Leeds United's dismal play-off past as Daniel Farke's men aim to end Wembley hoodoo

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Leeds United look set to miss out on automatic promotion to Ipswich Town and so the trauma of play-offs will resurface.

If Leeds United are to achieve an instant return to the Premier League then it will almost certainly be via the play-offs. Daniel Farke’s men need a final-day miracle to go up automatically, with victory required against Southampton while Ipswich Town must lose at home to the virtually relegated Huddersfield Town.

Despite seeing history lean in their favour as the third-placed team, Leeds fans know only too well how their team can defy even the shortest of odds and that feeling intensifies at this time of year. Five attempts at promotion via play-offs has led to five failures, with crushing final defeats not long back in the memory.

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Most of the current squad have no experience of that pain, however, and such streaks are always there to be broken. History has not been kind to Leeds though and the YEP has taken a look back to see if anything can be learned from past failures.

2018/19: Derby County chaos

After years in the mire of Championship mid-table, Leeds finally looked like genuine promotion candidates under Marcelo Bielsa but slip-ups in the latter half of the campaign saw them finish behind Norwich City and Sheffield United. Play-offs it was, then, and the small matter of a semi-final clash against a Derby County side still raging over the ‘Spygate’ saga.

Leeds won both regular season meetings to an aggregate score of 6-1 and looked utterly dominant throughout, but Frank Lampard’s Derby held a grudge amid allegations that Bielsa had a coach spying on their training sessions. A 1-0 first-leg win at Pride Park set Leeds up to book their place in the final but a chaotic night at Elland Road saw them blow a 1-0 lead to lose 4-2, with the Rams progressing by a 4-3 aggregate scoreline.

2008/09: Lions leave scars

During a three-year period in League One, Leeds twice made it into the play-off places - bypassing the drama and winning automatic promotion at the third attempt. The 2008/09 campaign saw them miss out on a top-two place to Leicester City and Peterborough, with Millwall lined up in the semi-finals.

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Leeds lost the first-leg at the Den 1-0 but looked set to turn that around when Luciano Becchio made it 1-1 on aggregate in the second-half at Elland Road. Roared on by 36,000, United tried to build the momentum for a second but were instead dealt a crushing blow as Jimmy Abdou won it for Millwall in the 74th-minute, condemning the Whites to a third year in the third-tier.

2007/08: The ultimate fightback cut short

Leeds did incredibly well to end their first season in League One within the play-off places, given they began the campaign on minus 15 points after going into administration. Under Dennis Wise and then Gary McAllister, they collected 91 points which would have been enough for automatic promotion.

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Instead, it was the play-offs and Leeds managed to beat Carlisle United 3-2 on aggregate to book a place in the final. Doncaster Rovers were their opponents at Wembley and, as so many fans have become used to, that brought heartbreak as James Hayter won it for Rovers, scoring the only goal of the game shortly after half-time.

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2005/06: Hornets sting Whites

It was only a year before their financial woes and subsequent relegation that Leeds were within 90 minutes of a return to the Premier League. Kevin Blackwell’s side ended the regular campaign in fifth and managed to overcome fourth-placed Preston with a stunning second-leg 2-0 away win.

Watford were their opponents at Wembley, but having failed to beat the Whites during the regular season, completely wiped the floor with them on the grandest stage, their 3-0 win fully deserved. How different things could have been.

1986/87: Starting how they mean to go on

Leeds were part of the English Football League’s first ever play-offs and, quite predictably, among the first to fall foul of the knockout drama. The first edition saw positions three to five in the Second Division joined by fourth-bottom from the First Division - a move that would eventually reduce the top-flight to 20 teams.

Another key difference was that ties were settled on away goals, and it was a late Keith Edwards aggregate equaliser that sent the Whites into the final where they met First Division Charlton Athletic. A two-legged final could not separate the two and so Leeds’ pain was extended, with the replay going into extra-time.

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John Sheridan looked to have won it in the 99th-minute but two goals in four extra-time second-half minutes from Charlton’s Peter Shirtliff meant heartbreak for Billy Bremner’s side - a sign of things to come in the following four play-off attempts.