Football: Garner going for a play-off treble: Trevor Haylett on the weekend's play-off games

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The Independent Online
EVEN for a seasoned goal-digger, it must rank as a unique hat-trick; three successive play-off victories, all with different clubs. That distinction will be Simon Garner's today if he can help Wycombe overcome Preston in the first of the finals to decide the outstanding Endsleigh League promotion places.

A Wembley celebration would be a suitable reward for the impact Martin O'Neill's Wanderers have made in this, their first year in the League, and Garner, who was with Blackburn when they climbed from the First Division, and West Brom, when they rose from the Second, can show them the way.

Wycombe know Wembley better than the away grounds they have discovered this season. In two of the three years prior to their step up, they were successful in the FA Trophy competition. Now the newcomers return to confront one of the founders of the Football League, and the first-ever champions.

Preston overturned a two-goal deficit to trip up Torquay in their semi-final, with all four second-leg strikes coming from headers. That vindicated John Beck's faith in direct methods and wingers who can supply frequent and accurate crosses, and they have already served him well on this stage before when with Cambridge. The 30,000 Deepdale devotees set off today in anticipation of victory, but not vaudeville.

Tomorrow brings another huge exodus south from Lancashire when Burnley make their first return to Wembley six years to the day since they lost the Sherpa Van final to Wolves.

Stockport completed the Second Division programme with an advantage of 12 points over them, but so, too, did Plymouth, and after being held at Turf Moor, Jimmy Mullen's side demonstrated their mettle in the away leg. They will also be encouraged that the hallowed greensward has not been helpful to County, who three times in the last four years have come to grief there, twice in the Autoglass Trophy and then at the hands of Peterborough in the old Third Division play-off final.

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