Open main menu

2003 Football League First Division play-off Final

The 2003 Football League First Division play-off Final was a football match played at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on 26 May 2003 at the end of the 2002–03 season. The match determined the third and final team to gain promotion from the First Division to the Premier League, and was contested by Sheffield United and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

2003 Football League First Division play-off Final
Date26 May 2003
VenueMillennium Stadium, Cardiff
Man of the MatchMatt Murray (Wolverhampton Wanderers)[1]
RefereeSteve Bennett (Kent)
WeatherMostly cloudy
14 °C (57 °F)[2]

Wolves won the match 3–0, with three first-half goals, taking them back to the top flight for the first time in nineteen years.

Route to the finalEdit

2002–03 First Division:
final table, leading positions
Pos Team P W D L F A Pts
1. Portsmouth 46 29 11 06 97 45 98
2. Leicester City 46 26 14 06 73 40 92
3. Sheffield United 46 23 11 12 72 52 80
4. Reading 46 25 04 17 61 46 79
5. Wolverhampton Wanderers 46 20 16 10 81 44 76
6. Nottingham Forest 46 20 14 12 82 50 74
Pos=Position P=Games played W=Wins D=Draws
L=Losses F=Goals for A=Goals against Pts=Points

Sheffield United finished the season in third place in the First Division, twelve points behind the runaway top two Portsmouth and Leicester City. They had enjoyed a successful season, being positioned in the play-off zone almost throughout and reaching the semi-finals of both the FA Cup[3] and League Cup.[4]

Wolves had had an inconsistent first half to the campaign after the disappointment of their late slump in form during the previous season which had lost them promotion to local rivals West Bromwich Albion. A stronger run of form in the closing months however, earned them a second successive place in the play-offs with a fifth-place finish, four points behind their opponents.

Both clubs had confirmed their play-off place with games to spare, before meeting in their penultimate league match – a 3–3 draw at Bramall Lane.[5] In their first meeting of the season Sheffield United had won 3–1 at Molineux.[6]

In the play-off semi-finals, Sheffield United drew at sixth-placed Nottingham Forest 1–1 in the first leg,[7] before a thrilling 4–3 extra time victory at Bramall Lane took them to the final.[8]

Wolves meanwhile faced Reading, winning the first leg 2–1 after coming from behind[9] and edging a narrow 1–0 success in the away leg to progress 3–1 on aggregate.[10] This marked their first play-off semi-final success at this level in four attempts.



Mark Kennedy opened the scoring in the sixth minute with a low drive into the corner of the net from 20 yards.[11][12] Their lead was doubled sixteen minutes later when Nathan Blake headed in from close range at a corner.[11] A three-goal lead was established moments shortly before the half time interval when Kenny Miller converted after a quick counterattack.[11]

Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock was sent to the stands at half time after arguing with referee Steve Bennett.[11] He saw his side offered a route back into the contest when they were awarded a penalty in the 48th minute after Wolves' defender Paul Butler was adjudged to have handled. However, Michael Brown's spotkick was pushed away by goalkeeper Matt Murray.[11]


Sheffield United0–3Wolverhampton Wanderers
Report Kennedy   6'
Blake   22'
Miller   45'
Attendance: 69,473
Referee: Steve Bennett (Kent)
Sheffield United
Wolverhampton Wanderers
GK 23 Paddy Kenny
RB 36 John Curtis
CB 6 Rob Page (c)
CB 17 Phil Jagielka
LB 2 Rob Kozluk
RM 16 Peter Ndlovu   64'
CM 7 Michael Brown   79'
CM 26 Mark Rankine   46'
LM 18 Michael Tonge   77'
CF 9 Carl Asaba
CF 34 Steve Kabba   74'
GK 24 Gary Kelly
MF 8 Stuart McCall   46'
MF 12 Nick Montgomery
FW 10 Paul Peschisolido   64'
FW 14 Wayne Allison   74'
Neil Warnock   45'
GK 13 Matt Murray
RB 8 Denis Irwin   44'
CB 5 Joleon Lescott
CB 6 Paul Butler
LB 3 Lee Naylor
RM 7 Shaun Newton
CM 10 Colin Cameron
CM 23 Paul Ince (c)
LM 11 Mark Kennedy
CF 16 Kenny Miller   75'
CF 9 Nathan Blake   88'
GK 1 Michael Oakes
DF 24 Marc Edworthy
MF 4 Alex Rae
FW 12 Adam Proudlock   88'
FW 29 Dean Sturridge   75'
Dave Jones

Match officials:

Match rules:

  • 90 minutes.
  • 30 minutes of extra time if necessary.
  • Penalty shoot-out if scores still level.
  • Five named substitutes
  • Maximum of three substitutions.


  1. ^ "Hayward's dream come true". BBC Sport. 27 May 2003.
  2. ^ "History for Cardiff, United Kingdom". Weather Underground. 26 May 2003.
  3. ^ "Arsenal sink brave Blades". BBC Sport. 13 April 2003.
  4. ^ "Liverpool conquer brave Blades". BBC Sport. 21 January 2003.
  5. ^ "Sheff Utd 3–3 Wolves". BBC Sport. 26 April 2003.
  6. ^ "Wolves 1–3 Sheff Utd". BBC Sport. 5 October 2002.
  7. ^ "Blades hold Forest". BBC Sport. 10 May 2003.
  8. ^ "Blades overcome brave Forest". BBC Sport. 14 May 2003.
  9. ^ "Wolves edge past Reading". BBC Sport. 10 May 2003.
  10. ^ "Wolves hold off Reading". BBC Sport. 14 May 2003.
  11. ^ a b c d e "How Wolves won promotion". BBC Sport. 26 May 2003.
  12. ^ "Goal of the Week: Kennedy's corker". BBC Sport. 26 May 2003.