Countdown of the EFL play-off finals greatest games: 5-1

May 21, 2020

Since Saturday we have been counting down the greatest play-off final moments, featuring Wembley screamers and last-minute winners.

Dean Windass' volley was 11th on the list, while Charlton's last-gasp win over Sunderland last year featured in eighth - but which moment tops the lot?

Here, on the day the Championship final was scheduled to take place, we count down from five to one, with the players who made those moments so special recalling their heroics to Sky Sports...

5 - Swindon 4-3 Leicester - Division One play-off final, 1993 - 'Little old Swindon Town in the Premier League!'

We're taking you back to 1993 for a seven-goal thriller, which saw Swindon remarkably throw away a three-goal lead, only to grab it back again in the 84th minute and reach the 'promised land'.

Player-manager Glenn Hoddle, 35 at the time, put Swindon ahead at the break, and they were 3-0 up by the 54th minute thanks to further goals from Craig Maskell and Shaun Taylor.

But by the 69th minute it was 3-3 as Julian Joachim, Steve Walsh and Steve Thompson pulled Leicester level. The momentum may have been with the Foxes, but it was Swindon who were awarded a contentious penalty with under 10 minutes remaining.

"It was a penalty!" recalls Nicky Summerbee, while midfielder John Moncur admits to Sky Sports he was thinking the worst: "I thought if we don't score this, we're going to lose, that was going through my head."

The penalty was taken, and converted, by Paul Bodin, and it sent Swindon up into what was then the Premiership, and left Leicester licking the wounds of a second straight play-off final defeat.

"Thankfully it hit the back of the net," says Bodin. "I remember speaking to supporters after the game. A lot of them couldn't watch, having been 3-0 up…"

"Little old Swindon Town in the Premier League," adds Summerbee, "it was a dream!"

4 - Blackpool 3-2 Cardiff - Championship play-off final, 2010 - 'Lads were saying they were going to buy a Ferrari'

Sometimes winning the play-offs is all down to momentum, and having won six of their final eight regular season matches to finish sixth, Blackpool kept that drive going when overcoming Nottingham Forest 6-4 on aggregate in the semi-finals before edging Cardiff in the final at Wembley.

Cardiff took the lead twice only for Blackpool to respond four minutes later on both occasions, with Charlie Adam cancelling out Michael Chopra's opener before Gary Taylor-Fletcher levelled at 2-2 following a Joe Ledley strike.

The decisive moment came in the first minute of first-half stoppage time, Brett Ormerod scoring what proved to be the winner after a goalless second half.

"For me it was 12 years of hard work [paying off]," says Taylor-Fletcher, while Adam adds: "It was life-changing. Lads were saying they were going to buy a Ferrari."

And for match-winner Ormerod? "I bore my kids to death now," he says. "I tell them that's my £90m [goal]… At the final whistle it was one of the best feelings I've ever had in football."

Meanwhile, manager Ian Holloway was toasting a dream first season in charge: "The first day I came in to the club I said, 'Why can't we be in the Premier League next year?' They thought, what's he talking about, but I said someone's got to… tell me why it can't be us if we do things properly? The whole group was something special and it was the most wonderful time of my life."

3 - Derby 0-1 Queens Park Rangers - Championship play-off final, 2014 - 'Harry said go do something special'

Derby enjoyed the majority of possession, had more shots on target, and played against 10 men for 30 minutes, but it was QPR who defied the odds to win the Championship play-off final in 2014.

The game was edging towards the hour-mark when QPR manager Harry Redknapp turned to Bobby Zamora, scorer of just three goals so far that season.

"I remember Harry saying go and do something special," Zamora recalls. "I don't know if he meant go and get a goal or just hold the ball up!"

Three minutes after Zamora's introduction, Gary O'Neil saw red when bringing down Johnny Russell outside the box. The argument Clint Hill was back to cover fell on deaf ears.

"At the time it was instinct," says O'Neil. "I couldn't get to the ball but decided I could just get enough of him before he got into the penalty area.

"We tried to convince him Clint was on the cover, but when he showed that red card that whole feeling changed, I looked to the QPR fans and what it meant to them - I felt like I let everyone down. I had to watch the game on a six-inch screen feeling as though the world had ended."

