It all comes down to Sunday’s play-off final for Carlisle and Stockport County as they battle on the Wembley Surface for a spot in League One.
Separated by three points at the end of the season, and by nothing when they last met in mid-April - playing out a 2-2 draw - the Hatters are searching for back-to-back promotion and to see off the Cumbrians like they did last October.
It’s bound to be a fiery occasion alike to all play-off finals, between the two top scoring sides of the season who finished in the top six.
The Hatters, who were in the conference north just four years ago, have lost just one of their past 15 matches with seven wins and draws. They are playing in their fourth EFL play-off final and looking to become the first team to earn consecutive promotions to reach League One since Tranmere Rovers in 2017-18 and 2018-19.
Having lost four of their last five matches at Wembley under the arch, the odds won't favour the Hatters. However, manager Dave Challinor believes experience which his side has could be pivotal.
He told BBC Radio Manchester: “You need experience and we are in a position where we have quite a few players who have experienced what Wembley is, and what the game is.”
Meanwhile, Carlisle are playing in their first ever EFL play-off final and are looking for a return back to League One for the first time since 2013-14. The Cumbrians have won just one of their last eight meetings with Stockport in all competitions, losing four and drawing three.
They’ll hope for their first victory over the Hatters of the season in the most important game, but their form isn’t favourable with just three wins from their past 13 games in all competitions. They have drawn six of that many with four losses and seek consecutive wins for the first time since March after their win over Bradford in the play-off semi-finals.
Despite recent form, boss Paul Simpson hopes knowledge of Stockport from previous games could help them on their way saying: “I know from our two games what their strengths and weaknesses are.
“The biggest challenge is who will deal with the day the best, and it’s up to us to make sure that we’re that team.”
Fighting talk from Carlisle boss Simpson whose side face Stockport with a 1.74 xG for per match.
It’s become a trend to see sides storm through the leagues, just like Luton who gained promotion to the Premier League through a play-off final win against Coventry after being in the National League a decade prior.
We’ll see who will be successful in Sunday’s final at Wembley, though it could be argued for both these sides that League One could be their limit. Stockport have done extraordinarily well already and likewise to Carlisle maybe the next level up could be the maximum level to compete at.
However, one thing football teaches you, is to never doubt and who knows what awaits one of these sides next year.
It’s going to be a good contest and definitely one to look forward to, and we’ll see if Stockport can claim more glory and create history, or if Carlisle will inflict pain and secure promotion for themselves.
Crowdplod prediction: Stockport County Win