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Football League test matches were a series of post-season football play-off matches organised by the Football League, to determine the membership of the worst finishers of the First Division and the best of the Second Division. They were first contested at the end of the 1892–93 season, following the inaugural season of the Second Division, and were replaced with automatic promotion and relegation from 1898–99.

Football League test matches
Organising bodyThe Football League
Founded1893
Abolished1898
RegionEngland
Number of teams6 (1893–95)
4 (1896–98)

Unlike the modern-day English Football League play-offs, which is only contested between the four teams below the automatic promotion places in each division, test matches involved the bottom teams of the First Division and the top teams of the Second Division going head-to-head. This meant that the Second Division champions were not guaranteed top-flight football, as was the case with Small Heath in 1893. On no occasion has all of the Second Division and First Division sides been respectively promoted and relegated in the same season through this system.

From 1893 to 1895, six teams competed for three places in the top division. Each team played one match against the corresponding team from the other division (Second Division champions versus the bottom First Division side, and so on) at a neutral venue, usually close to the designated home team. The winners of each game were considered for election for First Division membership for the following season, whilst the losers were invited to the Second Division.

From 1896 until 1898, the series was revamped with into a mini league format, with four teams competing for two First Division places. The Second Division sides played both First Division teams on a home-and-away basis. When the proceedings have concluded, the top two finishers were elected into the First Division and the bottom two were invited to the Second Division for the following season. As the 1898–99 First Division was expanded to include two more teams, the 1898 test match series was ultimately a dead rubber as all four competing teams were elected into the league.

List of test matchesEdit

1893Edit

Small Heath D2 1st1–1D1 16th Newton Heath
Attendance: 4,000
Newton Heath D1 16th5–2D2 1st Small Heath
Attendance: 6,000

Newton Heath remain in the First Division, Small Heath remain in the Second Division.

Darwen D2 3rd3–2D1 14th Notts County
Attendance: 5,000

Darwen elected to the First Division, Notts County invited to the Second Division.

Sheffield United D2 2nd1–0D1 15th Accrington
Attendance: 6,000

Sheffield United elected to the First Division, Accrington invited to the Second Division.[Note 1]

1894Edit

Liverpool D2 1st2–0D1 16th Newton Heath
Attendance: 5,000

Liverpool elected to the First Division, Newton Heath invited to the Second Division.

Small Heath D2 2nd3–1D1 15th Darwen
Attendance: 3,000

Small Heath elected to the First Division, Darwen invited to the Second Division.

Preston North End D1 14th4–0D2 3rd Notts County
Attendance: 8,000

Preston North End remain in the First Division, Notts County remain in the Second Division.

1895Edit

Bury D2 1st1–0D1 16th Liverpool
Attendance: 5,000

Bury elected to the First Division, Liverpool invited to the Second Division.

Derby County D1 15th2–1D2 2nd Notts County
Attendance: 8,000

Derby County remain in the First Division, Notts County remain in the Second Division.

Stoke D1 14th3–0D2 3rd Newton Heath
Attendance: 10,000

Stoke remain in the First Division, Newton Heath remain in the Second Division.

1896Edit

Liverpool D2 1st4–0D1 15th Small Heath
Manchester City D2 2nd1–1D1 16th West Bromwich Albion
Small Heath D1 15th0–0D2 1st Liverpool
West Bromwich Albion D1 16th6–1D2 2nd Manchester City
Liverpool D2 1st2–0D1 16th West Bromwich Albion
Manchester City D2 2nd3–0D1 15th Small Heath
West Bromwich Albion D1 16th2–0D2 1st Liverpool
Small Heath D1 15th8–0D2 2nd Manchester City

TableEdit

Pos. Team Pld. W D L F A GD Pts.
1 Liverpool 4 2 1 1 6 2 +4 5
2 West Bromwich Albion 4 2 1 1 9 4 +5 5
3 Small Heath 4 1 1 2 8 7 +1 3
4 Manchester City 4 1 1 2 5 15 –10 3
Key Note
Bold Second Division champions
Italic Second Division team
Elected to play in the First Division
Invited to play in the Second Division

1897Edit

Notts County D2 1st1–0D1 15th Sunderland
Burnley D1 16th2–0D2 2nd Newton Heath
Sunderland D1 15th0–0D2 1st Notts County
Newton Heath D2 2nd2–0D1 16th Burnley
Burnley D1 16th0–1D2 1st Notts County
Newton Heath D2 2nd1–1D1 15th Sunderland
Notts County D2 1st1–1D1 16th Burnley
Sunderland D1 15th2–0D2 2nd Newton Heath

TableEdit

Pos. Team Pld. W D L F A GD Pts.
1 Notts County 4 2 2 0 3 1 +2 6
2 Sunderland 4 1 2 1 3 2 +1 4
3 Burnley 4 1 1 2 3 4 –1 3
4 Newton Heath 4 1 1 2 3 5 –2 3
Key Note
Bold Second Division champions
Italic Second Division team
Elected to play in the First Division
Invited to play in the Second Division

1898Edit

Newcastle United D2 2nd2–1D1 16th Stoke
Blackburn Rovers D1 15th1–3D2 1st Burnley
Stoke D1 16th1–0D2 2nd Newcastle United
Burnley D2 1st2–0D1 15th Blackburn Rovers
Burnley D2 1st0–2D1 16th Stoke
Blackburn Rovers D1 15th4–3D2 2nd Newcastle United
Stoke D1 16th0–0D2 1st Burnley
Newcastle United D2 2nd4–0D1 15th Blackburn Rovers

TableEdit

Pos. Team Pld. W D L F A GD Pts.
1 Stoke 4 2 1 1 4 2 +2 5
2 Burnley 4 2 1 1 5 3 +2 5
3 Newcastle United 4 2 0 2 9 6 +3 4
4 Blackburn Rovers 4 1 0 3 5 12 –7 2
Key Note
Bold Second Division champions
Italic Second Division team
Elected to play in the First Division

All teams were elected to the 1898–99 Football League First Division as the league was expanded by two teams.

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Accrington resigned from the Football League

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Soar, Phil & Tyler, Martin: Encyclopedia of British Football, Willow Books, London. Fourth, updated and revised edition, 1984
  • A. H. Fabian & Green, Geoffrey: Association Football, Volume Two. The Caxton Publishing Company Ltd., London, 1960