2008 Football League One play-off Final

The 2008 Football League One play-off Final was an association football match which was played on 25 May 2008 at Wembley Stadium, London, between Doncaster Rovers and Leeds United to determine the third and final team to gain promotion from Football League One to the Football League Championship. The top two teams of the 2007–08 Football League One season, Swansea City and Nottingham Forest, gained automatic promotion to the Championship, while those placed from third to sixth in the table took part in play-off semi-finals. The winners of these semi-finals competed for the final place for the 2008–09 season in the Championship. The losing semi-finalists were Carlisle United and Southend United.

2008 Football League One play-off Final
Doncaster Rovers celebrate being promoted to the EFL Championship at Wembley Stadium
Date25 May 2008
VenueWembley Stadium, London
RefereeAndy D'Urso (Essex)

The game was played in front of 75,132 spectators and was refereed by Andy D'Urso. After a goalless first half, Doncaster's James Hayter scored with a header from a Brian Stock corner. The match ended 10 to Doncaster, who were thus promoted to the Championship after four seasons in League One.

Leeds finished the following season in fourth place in League One and qualified for the play-offs, where they lost in the semi-finals to Millwall. Doncaster's next season ended with them in fourteenth position in the Championship.

Route to the final

Football League One final table, leading positions[1]
Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Swansea City 46 27 11 8 82 42 +40 92
2 Nottingham Forest 46 22 16 8 64 32 +32 82
3 Doncaster Rovers 46 23 11 12 65 41 +24 80
4 Carlisle United 46 23 11 12 64 46 +18 80
5 Leeds United 46 27 10 9 72 38 +34 76[lower-alpha 1]
6 Southend United 46 22 10 14 70 55 +15 76
  1. Leeds deducted 15 points for failure to comply with rules on insolvency.

Doncaster Rovers finished the regular 2007–08 season in third place in Football League One, the third tier of the English football league system, two positions ahead of Leeds United. Both therefore missed out on the two automatic places for promotion to the Football League Championship and instead took part in the play-offs to determine the third promoted team. Doncaster Rovers finished two points behind Nottingham Forest (who were promoted in second place) and twelve behind league winners Swansea City. Leeds United ended the season four points behind Doncaster Rovers;[1] before the start of the season, Leeds had been given a fifteen point deduction for "breaching rules on insolvency".[2] Their manager, Dennis Wise, resigned in January 2008 and was replaced by Gary McAllister who confirmed that "the job brief is promotion."[3]

Leeds United faced Carlisle United in their play-off semi-final with the first match of the two-legged tie being played at Elland Road in Leeds on 12 May 2008. The visitors took the lead on 32 minutes when a volley from Simon Hackney was deflected off Danny Graham into the Leeds net. Five minutes into the second half Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, the Carlisle midfielder, sidefooted in Evan Horwood's low cross to make it 2–0. Keiren Westwood, the Carlisle goalkeeper, made a number of saves in a performance which the BBC's Mandeep Sanghera called "heroic".[4] However, he was beaten five minutes into stoppage time when Jermaine Beckford scored from a free kick to make the final score 2–1.[4] The second leg of the play-off semi-final took place three days later at Brunton Park in Carlisle. Jonny Howson opened the scoring on 10 minutes for the away side to level the aggregate score at 2–2. Carlisle had a number of chances in the second half but could not convert any, and in the 90th minute, Howson scored his and Leeds' second from 18 yards (16 m): the game ended 2–0 to Leeds who progressed to the Wembley play-off final with a 3–2 aggregate victory.[5]

In the other play-off semi-final, Doncaster Rovers faced Southend United and the first leg took place at Roots Hall in Southend-on-Sea on 9 May 2008. The home side dominated the first half but after the break, Doncaster's Jason Price missed several chances. Paul Heffernan was sent off for headbutting Southend's Peter Clarke after they tangled in a tackle with three minutes to go and the match finished goalless.[6] The second leg was held a week later at the Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster. The visitors hit the crossbar in the opening minutes through a James Walker strike but Doncaster took the lead on 11 minutes with a penalty from Brian Stock. Adam Barrett scored an own goal ten minutes later before James Coppinger struck a third to see the home side leading 3–0 at half-time. Coppinger completed his hat-trick with two more goals after the interval and with a consolation goal from Southend's Nicky Bailey made it 5–1 to Doncaster at the final whistle.[7]



