2003 Football League First Division play-off final

2003 Football League First Division play-off Final
Date 26 May 2003
Venue Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Man of the Match Matt Murray (Wolves)[1]
Referee Steve Bennett (Kent)
Attendance 69,473
Weather Mostly cloudy
14 °C (57 °F)[2]

The 2003 Football League First Division playoff 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.

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 final

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 playoff 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 counter attack.[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]


26 May 2003
15:00 BST
Sheffield United 0–3 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Report Kennedy Goal 6'
Blake Goal 22'
Miller Goal 45'
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Attendance: 69,473
Referee: Steve Bennett (Kent)
Sheffield United
Wolverhampton Wanderers
GK 23 Republic of Ireland Paddy Kenny
RB 36 England John Curtis
CB 6 Wales Robert Page (c)
CB 17 England Phil Jagielka
LB 2 England Robert Kozluk
RM 16 Zimbabwe Peter Ndlovu Substituted off 64'
CM 7 England Michael Brown Booked 79'
CM 26 England Mark Rankine Substituted off 46'
LM 18 England Michael Tonge Booked 77'
CF 9 England Carl Asaba
CF 34 England Steve Kabba Substituted off 74'
GK 24 Republic of Ireland Gary Kelly
MF 8 Scotland Stuart McCall Substituted in 46'
MF 12 England Nick Montgomery
FW 10 Canada Paul Peschisolido Substituted in 64'
FW 14 England Wayne Allison Substituted in 74'
England Neil Warnock Red card 45'
GK 13 England Matt Murray
RB 8 Republic of Ireland Denis Irwin Booked 44'
CB 5 England Joleon Lescott
CB 6 Republic of Ireland Paul Butler
LB 3 England Lee Naylor
RM 7 England Shaun Newton
CM 10 Scotland Colin Cameron
CM 23 England Paul Ince (c)
LM 11 Republic of Ireland Mark Kennedy
CF 16 Scotland Kenny Miller Substituted off 75'
CF 9 Wales Nathan Blake Substituted off 88'
GK 1 England Michael Oakes
DF 24 England Marc Edworthy
MF 4 Scotland Alex Rae
FW 12 England Adam Proudlock Substituted in 88'
FW 29 England Dean Sturridge Substituted in 75'
England Dave Jones



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


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