League Two play-off final: Exeter and Northampton prepare for showpiece at empty Wembley

Matt Taylor (left) and Keith Curle
Exeter boss Matt Taylor (left) and Northampton manager Keith Curle have one win apiece from their meetings this season

"I've only been to the new Wembley once myself, and that was on a disciplinary hearing. I won the case but still had to pay £500 costs."

Northampton manager Keith Curle is not the only one involved in Monday's League Two play-off final to have a complicated relationship with England's national stadium.

Curle's Cobblers side take on Exeter in what is thought to be the first-ever competitive game at Wembley to take place behind closed doors, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Devon side have lost at this stage in two of the past three seasons.

"We've got a recent history with Wembley and play-off finals and we certainly don't want to be left wanting at the end of this one," says Exeter manager Matt Taylor, who was part of the coaching staff when the Grecians lost to Blackpool in 2017 and again to Coventry 12 months later.

"My memory's not gone back to those two occasions, when I was involved as a coach, because they were negative times in terms of the results that we got," Taylor told BBC Sport.

"Those finals certainly hurt us in terms of the way we performed on the day.

"Goals change games - they really do - to concede early against Blackpool put us on the back foot, and then for Coventry to dominate most of the game was disappointing from our point of view because we felt we were capable of a little bit more.

"We've got to be positive about the outcome, we've got to look forward to it and we've got to feel confident.

"Northampton will be exactly the same; we're not looking at what's been in the past, we're looking forward and we want to make our own history."

Wembley Stadium
It is believed only test games - held before Wembley officially opened - have been held at the stadium without fans

Curle's 'masterclass of getting into players' minds'

But in football history is everywhere.

Northampton boss Curle was in charge of Carlisle when Exeter beat them in the League Two play-off semi-finals in 2017 thanks to a last-minute goal.

This year it was Curle's side that made their own bit of history - they were the first team to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit in a play-off semi-final since 2007 when they beat Cheltenham 3-0 away at Whaddon Road in the second leg.

"The work that went on between those two games was a masterclass of getting into players' minds more than anything else," chairman Kelvin Thomas told BBC Radio Northampton.

"I'm not sure what work went on on the pitch in terms of tactically getting them prepared, [but] it was more about getting the mentality right and getting that intensity there.

"It was fantastic work and it hasn't stopped. I spoke to the players and we talked about that mentality, that unity, that togetherness from the whole club."

Fish and chips relaxation for Exeter

Exeter themselves had a tricky route to the final - a 1-0 loss in a drab first leg away at Colchester, they went 2-0 up at home last Monday before seemingly throwing it away as they conceded once and almost let in more.

But they stood firm and top-scorer Ryan Bowman came up with a 111th-minute winner in extra time.

"It's a little boy's dream to win stuff like this, win promotions, play football," said Bowman.

"I've never tasted promotion before, the closest I've got is the semi-final back in 2013 with York."

Exeter celebrate
Ryan Bowman was an unused substitute on his only other trip to Wembley - as part of a Carlisle squad who lost the 2010 EFL Trophy final to Southampton.

And Exeter's preparations for their biggest game of the season have been somewhat unique.

"We were off on Tuesday and on Wednesday we took them down to the beach," says Taylor.

"We got them into the sea and got them back to the training ground and had fish and chips.

"Less is more in terms of our build-up. We worked them so hard in that two-and-a-half weeks from the start to the middle of June in preparation for that first leg, so we've had to just relax them a little bit and give them a mental and physical break so they go and attack the weekend.

"We want to go and play to the best of our ability on Monday, and we know to do that we need speed in our game so we need to be physically right."

But to do that they must topple a Northampton side who only dropped into the fourth tier two years ago and have ambitious plans.

"I want to be successful. I need to be successful and I need to be around people that need to be successful," Curle said.

"But within it I'm quite relaxed, I'm quite chilled, but I've got a purpose and I've got a reason. I like to work and I like people around me that like working and I try and make their job easier.

"I understand what they need to do their job and try and give them the platform to do their jobs."