Doncaster had played in the third tier of English football since gaining promotion from the Third Division as champions in the 2003–04 season.[8] They had not featured in a league play-off final, although they won the 2003 Football Conference play-off Final to secure their place back in the Football League.[8] Doncaster had also never played a competitive match at Wembley Stadium.[8] Leeds were relegated to League One the previous season, having also been deducted ten points for entering administration.[9] The club had featured in two play-off finals prior to 2008: they lost the 1987 Football League Second Division play-off Final to Charlton Athletic and were defeated by Watford in the 2006 Football League Championship play-off Final.[9] The last visit Leeds had paid to the national stadium was for the 1996 Football League Cup Final which they lost 3–0 against Aston Villa.[9] During the regular season, both games between the sides resulted in away wins: Doncaster won 1–0 at Elland Road in January 2008 while Leeds secured a 1–0 victory at the Keepmoat Stadium the following April.[10] Doncaster's top scorer going into the play-offs was Hayter with nine goals (seven in the league and two in the FA Cup).[11] Beckford was leading scorer for Leeds with twenty goals, followed by Trésor Kandol with eleven.[12]

The referee for the match was Andy D'Urso representing the Essex County Football Association. Both teams started the final with line-ups unchanged from their respective semi-final second leg matches. The BBC reported that Leeds had sold their full ticket allocation of 36,000 while Doncaster had sold 24,000.[13] According to author Daniel Chapman, Leeds fans queued overnight for the chance to buy tickets, and that "by dawn there were 7,000 in a tired, hungry and angry scrum".[14] Doncaster played in red-and-white hooped shirts while Leeds wore white kit.[13]


The match kicked off around 3 p.m. on 25 May 2008 in front of 75,132 spectators.[15] Within a minute, the Leeds defender Bradley Johnson's shot cleared the Doncaster crossbar. On six minutes, Price's shot from 6 yards (5.5 m) was blocked by Leeds before Richie Wellens struck the ball into the side netting. Casper Ankergren then made a save at Coppinger's feet before denying Hayter after Doncaster had beaten the offside trap. On 15 minutes, Matt Mills became the first player of the afternoon to be shown a yellow card for a foul on Beckford. In the 17th minute, Beckford's 20-yard (18 m) strike was saved in the Doncaster goal by Neil Sullivan. Ten minutes later, David Prutton was booked for a late tackle. Leeds increased the pressure and in the 31st minute Beckford's weak shot was saved by Sullivan. Five minutes before half time, Hayter's strike flew over the Leeds crossbar before Howson's curling shot passed narrowly outside the Doncaster post. The half was brought to a close with the score at 0–0.[13]

Neither side made any changes to their personnel during the half-time interval, and Doncaster won an early free kick which Coppinger struck into the defensive wall. In the 48th minute, Hayter put Doncaster ahead: Stock played in an outswinging corner which Hayter scored with a diving header to make it 1–0. Three minutes later, Beckford's shot was saved by Sullivan low to his right. On 60 minutes, Howson's strike from 20 yards (18 m) was off-target. Twelve minutes later, Leeds made the first substitution of the game with Prutton being replaced by Kandol. Coppinger was then stopped by Jonathan Douglas before Mark McCammon came on for Wellens. With around twelve minutes remaining, Dougie Freedman's shot went wide and he was soon after replaced by Andrew Hughes. Two minutes later, Price was replaced by Adam Lockwood before Sullivan was booked for time-wasting. Doncaster then made their final substitution of the match with Coppinger being replaced by Lewis Guy. Douglas then saw his 20-yard (18 m) half-volley fly just wide of the Doncaster goal and after four minutes of stoppage time, the final whistle was blown.[13]


