Northampton Town finished the season in fourth place in the Third Division table with 72 points, fourteen points short of the automatic promotion places. In the play-off semi-final they faced seventh placed Cardiff City, with the first leg away at Ninian Park on 11 May 1997 finishing 1–0 to Northampton. In the second match at Sixfields Stadium three days later, John Gayle scored the winning goal as Northampton won 3–2 to reach the final.
Swansea City finished the season in fifth place; one place and one point behind Northampton. Swansea faced sixth placed Chester City in the play-off semi-final, who they played away from home at the Deva Stadium in the first leg, and drew 0–0. Their progression to the final was confirmed with a 3–0 victory at the Vetch Field, which ended the tie with an aggregate score of 3–0.