Huge prize is at stake

The Championship play-off final has down the years gained the label of the richest one-off game in English football.

Wednesday, 18th May 2016, 12:10 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th May 2016, 2:11 pm
Wednesdays Tom Lees, Daniel Pudil, manager Carlos Carvalhal and goalscorer Ross Wallace (left to right)

This season’s winners will join the Premier League in time to share the huge windfall from the start of the latest television deal.

It is a battle of fourth versus sixth at Wembley on Saturday week, Hull taking on Sheffield Wednesday.

Hull had to rely on their away form to take them to the final, winning 3-0 in the first leg of their semi-final against Derby.

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At home on Tuesday night, they were beaten 2-0 by the Rams and very nearly pegged back.

Wednesday’s 2-0 home win over Brighton was the bedrock of their success, with them drawing 1-1 in the return leg. Former Preston winger Ross Wallace scored in both legs for the Owls.

Which way things will go in the final is a hard one to call.

Wednesday have momentum behind them, with two defeats in 13 games.

Hull lost four of their last 12 games, although there were five wins in there as they cemented a place in the top six.

Looking at it with a Preston hat on, the Lilywhites beat both finalists at Deepdale – but lost against them away.

Last August, North End went down to a 2-0 defeat against Hull at the KC Stadium.

After going 1-0 behind, they had plenty of the play and missed a sitter to equalise when Alan Browne put a close-range header over the bar.

In October, PNE lost 3-1 to Wednesday at Hillsborough and it was not their finest hour.

At home, more streetwise to the demands of the division than in those early couple of months, the Lilywhites beat both in the return fixtures.

Paul Gallagher’s low finish delivered a 1-0 win over Hull on December 29.

In February, Joe Garner headed PNE’s winner against Wednesday – that considered as one of their strongest displays of the season at Deepdale.

Looking at the final, you would say that Hull have the greater experience, having kept hold of a number of last season’s squad from the Premier League.

But Wednesday will not fear the occasion and, in Fernando Forestieri, boast one of the best attacking players at this level.

Both clubs have substantial budgets and, whoever does not make it, will spend again.