League Two Play-Off fixtures and results, England – League Two (Soccerway.com).
Notts County FC, empowered by the support shown by their re-awakened fan base, took the title. Lee Hughes scored 33 goals for the Magpies, and the club overcame a mid-season lull to finish strong and on top. Notts County had their highest average attendance in 16 years. The club drew 7,353 per game this season, a 65 percent increase from 08/09, when they drew 4,446 per game and finished in 19th place. This is a club that had finished in 21st place twice, 19th place twice and in 13th place in the last 5 seasons. Their new, mysterious foreign ownership had promised to invest heavily at the start of this season, and several top calibre players (for the fouth division, anyway), including goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, joined the squad (with celebrity executive Sven-Göran Erikson on board as well). But the Qatar-based owners pulled out in February, and Notts County were almost wound up. Sven is gone now too, and the club’s financial worries are still not over, but the bottom line is this…all the early season hype and media glare got the fans back into Meadow Lane, and now that the club has won promotion, the crowds should continue to swell. But the thing is, Notts County has never come close to filling their 19,500-seat ground on a regular basis.
The last, single, season Notts County were in the the top flight was in the last season of the old First Division (in 1991-92, under manager Neil Warnock). That season the Magpies drew 11,133 per game and were relegated. It was during that season, in January 1992, that the club made plans to rebuild three sides of Meadow Lane to make it the near-20,000 seat stadium it is today. But relegation and poor play in the following seasons saw average gates diminish as re-building and expansion continued. The average gate had dwindled to the 8,000-range for the next two seasons in the second tier, and by 1994-95, in the same season that the final re-building phase was completed, Notts County were relegated to the third tier (into the old Division Two). With their big new ground the Magpies then went through a 14 season period where they drew above 6,000 just once, drawing 6,154 per game in 2002-03.
Notts County’s second-most-recent top flight spell had been three seasons in the First Division in the 1980s, with the club drawing 11,613; 10,265; and 9,463 per game from 1981 to 1984. So why did a club, which had never pulled in more than 11,000 per game in the modern era, build a stadium that has an almost 20,000 capacity? My guess is jealousy of their (very) nearby rivals, Nottingham Forest. The two clubs have grounds the closest together of any clubs in England, separated by only 275 meters (300 yards) [you can see that in the photo on the far right in the Notts County section on the map]. When Nottingham Forest were in their heyday, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and winning trophies as recently as the 1989 and 1990 League Cup (and making a 1991 FA Cup finals appearance), it must have irritated the board at Notts County to see Nottingham Forest so big and (relatively) successful.
So when Notts County got that taste of the promised land (ie, first division football), in 1991-92, they re-built Meadow Lane too big for their fan base, believing they could increase their support as they consolidated their position in the top flight. The exact opposite happened. They were relegated that season and have never had an average attendance of higher than 10,000 per game since. I’m not saying Notts County are akin to a club like Darlington FC, in building an empty white elephant of a stadium that will never be filled on a regular basis, but over a decade of playing to 25% capacity or less cannot have been good for Notts County or their supporters.
Second place and automatic promotion goes to AFC Bournemouth. The Cherries also saw an increase at the turnstiles, though more modest…Bournemouth drew 5,720 per game (up 16% from 08.09). Brett Pitman scored 28 goals for Bournemouth this season. Two years on from their finanancial meltown and administration, Bournemouth are a club on the rise. It could be argued that this is a club that definitely belongs in the third tier and perhaps ever the second tier, if one were to go by city population, because Bournemouth is in the top 30 largest cities in England, List of towns and cities in England by population [en.wikipedia.org].
Third place and automatic promotion goes to the longest-running non-promoted club in the League, Rochdale AFC. 36 seasons in the fourth division, and finally a promotion. Well done to irrepressible manager Keith Hill, their goal-scoring tandem of Chris O’Grady (22 goals) and Chris Dagnall (20 goals), and the league’s stand-out defender, the young and promising Rochdale-born Craig Dawson, who has eschewed signing with a bigger club for next season, opting instead to continue contributing to the success of his hometown club.
The League Two 2009-120 Play-Off features one down-on-their-luck-but-finding-revitalization club, Rotherham United; and three small clubs that five years ago were not even in the League…Morecambe, Aldershot Town, and Dagenham & Redbridge.
In the first legs… Rotherham snatched a late goal at Aldershot, when former Rochdale striker Adam LeFondre stole a back pass and netted. Second leg is Wednesday, 19th May in at The don Valley Stadium in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.
Meanwhile, in East London, Dagenham demolished Morecambe 6-0, with a double-brace from Joshua Scott and a brace from Paul Benson (who had scored 18 goals this season). Second leg is up in Lancashire at Morecambe’s Christie Patk on Thursday, 20th May.
League Two fixtures, here, (news.bbc.co.uk).
Morecambe will say goodbye to Christie Road, as they are set to move into their new stadium in August. From FC Business.co.uk, “Morecambe’s new 12 million-pound stadium to be called ‘Globe Arena’ [16 Feb., 2010]. www.morecambestadium.co.uk, Globe Arena, Morecambe FC. There is a new Morecambe logo as well, New Morecambe crest- what do you think? (www.thevisitor.co.uk)
Thanks to BBC/Nottingham, Aerial photographs of Nottingham. Thanks to Bing.com/maps, Meadow Lane [Birds-Eye view]. Thanks to Jazza5 and Berndt Jatzwauk at en.wikipedia.org, Meadow Lane.
Thanks to Shanandphil at Flickr.com, shanandphil’s photostream @ flickr.com; Rochdale FC [exterior]. Thanks to mikeserieys at Flickr.com, Rochdale Promotion 17/4/2010 (Set)/ My favorite picture of the day [part of mikeserieys' photostream @ flickr.com].
Thanks to campdavemorecambe at Flickr.com, Christie Park, Morecambe FC; campdavemorecambe’s photostream @ flickr.com. Thanks to The Groundhog.co.uk, Rotherham (DVS) [Don Valley Stadium]. Thanks to TeamTalk.com, Rotherham United.
Thanks to Aldershot FA.com, Alderhot Divisional Football Association. Thanks to FourFoutTwo.com/blogs, [scroll 2/3 down page] ‘The Recreation Ground: They don’t make ‘em like this anymore’ [part of 03/09/08 entry on Andy Mitten's blog].
Thanks to Gouldy99 at Flickr.com, Gouldy99′s photostream @ flickr.com. Thanks to Stadiums.Football.co.uk, League 2 Stadiums. Thanks to Away Grounds.com, Away ground- UK Football Ground Guide.
Thanks to E-F-S site, for attendance figures, Attendance Figures, European Football Statisrics.co.uk.
Thanks to Aerofilms Football Grounds- Then and Now, from Ian Allen Publishing, Aerofilms Football Grounds from the Air: Then and Now (Paperback) [BookDepository.com].