1997 Football League First Division play-off Final

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1997 Football League First Division play-off final
Old Wembley Stadium (external view).jpg
Date 26 May 1997
Venue Wembley Stadium, London
Referee Neale Barry
Attendance 64,383

The 1997 Football League First Division play-off Final was a football match played at Wembley Stadium, London on 26 May 1997 at the end of the 1996–97 season. The match determined the third and final team to gain promotion from First Division to the Premiership, and was contested by Crystal Palace, who finished sixth during the league season, and Sheffield United, who finished fifth. The teams reached the final by defeating Wolverhampton Wanderers and Ipswich Town respectively in the two-legged semi-finals.


Crystal Palace were anxious in the first few minutes, but slowly took superior ground. Palace's powerful striker Bruce Dyer hit a shot which forced United keeper Simon Tracey to grab hold of the ball low by the far post after 15 minutes. A Blades’ defence including David Holdsworth (twin brother of Premiership footballer Dean of Wimbledon) held firm for the opening period, although they were fortunate to see penalty appeals turned down for a tackle on David Tuttle and Palace striker Neil Shipperley head over the crossbar when left unmarked. The Yorkshiremen were forced to change their tactics and their system when Don Hutchison (who had earlier taken a fierce Andy Roberts volley to the face in an attempt to clear) picked up an injury shortly before half-time with a suspected broken collarbone.

The Blades, having won only two first-half corners, returned after the interval with renewed vigour and registered 10 set-pieces within 20 minutes. It was from there that they were most dangerous, with Jan Åge Fjørtoft winning the flick-ons. Palace captain David Hopkin was never far from the action, and he combined well with Kevin Muscat, Simon Rodger and Roberts as the match wore on. In attack, Dyer was sharp down the wings (on one occasion shooting over a cross that flashed across the United goal with no-one close enough to profit) and was unlucky to see an overhead kick fly past the wrong side of United's left upright. Sheffield United's best effort of the second period was a left-footed volley from Fjørtoft that flew past Carlo Nash's left post.

With barely half a minute of regulation time left to play and extra-time looming, Palace forced a corner. Having exchanged passes with Roberts, Rodger's cross was headed clear by Carl Tiler only as far as the edge of the penalty area where Hopkin was positioned. The Scotsman, who had been a standout performer for the south London club throughout the season, composed himself with the loose ball and curled a right-footed shot into the top right-hand corner past the stranded Tracey in the Sheffield United goal. In beating Tracey (who had ironically nearly moved to Crystal Palace in the close season to replace England international goalkeeper Nigel Martyn), Hopkin decided the contest with what was virtually the last kick of the final, defeating the Yorkshire club in the same manner as Leicester City did against the victors at the end of extra-time in the previous year's final.

Match details[edit]

26 May 1997
15:00 GMT
Crystal Palace 1–0 Sheffield United
Hopkin Goal 90' Report
Wembley Stadium, London
Attendance: 64,383
Referee: Neale Barry (Scunthorpe)
Crystal Palace
Sheffield United
GK England Carlo Nash
RB England Marc Edworthy
CB Australia Kevin Muscat
CB England David Tuttle
CB England Andy Linighan
LB England Dean Gordon
CM England Andy Roberts
CM Scotland David Hopkin (c)
CM England Simon Rodger
CF England Neil Shipperley
CF England Bruce Dyer
CM Republic of Ireland Ray Houghton
FW Australia Carl Veart
FW England Leon McKenzie
England Steve Coppell
GK England Simon Tracey
RB England Mitch Ward
CB England David Holdsworth
CB England Carl Tiler
LB Norway Roger Nilsen
RM England David White
CM England Nigel Spackman Substituted off 90'
CM Scotland Don Hutchison Substituted off 45'
LM England Dane Whitehouse
CF Belarus Pyotr Kachura Substituted off 26'
CF Norway Jan Åge Fjørtoft
DF England Lee Sandford Substituted in 45'
FW Wales Gareth Taylor Substituted in 26'
FW Scotland Andy Walker Substituted in 90'
England Howard Kendall


  • 90 minutes.
  • 30 minutes of extra-time if necessary.
  • Penalty shootout if scores still level.
  • Maximum of 3 substitutions.

Road to Wembley[edit]

Crystal Palace[edit]

First Leg Crystal Palace 3–1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Second Leg Wolverhampton Wanderers 2–1 Crystal Palace

Sheffield United[edit]

First Leg Sheffield United 1–1 Ipswich Town
Second Leg Ipswich Town 2–2 Sheffield United