Swansea City's play-off final memories | 1988

25th May 2021
First team

Swansea City will play in their fifth play-off final when they take on Brentford at Wembley on Saturday.

It’s an impressive strike rate with the Swans having reached the play-offs eight times since the format was introduced before the start of the 1986-87 season.

In the build-up to Saturday’s game we will be taking a look back at Swansea’s four previous finals, and we start with the 1988 Fourth Division final against Torquay United.

Swansea City 2 Torquay United 1, May 25, 1988, Vetch Field

Torquay United 3 Swansea City 3, May 28, 1988, Plainmoor

While we have become used to the idea of a play-off final being a showpiece occasion at Wembley, initially the finals were two-legged affairs with each side hosting the other.

Terry Yorath’s side had finished sixth in the table, and had knocked out Rotherham to set-up their encounter with Torquay.

With the Devon club finishing higher in the table they were given home advantage for the second leg, meaning they would visit the Vetch for the first leg.

It proved to be a physical game, with the Swans not able to get into their stride against bruising, hustling opposition.

The game remained goalless for 72 minutes but, just as a goalless outcome began to look likely, the hosts struck two crucial blows in quick succession.

Former Wales boss Chris Coleman started both legs of the 1988 play-off final for the Swans

Sean McCarthy – scorer of both goals across the two legs against Rotherham – fired Swansea in front in the 73rd minute and, when substitute Ian Love’s diving header doubled their advantage with just four minutes to go, they looked to be in the driving seat.

However, Jim McNichol pulled one back just two minutes later to hand Torquay a lifeline to take into the home leg.

The Swans headed to Plainmoor knowing they would be promoted if they could avoid defeat, but there was no prospect of Yorath’s side sitting on their lead as they took the game to their hosts in sodden conditions.

They were 2-0 up on the night inside half an hour as Paul Raynor opened the scoring and McCarthy added the second.

The Swans were 4-1 up on aggregate and looked to be cruising to victory, only for the introduction of future Manchester United star Lee Sharpe to bring Torquay right back into the tie.

Lee Sharpe
Lee Sharpe nearly turned the tie back in Torquay's favour

A brace from McNichol trimmed Swansea’s aggregate advantage, although Alan Davies gave the visitors breathing space again when he scored on the stroke of half-time.

Dave Caldwell struck with 23 minutes remaining to make it 3-3 on the night, with Swans keeper Peter Guthrie going on to make some key saves over the frantic final minutes to ensure his side’s passage to the third tier.

First leg

Swansea City: Peter Guthrie, Chris Harrison, Chris Coleman, Andy Melville, Alan Knill, Robbie James, Alan Davies, Tommy Hutchison, Sean McCarthy, Paul Raynor, Peter Bodak (Ian Love 64).

Goals: McCarthy 83, Love 86.

Second leg

Swansea City: Peter Guthrie, Chris Harrison, Chris Coleman, Andy Melville, Alan Knill, Robbie James, Alan Davies, Ian Love, Sean McCarthy, Paul Raynor, Tommy Hutchison (John Lewis 69).

Goals: Raynor 23, McCarthy (pen) 28, Davies 45.