A look at our previous play-off campaigns...We are taking part in the play-offs for the fourth time in our history. Here's a look back at our previous three play-off campaigns...
The Saddlers first took part in the play-offs in 1987/88 after finishing third in Division Three. Tommy Coakley’s men beat Notts County 4-2 on aggregate in the semi-finals (3-1 away, 1-1 home) to reach the final, where we faced Bristol City. Back then, the play-off format was still in its infancy and the final was a two-legged affair. Despite winning 3-1 at Ashton Gate in the first leg, a 2-0 home reverse ensured the tie finished level on aggregate, meaning a replay was needed. In a unique move, a penalty shootout determined which team would have home advantage; Walsall won 4-2 on spot-kicks and the teams returned to Fellows Park two days later. The Saddlers ran riot in the replay, with a David Kelly hat-trick and a Phil Hawker header securing a resounding 4-0 victory and our place in the second tier for the first time in 25 years.
It’s fair to say that Walsall’s second appearance in the play-offs was one to forget. The Saddlers finished fifth in the fourth tier and entered the play-offs in superb form after five consecutive wins. Kenny Hibbitt’s charges faced Crewe in the semi-finals but were comprehensively beaten, going down 9-3 on aggregate (1-5 away, 2-4 home).
Our most recent play-off campaign in 2000/01 proved a much happier affair. After finishing the Division Two season in fourth place, the Saddlers were paired against Stoke in the play-off semi-finals. The first leg finished goalless but we produced a stunning second-leg performance to win 4-2 at the Banks’s and book a Millennium Stadium showdown against Reading. Around 17,000 Saddlers supporters travelled to Cardiff for a day they would never forget. Jamie Cureton fired Alan Pardew’s Royals in front but Don Goodman equalised to take the tie to extra time. Ex-Saddler Martin Butler restored Reading’s lead, only for Tony Rougier’s own goal and Darren Byfield’s 110th-minute strike to seal a thrilling 3-2 comeback win. Ray Graydon’s Walsall had returned to the second tier at the first attempt!