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Hartlepool vs Sheffield Wed
 2 - 4 
Date: 
Sun May 29 15:00:00 BST 2005
Venue: 
Millennium Stadium
Attendance: 
59808
Referee: 
P Crossley

Extra-time goals from Glenn Whelan and Drew Talbot  finally gave the Owls a place in next season's Coca-Cola Championship - but only after a rollercoaster ride in a topsy-turvy play-off final.

Jon-Paul McGovern's opener on the stroke of half-time had put Wednesday in the ascendency but goals from Eifion Williams and Jon Daly left them staring at defeat with just nine minutes remaining.

But Steven MacLean stepped up to convert the penalty after Drew Talbot had been brought down by Chris Westwood and, with Pools reduced to ten men, it was left to Whelan to secure Wednesday's passage to promotion before 18-year-old Talbot applied the finishing touches.

The match had started in a cauldron of noise after a tremendous pre-match build-up which was savoured by almost 40,000 Wednesdayites in the Millennium Stadium. Hartlepool attacked from the kick-off but it was the Owls who took over for the remainder of the opening 15 minutes.

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Craig Rocastle was in the thick of the action and James Quinn revelled in the wide open spaces of the Cardiff pitch. Following the early midfield skirmishes it was the Northern Ireland international who created two chances for Wednesday in the 13th minute.

After playing Glenn Whelan in for a lob from 15 yards which dropped wide, Quinn then found Chris Brunt who cut in from the right to fashion a glorious opportunity of the opening goal. But instead of going for power, his low shot allowed Dimitrios Konstantopoulos to save comfortably.

Brunt's selection was the only change made by Paul Sturrock to the side that had started the play-off second leg at Brentford but the Scot sprung a major surprise on the substitutes' bench. MacLean returned to the squad for the first time since March 6 after making a lightning recovery from his stress fractured foot.

Hartlepool's withdrawal of former SWFC trialist Tommy Butler on the half-hour may have been due to injury but, despite wresting some of the initiative back after being outplayed in the early stages, manager Martin Scott was doubtless hoping the introduction of Williams would give them more of an attacking threat. Almost immediately, Joel Porter got between the two Owls centre-halves but sent a lob over from 25 yards.

Five minutes before the interval, Pools danger man Adam Boyd was free to pounce on a half-cleared corner but he snatched at his shot, which flew over. But Lee Peacock had an even better chance to score the opener a minute before half-time after latching onto Whelan's through-ball but firing over from 20 yards.

Sturrock would have gone into the interval pleased with his team's first half display but disappointed they could not turn possession into goals - until McGovern's intervention in stoppage time. Rocastle played a fine one-two with Peacock and crossed low to the far post. The Scottish winger was second favourite but did brilliantly to
make up ground on his marker to convert from close range to give the Owls a massive half-time boost.

Any hopes Wednesday had of closing out the game with a clean sheet were swiftly ended when Pools levelled within two minutes of the restart. Williams arrived at the far post with a clinical finish after Ritchie Humphries' long throw was flicked all the way to the far post.

The Teessiders continued in the ascendency, with Anthony Sweeney and Porter both having sights of goal. Wednesday hit back with McGovern shooting into the side netting and Brunt narrowly missing with a 30-yard free-kick. Pools responded by throwing on substitute Jon Daly and he was to make an immediate impact.

With his first touch he drew a foul by Paul Heckingbottom and it was the former Stockport striker who rose highest to convert Gavin Strachan's delivery when the free-kick was swung in.

Suddenly behind for the first time, Sturrock made a triple change, throwing on MacLean, Drew Talbot and Patrick Collins for Peacock, Quinn and Alex Bruce. Just as Wednesday were staring down the barrel of defeat they were thrown a lifeline by referee Phil Crossley. As Talbot was closing in on goal he fell under Chris Westwood's challenge. The Owls were awarded a spot-kick and the defender dismissed for the professional foul.

Facing goal for the first time in 12 weeks, MacLean blasted home his 20th strike of the season despite Konstantopoulos' best efforts to keep it out.

The Owls did their best to prevent the additional half-hour, even against ten men. In the three minutes of added-on time, Richard Wood and Brunt were denied certain goals by last-ditch defending and McGovern was narrowly over from 20 yards.

Still, with the ten-man Pools tiring in extra-time, it wasn't long before Wednesday scored their crucial third goal. Whelan charged down Michael Nelson's attempted clearance and burst through the heart of the Teessiders' back-line before slamming home a left-footed drive from 20 yards.

The Owls spent most of the remainder of extra-time retaining possession against their dispirited opponents and - after an amazing match to cap an amazing Hillsborough season - Talbot sealed it at the death to secure a place for Sturrock's side in next season's Championship.

Wednesday (4-4-2): Lucas; Bruce (Collins 75), Bullen, Wood, Heckingbottom; McGovern, Whelan, Rocastle, Brunt; Peacock (Talbot 75), Quinn (Quinn 75). Subs: Adamson, Collins, Adams, Talbot, MacLean.

Hartlepool (4-4-2): Konstantopoulos; Barron (Craddock 62), Nelson, Westwood, Robson; Humphries, Strachan, Sweeney, Butler (Williams 31); Boyd, Porter (Daly 70). Subs: Provett, Tinkler.

Sent Off - Chris Westwood (professional foul) - 81 mins

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The match report from the play-off final
 Match Information
 
  Hartlepool Sheff Wed
Goals : 2 4
Possession : 46% 54%
Shots On Target : 7 10
Shots Off Target : 7 13
Corners : 6 7
Fouls : 8 13
Most Fouls : Westwood (2) Wood (3)
Yellow Cards : 0 0
 
Red Cards :
Westwood 81
 
Scorers :
Williams 47
Daly 71
McGovern 45 + 1
MacLean 82 (pen)
Whelan 94
Talbot 120 + 1
 
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