After five years outside the top-flight of English football Derby County finally made it back to the big time with their 1-0 defeat of West Bromwich Albion.
Stephen Pearson’s first goal for the club came at the crucial moment and the Rams will rub shoulders with the Premiership elite next season.
Personally, as a neutral to the play-offs it was heartening to see the team that finished in third position gaining promotion especially as Derby were so close to going up automatically.
Hence we are faced with the same question we arrive at every May: Are the play-offs fair?
Traditionally, it is the team that is in good form that is victorious and that team has often had a good late run of results to scrape into the play-offs in the first place.
The examples are numerous but one relevant recent case in point is that of Bristol Rovers.
Bristol had an excellent run towards the end of the season winning four times and drawing twice in their last six games, including a 1-0 win over Swindon on the final day, to sneak into the top seven.
Rovers beat Shrewsbury 3-1 on Saturday to gain promotion to League 1 despite finishing sixth.
The plight of Derby was quite different; they were always in contention for the automatic places and without Roy Keane and Sunderland’s heroics they may well have made it into the top two.
They finished the season eight points better than West Brom and deserved promotion but sadly the third place team often misses out.
Despite this obvious injustice, we need only think back to the days before play-offs to remember how dull football could be. After Christmas there were dozens of lower league teams with nothing to play for, as they were not promotion contenders or relegation candidates, and many games were effectively rendered meaningless.
Alternatives to the current play-off system have been touted; most interesting of them is putting the team just outside automatic promotion directly in the final with the other three teams slugging it out for the remaining place. This would give the highest placed team a deserved advantage.
However, we cannot afford do away with the play-offs all together, it is heart-wrenching for any season to come down to just one game, where one moment can be the difference between playing at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford or Deepdale and Oakwell
As unfair is it may seem it makes football truly entertaining and after all isn’t that the point?