Graham Alexander delivered the perfect birthday present to Fleetwood chairman Andy Pilley as the Cod Army secured yet another promotion.
Burton Albion 0-1 Fleetwood Town
Scorers: Fleetwood Town - Sarcevic (75)
Antoni Sarcevic’s freak goal with 15 minutes to go was enough to sink Burton 1-0 in the League Two play-off final at Wembley.
The midfielder’s 35-yard strike fooled Albion goalkeeper Dean Lyness and clinched an incredible sixth promotion in nine years for the small Lancashire fishing town.
In 2005 Fleetwood were playing Ramsbottom in the North West Counties Division One. Next season it will be Sheffield United, Coventry and Preston in League One.
Former Scotland defender Alexander ranked his first managerial success as highly as any achievement in his long and distinguished playing career with North End, Burnley and on international duty. “It’s right up there,” he said. “Everyone works hard for any success in football and it feels the same for players and managers.
“It’s down to the ambition of the chairman, who took over 11 years ago, and always believing we can smash through any glass ceiling put above us.
“It’s the chairman’s 44th birthday as well so it’s a double celebration. I’m hoping the trophy is enough of a present.”
A cagey game was short on chances for both teams until Billy Kee squandered Burton’s best opportunity. The striker played despite his wife being due to give birth, and even planned to incorporate “Wembley” into the new arrival’s name if he scored and Albion won.
But Kee junior was spared a dodgy middle name when Dad made a mess of his volley, blazing it over the crossbar.
Instead it was Sarcevic, rejected by Manchester City as a youngster, who conjured up the winner when his free kick, meant as a far-post cross, deceived Lyness.
The Brewers ’keeper came out to collect the ball, only to watch in horror as it sailed over his head into the net. Burton boss Gary Rowett tried to console Lyness, whose error cost Albion their own chance of reaching League One for the first time.
“I told him to get his chin up,” said Rowett. “Unfortunately, sometimes a mistake dictates a result. We’ve seen it in the play-off games and in the Champions League final.
“I can’t be disappointed with him, he’ll be disappointed enough for himself. Maybe he took his eye off it, but I’m not going to berate my ’keeper.
“I can’t be downbeat after the season we’ve had. I’d have rather lost here at Wembley than at Southend last week.
“And we were in the wrong dressing room. Apparently all three losing finalists were in the home dressing room, so I’m blaming whoever makes that decision!”
Burton Albion: Lyness, Edwards, Holness (Diamond 65), Cansdell-Sherriff, McFadzean, MacDonald (Ismail 73), Weir, Bell (Palmer 78), Hussey, McGurk, Kee. Subs not used: Alexander, Knowles, Gray, Hall.
Fleetwood Town: Maxwell, McLaughlin, Pond, Roberts, Taylor, Goodall, Blair (Parkin 74), Morris, Sarcevic, Ball, Hume (Murdoch 86). Subs not used: Evans, Schumacher, Matt, Jordan, Lucas.
Referee: M Naylor. Att: 14,007