The Wonderful, Beautiful Madness Of Football

At Griffin Park on Saturday, Brentford hosted Doncaster in a final-day decider to see which team would win promotion. The season came down to a last-minute penalty...

Last Updated: 29/04/13 at 09:22 Post Comment

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At 4.58pm on Saturday afternoon, the wonderful, beautiful madness of football was summed up in 30 frantic seconds at Griffin Park where Brentford were playing Doncaster in a final-day decider to see which team would win promotion.

In the 93rd minute, Doncaster's Dean Furman fouled Toumani Diagouraga to concede a penalty. Everything hinged on this spot-kick. Doncaster had only spent one week outside the top two since the beginning of January when Dean Saunders quit the club to take over at Wolves. If they dropped into the play-offs in the last minute of the last game, how on earth could they recover from the heartache to still gain promotion?

For Brentford, this was the culmination of their efforts in the second half of the season to wrestle themselves into contention for automatic promotion. One kick, one goal, and they would return to the second tier of English football for the first time in 20 years.

Brentford striker Marcello Trotta stepped up for the chance to be a hero. At just 20 years of age, this was by far the biggest moment in the Fulham loanee's career. Opposite him, veteran goalkeeper Neil Sullivan prepared for his own shot at glory.

With 12,300 supporters inside Griffin Park, this was Brentford's highest attendance of the season. The fans had come to see a show and after 92 goal-less minutes, the final act was as tense as it gets. The crowd held their breath. Brentford boss Uwe Rosler held his breath. Doncaster manager Brian Flynn held his breath. Everyone in F365 Towers held their breath. There are no Doncaster or Brentford fans here, but this was football at its very best. In that moment, we were all captivated by the fate of these two teams, these strangers.

Trotta inhaled and began his run up...

THWACK!

The ball smacked the crossbar and bounced down on the wrong side of the line for Brentford, the right side for Doncaster. The Bees fans fell to their knees; the Championship snatched away, replaced by heartbreak and two games against Swindon in the play-offs.

The players didn't stop, though. Brentford tried to force home the rebound before Doncaster launched the ball clear. As it hung in the air Doncaster were heading up in second place, only a year after finishing rock-bottom of the Championship.

The ball landed at the feet of Billy Paynter on the half-way line. The striker had watched the penalty with the Doncaster bench, cursing the most painful end to a promotion run that for so long had looked set to end in glory. But the clang of the crossbar snapped Paynter back into life. He was no longer a dejected spectator as he collected the ball perfectly and burst through the Brentford half. Across the pitch, James Coppinger anticipated the cross.

In his nine years at the club, Coppinger must have felt as though he'd seen everything in football, and perhaps that's what he thinking as he scuffed his first touch. His second put the ball in the back of the net to crown Doncaster champions of League One.

Coppinger ripped off his shirt and threw it into the crowd before leaping in himself to celebrate. The Doncaster end erupted in ecstasy and as fans spilled onto the pitch the stewards - who are probably Brentford fans - were powerless to prevent the party. The referee had to remind the players that there was still time on his watch, with Coppinger left to plead for the return of his top to finish the game.

Football is a wonderful, wonderful thing and it's moments such as this that remind us why we love it so much. So many stories weaved into a single kick. And before we're given a chance to recover, a second kick that knocks us back off our feet or just leaves us laughing at the absurdity of it all.

Congrats to Doncaster, and commiserations to Brentford. But more than that, thanks for that final minute. It was something pretty special.

Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.

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