Luton Town seal play-off place as Northampton Town pipped to promotion on incredible final day

There was ecstasy for Luton Town's players and fans (left), but agony for everyone connected with Northampton Town (right).
There was ecstasy for Luton Town's players and fans (left), but agony for everyone connected with Northampton Town (right). Credit: PA

Luton Town booked a Championship play-off place as Northampton Town missed out on automatic promotion to League One in the cruelest possible fashion on an incredible final day of the EFL season.

The Hatters knew that a win over Reading at Kenilworth Road would seal their spot in the top six - a remarkable achievement for a club who were playing non-league football just eight years ago and have one of the smallest budgets in the second tier.

In the end, a solitary goal was enough for them to get the job done, as Harry Cornick pounced on an unbelievable mistake from Royals goalkeeper Ørjan Nyland.

Harry Cornick celebrates scoring the winner against Reading. Credit: PA

The Norwegian put the ball on the floor ready to launch a kick up-field, but didn't realise that Cornick was lurking behind him.

Cornick then sprung into action, nicking the ball and turning it into the empty net.

The goal proved to be the only one of the game as Luton clung on for their most precious three points of the season.

The result, coupled with defeats for closest challengers Millwall and Middlesbrough, means the Hatters finished sixth and will now face third-placed Huddersfield Town in the play-offs.

The first leg of the semi-final will take place on Friday night at Kenilworth Road, with the winners over two legs facing either Sheffield United or Nottingham Forest in the showpiece final at Wembley on Sunday May 29.

  • Watch an extended interview with Luton Town boss Nathan Jones

Northampton Town will also be involved in the lottery of the play-offs after they were pipped to automatic promotion in League Two by Bristol Rovers.

That only tells half the story though.

The Cobblers started the day in the final promotion place, and all looked to be going swimmingly as they raced into a 3-0 lead at Barrow thanks to two goals from Sam Hoskins and another from Fraser Horsfall in a blistering opening 23-minute spell.

At that stage, Northampton fans were in party mood, but the nerves started to jangle before half-time as Barrow pulled one back and news filtered through that Bristol Rovers were 2-0 up in their game against already-relegated Scunthorpe United.

Northampton Town's Sam Hoskins cuts a dejected figure after the final whistle at Barrow. Credit: PA

Those nerves soon intensified further when Rovers made it 4-0 with half an hour remaining, and then anxiety turned to agony for the Cobblers as the Gas continued to rack up the goals to win 7-0.

Incredibly, that meant that both teams couldn't be separated on both points and goal difference, but promotion went to Rovers due to the fact that they scored more goals over the course of the season - 71, compared to Northampton's 60.

It was the most heartbreaking way imaginable to miss out on the top three for the Cobblers who will now have to dust themselves down and get ready for a two-legged semi-final against Mansfield Town.