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Football: Sheldon sets up the future

Leyton Orient 0 Scunthorpe United 1 Calvo-Garcia 6 Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 36,985
SCUNTHORPE'S 30 years of almost constant languishing in the bottom division finally ended at Wembley yesterday when they clung to a lead cleverly set up by 19-year-old Gareth Sheldon for the Spaniard Alex Calvo- Garcia to win their Nationwide Third Division play-off.

Scunthorpe had come to the final knowing that the team finishing one place behind the automatic promotion position for the Second Division had gone to Wembley and succeeded in the previous seven seasons. When you think about it that is the way it should be in all divisions, but such predictability would take away the whole point of the play-offs, which is to extend the wait for the champagne until last orders.

Neither side had reached Wembley comfortably. Scunthorpe had been involved in a 20-man brawl and had a player sent off against Swansea in the second leg of their semi-final but Sheldon, a substitute, scored twice in extra time to get them through; Orient progressed only after a penalty shoot- out against Rotherham, thanks to their goalkeeper, Scott Barrett.

Sheldon's inexperience counted for little then or yesterday when, after only six minutes, he turned smartly in the Orient penalty area to give Calvo-Garcia the chance to guide a header inside the far post.

Afterwards the former Spanish Second Division player admitted: "When Scunthorpe asked me to join them I had to look at a map to find out where they were." The Scunthorpe manager Brian Laws added: "He didn't come for the money, that's for sure."

Sheldon, linking with the much more experienced former Wimbledon striker, John Gayle, continued to disturb Orient's hesitant defenders, who were unable to relieve the pressure. Orient rued the early failure of Steve Watts to connect strongly enough with a header that proved their only serious chance of the first half.

Orient needed to get a grip in midfield, especially through the creative Martin Ling. They replaced Stuart Hicks and Tony Richards with Craig Maskell, up front, and Alex Inglethorpe in support. The effect was encouraging, the pressure relieved and opportunities followed.

With Scunthorpe pinned back, Watts brushed one of their goalposts and Amara Simba had a shot blocked in a goalmouth melee, but there was always danger of Scunthorpe breaking away and taking the match out of Orient's reach.

In this week in which last-minute delight and exasperation had so excitingly explained football's appeal, it would have been no surprise to see Orient force extra time. Yet this Scunthorpe side has resilience as well as youthful ambition. When the need came to prove they could hold their nerve they did, though not without fluttering hearts in the final minutes when Tom Evans, in goal, secured their promotion as he blocked a goal- bound shot from Inglethorpe.