Bolton Wanderers' season may have come to a far from inspiring end a few weeks ago, but the campaign has had a merrier finale for a handful of our former players.
Saturday's League Two final saw an exciting finale to an enthralling clash between Southend United and Wycombe Wanderers. The Essex side were managed by former Bolton player and assistant to Big Sam, Phil Brown, who had another ex-White Cian Bolger playing at the heart of his defence.
Bolger looked a little shaky early on, his push on a defender saw Barry Corr's early goal disallowed and he received a yellow card for a rash challenge, but eventually marshalled the defence fairly effectively as the game finished 0-0 after 90 minutes. Wycombe took the lead early in extra time through a Joe Jacobson free-kick - which hit the bar, bounced onto goalkeeper Daniel Bentley's back, then onto the bar again before creeping over the line - before Joe Piggott took the game to penalties with a 120th minute equaliser.
But Brown and Bolger's Southend held their nerve in the dreaded penalty shoot-out, despite missing their second penalty. After 14 penalties the sides were tied at 6-6, and Bolger stepped up to fire home a composed penalty into the top right corner. That proved the key penalty as Bentley, who looks to be a great talent, then saved the next Wycombe spot kick from Sam Wood to send Southend up to League One.
The next day saw the League One play-off final grace Wembley, with our local neighbours Preston North End taking on Swindon Town for the right to join us in the Championship next season. And it was the turn of another more recently former Wanderer to be the hero of the day.
Much maligned striker Jermaine Beckford somehow scored a hat-trick for Preston, including a nicely taken curled shot for his second goal, to give Preston a 4-0 win over a hapless Swindon side. Despite being utterly useless for Bolton, which led to him being given a free transfer last week, Beckford has again found his level at League One and became just the third player to score a hat-trick in a play-off final at Wembley. Whether or not Preston choose to snap up Beckford for next season in the Championship, where it's clear he can't score goals, remains to be seen.
Preston's side also included Wanderers legend Kevin Davies, who missed a half chance as a substitute in the last few minutes, but it's unlikely he'll still be with the club next season. The defeated Swindon side featured former Wanderers full-back Sam Ricketts, who came on at right-back after four minutes for injured captain Nathan Thompson.