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Page last updated at 13:50 GMT, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 14:50 UK

Masked Owen set for Wembley final

Venue: Wembley Stadium Date: Monday, 24 May Kick-off: 1500 BST
Coverage: Live on Sky Sports and BBC Sport Online; commentary on BBC local radio and online.

Stockport skipper Gareth Owen will play in Monday's League Two play-off final with Rochdale after being fitted with a special mask following a facial injury.

The 25-year-old defender fractured a cheekbone in a collision in the semi-final victory over Wycombe.

Boss Jim Gannon told the Manchester Evening News: "It's a slight fracture, not a depressed fracture, so it doesn't need an operation or a plate.

"The doctors have organised a mask for him for Wembley."

The County boss has also confirmed striker Matty McNeil has returned to training and midfielder Dom Blizzard is expected back after recovering from a calf injury.

Gannon has been impressed with the players' attitude in the countdown to the match.

"There's a good feeling about the squad and everyone is looking forward to the game.

"I don't think they got caught up in how big the semi-final game was. They just got down to business.

"It's going to be harder to maintain that attitude because this time it's not Adams Park or Edgeley Park, it's Wembley."


Stockport County and Rochdale contest the last of this season's Football League Play-offs in a north-west derby to determine which club will be playing League One football next season.

County have made four unsuccessful visits to Wembley previously; Rochdale are gracing the hallowed turf for the first time.

Stockport are aiming to return to the third tier, after an absence of three seasons. Danny Bergara was in charge when the Cheshire club were last promoted from the basement in 1991. He also guided them to those four unproductive trips to the twin towers in the three following seasons; twice in the play-off finals and twice in the final of the Autoglass Trophy; all by a single goal margin. How fitting it would be if Stockport could gain promotion, ten months after the sad passing of their former Uruguayan-born boss.

Rochdale have only gained promotion once in their history - that being 39 years ago when current manager Keith Hill was born. They have completed 34 successive seasons at this level, longer than any other club. It would be equally fitting for them to go up in their centenary season.

Stockport drew the first leg of their semi-final 1-1, away to Wycombe, and sealed their place in the final with an early goal from Liam Dickinson in the second leg at Edgeley Park. Rochdale lost 2-1 at Darlington, and won 2-1 at Spotland; a 78th minute effort from David Perkins took them into extra time, when Perkins was sent off. A penalty shoot-out ensued. The first eight kicks were all converted, until the effort from Darlington's Jason Kennedy was saved by Tommy Lee. Ben Muirhead then slotted home to send 'Dale on their march to the arch.

The Table

Stockport ended the regular campaign in fourth, on 82 points, six points behind third placed Hereford, who were promoted automatically. It's their highest points total since the 1996-97 campaign when they went up automatically from the third tier on 82 points.

Rochdale finished in fifth with a club record total of 80 points, eight points outside the automatic promotion places.


Current form

Unbeaten in four; won two and drawn two since losing 2-1, away to Barnet on 26 April.

Not won away from home since a 0-1 triumph over Peterborough at London Road on 12 April; drawn two and lost one of the three subsequent fixtures away from Edgeley Park.

Play-Off history

Never been promoted through the play-offs, but made the final in two of the four occasions in which they've qualified. Danny Bergara was in charge for all four participations; the semi-finals of the Fourth Division play-offs in 1990, the 2-1 defeat to Peterborough in the Third Division final at Wembley in 1992, the Second Division semi-finals a year later, and for the 2-1 loss to Burnley in the Second Division final at Wembley on 29 May 1994.

The Manager

Under Jim Gannon, Stockport last season set a new Football League record of nine successive wins without conceding a single goal. They also failed to qualify for the play-offs on goal difference, missing out in the last four minutes of that campaign.

Gannon had a distinguished playing career with Stockport. The 39 year old Southwark-born, former Dundalk centre-half, made 479 appearances over 10-years at Edgeley Park, scoring 65 goals. He would dearly love to steer his side to victory in his first attempt as a manager, having been a member of the side of each of the four occasions they previous lost at Wembley.

Play-Off fact

History is on Stockport's side having finished immediately below the automatic promotion spots. The highest placed of the four play-off participants in the fourth tier has gone on to win the final and gain promotion in 12 of the last 17 years.


Current form

Won one of four.

Were in the lower half of the table in early December, but finished the regular season on a 10-match unbeaten run of seven wins and three draws. Their 77 League Two goals was the highest total outside the top two.

Play-Off history

Only been involved in the play-offs once previously. Rushden defeated Steve Parkin's team in the 2001-02 semi-finals.

The Manager

Keith Hill took over in a caretaker capacity at Spotland four days before Christmas 2006, and was installed permanently on 3 January 2007.

As a player with Blackburn, Hill missed out on an appearance in a play-off final. David May was preferred by manager Kenny Dalglish for the 1-0 Wembley win in 1992 that ensured Rovers played in the inaugural Premier League season.

Play-Off fact

The club finishing fifth at this level have only gone on to gain promotion via the play-offs twice since 1989.


All competitions

Stockport are vying for a 50th league and cup victory over Rochdale.

County have prevailed in five of the last six meetings, including the league double this season. They won 1-2 at Spotland on 6 November, and the 2-0 on home soil on 11 March. All four of their goals were scored by Liam Dickinson.

Rochdale's only victory over their north-west rivals since October 2005, was 2-7 at Edgeley Park on 24 March 2007, when Glenn Murray and Ben Muirhead helped themselves to a brace a piece.

see also
Stockport v Rochdale
24 May 08 |  League Two
Lawro's Play-off predictions
23 May 08 |  Football
North-west duo take centre stage
23 May 08 |  League Two
Rochdale fail in red card appeal
20 May 08 |  Rochdale
Dickinson hails Stockport support
19 May 08 |  Stockport

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