The best Championship playoff games of all time

17 May 2021 10:45

In their 34 years of existence, the Championship playoffs have brought some wonderful entertainment value to English football.

The post-season bonanza brings with it a last chance at promotion, and gives teams who might not otherwise be in contention an equal chance of winning a place in the promised land of the Premier League.

It all breeds a tension and desperation that has led to some of the most memorable matches the EFL has ever seen, and we're about to take you on a trip through some of the best over the years.

1. Swindon 4-3 Leicester (1993)

The 1993 playoff final proved to be Glenn Hoddle's final game as Swindon player-manager before taking over at Chelsea. And what a way to sign off it was.

Swindon looked to have one foot in the Premiership, when after Hoddle's first-half opener, Craig Maskell and Shaun Taylor put them firmly in control.

But Leicester didn't half come roaring back. In 15 breathtaking minutes, they wiped out Swindon's three-goal lead and set up a final 20 that neither set of fans could take their eyes off.

Just as it seemed like extra-time beckoned, however, Colin Hill was brought down in the box and Paul Bodin stepped up to convert the penalty. Scenes followed, as Swindon were back in the big time.

2. Charlton 4-4 Sunderland (1998)

Charlton and Sunderland had scored five goals between them over two semi-final legs each heading into this one. Turns out they were saving it all up for Wembley.

Clive Mendonca was the hero for the Addicks on the day, firing a breathtaking hat-trick including an equaliser deep in extra-time that took the tie to penalties. Sunderland had previously gone in front three times, and they were wondering what they had to do to kill it off.

Mendonca then stepped up to score the first penalty of the shootout, and 14 straight efforts hit the back of the net before Charlton eventually clinched it.

3. Ipswich 5-3 Bolton (2000)

The semi-finals have seen their share of stunning games too, however.

A 2-2 draw between Ipswich and Bolton in the first leg was one thing, but we were spoiled in the second at Portman Road as the two sides went hammer and tong for a place in the Premier League.

Jim Magilton was the hero for the hosts on the night, firing in a hat trick including a stunning late volley that virtually clinched the win after both sides had seen players sent off.

It was a painful end to Big Sam's first season in charge of Wanderers, but there would be plenty of happy days ahead.

4. Derby 2-3 Southampton (2007)

Derby County had edged the semi-final first leg with Southampton in 2007, and when Darren Moore opened the scoring with an early header at Pride Park, the Saints looked down and out.

But they were in no mood to lie down. Trailing 3-1 on aggregate, they battled back into it, with Jhon Viafra netting twice before Leon Best put the home team back in front.

Grzegorz Rasiak's strike made it 4-4 on aggregate late in the 90 minutes, but it was Derby who emerged victorious from the pulsating semi-final tie on penalties.

Derby went on to beat West Brom and reach the Premier League.but we won't fixate on what happened next.

5. Blackpool 3-2 Cardiff (2010)

A baby-faced Charlie Adam celebrates with Jason Euell. | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Blackpool's rise to the Premier League in 2010 was a proper footballing fairytale. Ian Holloway's side had snuck into the playoffs in sixth place, and probably weren't fully prepared for promotion to the top flight, but they got there anyway thanks to a win over Cardiff City at Wembley.

Charlie Adam opened the scoring for the Tangerines with a free-kick, and despite the Bluebirds retaking control through Michael Chopra and Joe Ledley, it was Blackpool who fought their way into the Premier League for the first time ever.

All the goals in this one actually came in the first half. The second was a bit of a damp squib, but Blackpool didn't mind that one bit.

6. Watford 3-1 Leicester (2013)

Everyone remembers this one. If you don't, go away and inject as much of it into your veins as you possibly can, then come back and read on.

96 minutes were on the clock in the 2013 semi-final when, poised at 2-2 on aggregate, Leicester were awarded a penalty. It was cruel on Watford, who had battled back from a first leg defeat to put themselves within touching distance of Wembley, but they were now at serious risk of heading out at Vicarage Road.

Manuel Almunia, though, had other ideas. He came up with a stunning double-save to keep out Anthony Knockaert from the spot and on the rebound, and the ball was sent into orbit by a recovering defender.

The excitement hadn't even come close to calming down when Fernando Forestieri found himself charging down the Leicester left. Looking up, he found Troy Deeney with a floated cross, and within the space of 15 seconds, Watford had gone from heading out to heading to Wembley.

When you look up 'scenes' in the dictionary, this is what you'll find.

7. Leeds 2-4 Derby (2019)

The bad blood between Leeds and Derby was nearly spilling over heading into their playoff semi-final in 2019.

After Leeds were found to have sent someone to spy on Derby's preparations ahead of a league meeting earlier in the season, Frank Lampard's furious response had been the subject of mockery at Leeds.particularly after they won the first leg 1-0 at Pride Park.

That set up a blockbuster of a finale at Elland Road, but Derby weren't to be denied on this occasion.

Despite Stuart Dallas firing the Whites into an early lead, Harry Wilson and Mason Mount inspired a stunning fight-back that left Marcelo Bielsa on the verge of tears.

After Domenico Berardi's red card 12 minutes from time, it was Jack Marriott who struck the eventual winner, and it all soon boiled over when Scott Malone saw red for the Rams in stoppage time.

Videos of Derby celebrating in the dressing room - singing 'stop crying Frank Lampard' in response to the ribbing their manager had taken in the build-up - would haunt Leeds for much of the next 12 months.

Source: 90min