Previous Play-Off Winners: How they got there and how they won

With the play-offs the best Boro can hope for this season, I’ve looked back at the last few seasons to see which teams are more likely to win at Wembley.

There’s often an assumption that the 3rd place team will be favourites, but it doesn’t always work out like that. In fact, when looking at the last 5 years, the third placed team has only won once (against Boro obviously!).

But when you extend that to the last 10 seasons, they have the most winners with 4. Sometimes the team in the best form powers through, but Huddersfield threw that theory out of the window last season.

Based on the last 6 games of the regular season, only once has the ‘in-form’ team won at Wembley. That was, you guessed it, Norwich City against Boro.

The bad news is that the 6th placed team has only won once in the last 10 seasons, so that doesn’t bode well for Boro if they stay in their current position.

However, 5th placed teams have fared pretty well with 2 wins out of the last 5, so here’s hoping we can leapfrog Derby.

I’ve looked back at the last 5 play-off winners to see how they got there, how they won and if Boro can learn any lessons.

16/17: Huddersfield (5th)

Surprise package Huddersfield did well to stay in touch with the big boys for much of the season.

They were still within touching distance of the top 2 in early April, but finished the season with just 10 points from 10 games and ended up in 5th.

It didn’t look good for Town as Fulham, Reading and Sheffield Wednesday all went into the play-offs in much better form.

But Huddersfield scraped through, scoring only 1 goal in 3 matches, and winning the final on penalties after a goalless draw with Reading.

The lesson for Boro: Never give up!

15/16: Hull (4th)

Recently relegated Hull started the season in fine form, and when they beat Boro 3-0 early in the season everyone was talking them up as a Premier League club in waiting.

A few months later the two had swapped places, but Hull still managed to return to the top of the table in February. They then went on a poor run of form but recovered in the home stretch to cement 4th place.

Only Brighton were in better form going into the play-offs, but they suffered a shock defeat to 6th place Sheffield Wednesday.

In the final, Hull’s experience told as they won the final 1-0 thanks to Mo Diame’s goal.

The lesson for Boro: Experience pays off in the end.

14/15: Norwich (3rd)

Well, we all know this one. Boro were caught in a three-way battle for promotion with Bournemouth and Watford for much of the season, but some poor results in the last couple of months of the season saw them miss out.

Norwich, meanwhile, came out of nowhere to sneak ahead into 3rd. They weren’t even in the play-off places in mid-February, but a remarkable second half of the season saw them go into the play-offs as the in-form team.

It was inevitable that Boro and Norwich would meet in the final. With Boro having done the double during the regular season, hopes were high. But sadly we all know what happened next.

The lesson for Boro: Don’t underestimate the dark horse!

13/14: QPR (4th)

Harry Redknapp’s QPR spent big in a bid to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking, but struggled for consistency throughout the season.

Both 3rd placed Derby and 6th placed Brighton came into the play-offs in much better form. Derby were the favourites in the final, but QPR prevailed with a late, late goal from Bobby Zamora.

The lesson for Boro: Money wins, eventually.

12/13: Crystal Palace (5th)

Crystal Palace started the season well under Dougie Freedman, sitting just behind Boro when he decided to leave for struggling Bolton.

When Ian Holloway took over they were in 3rd, but they were 15th in the form table for the rest of the season (funnily enough Boro were dead last in the same period).

Somehow they held on to a play-off spot, 4 points ahead of Freedman’s Bolton. Ian Holloway and Palace really had the last laugh when Kevin Phillips’ extra time penalty sealed an unlikely promotion.

The lesson for Boro: No matter how badly you play, you can still get promoted.

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