Goalkeeper Robert Green continued to deny Derby, and then in the final minute of normal time, the ball fell for Zamora…

"It managed to drop to me," he says. "Strikers do that bit of extra finishing after training, and 20 years of after-session shooting practices, that's what it all comes down to, that split second to adjust and hit the target. It hit the target and the keeper stood no chance really."

Zamora, the match-winner with QPR's only shot on target, remembers O'Neil's relief: "After the game he gave me a big kiss and said thanks for that mate, I owe you."

2 - Charlton 4-4 Sunderland (aet) (Charlton win 7-6 on penalties) - First Division play-off final, 1998 - Mendonca's mixed emotions

Separated by just two points in the regular season, Charlton and Sunderland played out arguably the most evenly contested play-off final ever back in 1998, and it made for one of the greatest.

After 90 minutes, it was 3-3, with Clive Mendonca and Niall Quinn both scoring twice on top of Kevin Phillips' strike for Sunderland and Richard Rufus' 85th-minute equaliser for Charlton.

After 120 minutes, it was 4-4. Nicky Summerbee had put Sunderland ahead in the 99th minute, only to see Mendonca get his hat-trick four minutes later.

After five penalties apiece, it was 5-5. Perfect spot-kicks with goalkeepers Sasa Ilic and Lionel Perez beaten every time.

Then it was 6-6, edging towards the territory of unwilling penalty takers, and after Shaun Newton made it 7-6 in Charlton's favour, Michael Gray stepped up for Sunderland…

The 14th penalty of the shootout, the first one missed. Gray's tame spot-kick was saved by Ilic, and it was heart-break for the Sunderland-born defender.

"I was a Sunderland boy, living the dream playing for my local team and I just didn't want to be the person responsible for us losing such an important match," Gray told the Guardian. "Unfortunately, that seventh penalty will never leave my memory… But looking back, I think it marked a point where I became a stronger person and it helped get me to where I got in my career."

Mendonca, meanwhile, was dealing with the emotions of winning promotion with Charlton at the expense of the club he followed.

"I still get some mucky looks but it is all good banter," Mendonca told Sky Sports last year. "It was the best and worst day of my career - amazing to score a hat-trick at Wembley, but just a shame it was against the team I love.

"Most of my mates were at the match. If you watch the game back on TV you see me look at the camera and say 'sorry Irksy, sorry mate'. That was to my pal on the final whistle. It should have been the greatest day of my life, but all I was thinking is 'I'm going to get slaughtered off all my mates here'."

Sunderland and Charlton would go on to meet 21 years later in the League One play-off final, another dramatic showdown which made our top 10.

1 - Gillingham 2-2 Manchester City (City win 3-1 on penalties) - Division Two play-off final, 1999 - 'I didn't want the feeling to end'

Would Manchester City have gone on to lift four Premier League titles in the 2010s had they not pulled off this minor miracle?

We'll never be able to truly answer that question, but there is no denying City's own 1999 late show - just four days after Manchester United's injury-time heroics to win the treble - paved the way for further success down the road.

Goalless after 81 minutes, Gillingham were on the brink of Division One when scoring two goals in six minutes, but then Kevin Horlock got one back for City in the 90th minute, and then, in the fifth minute of injury time…

"I didn't have to think what I was going to do," recalls Paul Dickov, who followed a sumptuous first touch with a second that sent the ball into the top corner, and the match into extra time.

"When that went in, I can tell you I've never felt so happy in my life," says Shaun Goater.

Come the penalty shootout, it was Nicky Weaver's time to shine, making two saves to ensure Dickov's remarkable miss off both posts would not erase his previous hard work.

"I'd never do that again if I tried," said Dickov, who then thankfully watched Weaver make the match-winning save before sprinting off in jubilation and finding himself at the bottom of a massive pile-on.

"I waved the lads over," says Weaver. "I had a feeling rushing through my body that I've never experienced in my life. As the lads got closer, I didn't want the feeling to end so went on a little bit of a run."

Dickov adds: "I've never seen him run as quick or as far in my life… I was the last one on the top of the pile!"

To which Weaver replies: "I'm not telling you what I said at the bottom."

Don't forget to tune into 'My Play-Off Final' on Sky Sports News and Sky Sports Football from 3pm on Monday.

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