsbury's defenders and Daniels also saved a shot from Wright. Shrewsbury struggled to keep possession of the ball and had few attempts on goal before the half-time break.
The second half began with Gillingham dominating play, and Andy Barcham had a goalbound shot tipped away by goalkeeper Daniels. Soon afterwards, Gillingham goalkeeper Simon Royce made his first significant save of the match, stopping a shot from Shrewsbury's Ben Davies, which marked the start of a spell of pressure from the "Shrews". Kelvin Langmead's shot was saved by Royce and Kevin McIntyre headed wide of the target when presented with what Sky Sports' Richard Bailey considered the best opportunity of the game.
In the final minute of the game, Barcham tussled with a Shrewsbury defender and the referee awarded a corner kick to Gillingham. Josh Wright took the corner and Simeon Jackson headed the ball into the goal to give Gillingham the lead. Defender Neil Ashton, standing on the goal line, attempted to keep the ball out but was unsuccessful. Shrewsbury launched a last-ditch attack in a bid to equalise, but captain Graham Coughlan's header went over the crossbar and Gillingham held on to claim victory and gain promotion back to League One one year after being relegated from that division.
|Shots on target||4||1|
Source: Sky Sports
Post-match analysis showed that referee Oliver had erroneously awarded the corner kick from which Gillingham's goal had been scored, as the ball had in fact come off Barcham and therefore a goal kick should instead have been awarded to Shrewsbury. Paul Simpson referred to this in his post-match comments, but said that "if we look at things like that we will be clutching at straws". Mark Stimson highlighted the financial benefits of his team's promotion, noting that large crowds would be expected for matches in League One against Leeds United, Norwich City and Southampton.
After the match, Gillingham captain Barry Fuller received the winners' trophy from the presentation party, which consisted of Lord Mawhinney, the chairman of The Football League, and Mark Osikoya, Head of Marketing Assets for the League's sponsors, Coca-Cola. Two days later, the club staged a celebratory open-top bus parade from Rochester Castle to Priestfield Stadium.
- 2009 Football League Championship play-off Final
- 2009 Football League One play-off Final
- 2009 Conference Premier play-off Final
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