Doncaster Rovers1–0Leeds United
Hayter  48' (Report)
Attendance: 75,132
Doncaster Rovers
Leeds United
GK1Neil Sullivan  84'
DF2James O'Connor
DF21Sam Hird
DF22Matt Mills  15'
DF3Gareth Roberts
MF20Paul Green
MF8Brian Stock
MF19Richie Wellens 71'
MF26James Coppinger 86'
FW23Jason Price 80'
FW12James Hayter
FW9Mark McCammon 71'
GK13Ben Smith
DF11Adam Lockwood 80'
FW10Gareth Taylor
MF7Lewis Guy 86'
Sean O'Driscoll
GK1Casper Ankergren
DF2Frazer Richardson
DF16Bradley Johnson
DF3Paul Huntington
DF33Ľubomír Michalík
MF37Neil Kilkenny
MF14Jonny Howson
MF4Jonathan Douglas
MF7David Prutton  27' 69'
FW9Jermaine Beckford
FW38Dougie Freedman 77'
FW20Trésor Kandol 69'
MF22Andrew Hughes 77'
DF32Alan Sheehan
GK25David Lucas
DF5Rui Marques
Gary McAllister


Hayter said: "It is an unbelievable feeling to score the winner. I have been dreaming about it all week."[13] The Doncaster manager Sean O'Driscoll suggested that he "could murder a cup of tea" while his opposite number McAllister suggested his team "huffed and puffed but our quality wasn't quite there today. We lost a poor goal."[13] The Leeds goalkeeper Ankergren reflected "maybe in a few days we'll realise the achievement ... but right now we're standing here with nothing."[14]

Leeds finished the following season in fourth place in League One and qualified for the play-offs, where they lost in the semi-finals to Millwall.[16][17] Doncaster's next season ended with them in fourteenth position in the Championship.[18]


  1. "League One – 2007/2008 – Regular season". Soccerway. Perform Group. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  2. "Leeds condemned to 15-point penalty as League chairmen reject appeal". The Guardian. 9 August 2007. Archived from the original on 16 October 2020. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  3. Chapman, p. 378
  4. Sanghera, Mandeep (12 May 2008). "Leeds 1–2 Carlisle". BBC Sport. Archived from the original on 29 January 2021. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  5. Sanghera, Mandeep (15 May 2008). "Carlisle 0–2 Leeds (agg 2–3)". BBC Sport. Archived from the original on 18 May 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  6. "Southend 0–0 Doncaster". BBC Sport. 9 May 2008. Archived from the original on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  7. Sanghera, Mandeep (16 May 2008). "Doncaster 5–1 Southend". BBC Sport. Archived from the original on 2 August 2017. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  8. "Doncaster Rovers". Football Club History Database. Archived from the original on 4 June 2020. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  9. "Leeds United". Football Club History Database. Archived from the original on 11 January 2020. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  10. "Doncaster Rovers football club: record v Leeds United". 11v11. AFS Enterprises. Archived from the original on 29 January 2021. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  11. "Doncaster squad details – 2007/08 – Player appearances". Soccerbase. Centurycomm. Archived from the original on 7 April 2016. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  12. "Leeds squad details – 2007/08 – Player appearances". Soccerbase. Centurycomm. Archived from the original on 19 April 2016. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  13. Fletcher, Paul (25 May 2008). "Doncaster 1–0 Leeds – As it happened". BBC Sport. Archived from the original on 2 March 2009. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  14. Chapman, p. 379
  15. "Doncaster Rovers v Leeds United, 25 May 2008". 11v11. AFS Enterprises. Archived from the original on 29 January 2021. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  16. "League One – 2008/2009 – Regular season". Soccerway. Perform Group. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  17. "Leeds 1–1 Millwall (agg 1–2)". BBC Sport. 14 May 2009. Archived from the original on 5 June 2009. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  18. "Championship – 2008/2009 – Regular season". Soccerway. Perform Group. Archived from the original on 13 March 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2021.


  • Chapman, Daniel (2019). 100 Years of Leeds United. Icon Books Limited. ISBN 978-178578-430-9.CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)