The Worst Mistakes in EFL Play-Off Final History

Richard Keogh
Richard Keogh's error gifted the winning goal to QPR | Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

The play-off final is one of the most emotional games in football. One side walks away with promotion, while the other leaves with the misery of knowing that all their hard work over the campaign amounted to nothing.

With such high stakes, it's not uncommon to see some crack under the pressure. Whether it be gifting the opposition a goal, or making a mess of a decisive penalty, the play-off final has seen it all.

Here are ten of the biggest mistakes in EFL play-off final history.

1. David Raya (Brentford vs Fulham, Championship, 2020)

Brentford ended the regular Championship season as the division's top goalscorers, along with boasting the second best defensive record. So, naturally, they went into their play-off final as hot favourites.

However, Fulham left-back Joe Bryan had other ideas, as he scored only his third and fourth goals for the Whites as they ran out 2-1 winners after extra-time.

Bryan owes a lot of thanks to Bees goalkeeper David Raya for his first goal. The Spaniard was badly caught out, as Bryan's cheeky free kick sneaked in at the near post.

2. Dillon Phillips (Charlton vs Sunderland, League One, 2019)

Raya's error was the worst goalkeeping mistake in a play-off final since...last year.

2019's League One play-off final saw Charlton and Sunderland meet in a repeat of the enthralling 1998 final (we'll get to that later).

The Addicks could hardly have made a worse start to the 2019 final. Just five minutes in, and under no pressure at all, goalkeeper Dillon Phillips failed to control a back-pass by French defender Naby Sarr, giving the Black Cats an early lead.

Thankfully for Phillips, the error was meaningless, as a dramatic 94th minute goal by Patrick Bauer took Charlton back into the Championship.

3. Kelle Roos (Aston Villa vs Derby, Championship, 2019)

Already trailing 1-0 through Anwar El Ghazi's header, the last thing Derby County needed was for goalkeeper Kelle Roos to make a mess of a simple catch.

El Ghazi's shot had looped up into the air following a deflection. As it fell, Scottish midfielder John McGinn somehow managed to beat Roos to the ball and head into an empty net to give the Villans a 2-0 lead.

Despite Jack Marriott's goal with ten minutes to go, Frank Lampard's side failed to turn the game around, and as a result remained in the Championship for another season.

4. Daniel Ayala (Middlesbrough vs Norwich, Championship, 2015)

Prior to the 2015 Championship play-off final, Middlesbrough held the best defensive record in the league, conceding only 37 goals in the regular season - eight fewer than the next lowest.

That all went out the window in the 12th minute, when Liverpool academy graduate Daniel Ayala tried a Cruyff turn just outside his own penalty box. Rather unsurprisingly, the skill move failed, and allowed Cameron Jerome to go clean through on goal and smack in at the near post.

A goal by Nathan Redmond three minutes later put the Canaries 2-0 ahead, and that's how it stayed.

5. Richard Keogh (Derby vs QPR, Championship, 2014)

The 2014 Championship play-off final was probably one of the most "how the f**k did they win that?!" games in football history.

Derby went into the game as favourites following their demolition of Brighton in the previous round, and when Gary O'Neil was sent off in the 60th minute, there appeared to be only one outcome.

But somehow Harry Redknapp's QPR managed to snatch a late winner, after Richard Keogh made a mess of a simple clearance from Junior Hoilett's cross.

The Rams' captain laid the ball on a plate for veteran striker Bobby Zamora, who curled the ball into the far corner. It was the Rs' only effort on target in the entire game. Football is a cruel game sometimes.

6. Steve Simonsen (Huddersfield vs Sheffield Utd, League One, 2012)

Another goalkeeping mistake to add to the list, but not as you may think.

The 2012 League One play-off final was decided by a lengthy penalty shootout after the two Yorkshire sides played out a 0-0 draw. While the game may not have been too exciting, the shootout was intense, as it went all the way down to the goalkeepers.

While Huddersfield town stopper Alex Smithies emphatically dispatched his spot kick, the Blades' keeper Steve Simonsen hammered his over the bar, handing the Terriers promotion to the Championship.

7. Andy Griffin (Reading vs Swansea, Championship, 2011)

After going 3-0 down in the first half, Reading managed to pull two back from corners - putting them on the brink of an incredible comeback.

Was this to be their Istanbul? Well...no is the answer, and it's largely down to former Newcastle man Andy Griffin.

With ten minutes remaining, Griffin put in a frankly brainless challenge on Italian forward Fabio Borini, who was moving away from goal. Referee Phil Dowd had no choice but to point to the spot.

Scott Sinclair converted the penalty for his third and the Swans' fourth, taking Brendan Rodgers' men into the Premier League for the first time.

8. Nathan Stanton (Rochdale vs Stockport, League Two, 2008)

Nathan Stanton, Tommy Lee
Stanton's own goal levelled the scores | Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Everything seemed to be going well for Rochdale in the 2008 League Two play-off final, after Rory McArdle gave them the lead in the 24th minute.

This lead was to last only ten minutes, however, after central defender Nathan Stanton stuck his arms out to meet a cross.

Fortunately for Stanton, no penalty was awarded. Unfortunately for Stanton, his handball diverted the ball past goalkeeper Tommy Lee and into his own net.

Goals from Anthony Pilkington and Liam Dickinson put Stockport 3-1 up, and the Hatters secured promotion to League One - despite Adam Rundle's goal for the Dale with 13 minutes to go.

9. Nick Colgan (Barnsley vs Swansea, League One, 2006)

Nick Colgan, Rory Fallon
Rory Fallon's bicycle kick equalised for the Swans 12 minutes before Colgan's howler | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The 2006 League One play-off final had an eventful beginning, with Paul Hayes giving Barnsley the lead before an incredible acrobatic effort from Rory Fallon drew Swansea level,

And then, with half-time approaching, the Swans took the lead, after Andrew Robinson's low 20-yard strike squirmed out of the hands of Barnsley goalkeeper Nick Colgan and over the line.

However, Colgan would later redeem himself. After a free kick by Daniel Nardiello took the game to a shootout, the Tykes' goalkeeper saved Alan Tate's penalty to seal promotion to the Championship.

10. Michael Gray (Charlton vs Sunderland, Football League First Division, 1998)

I told you we'd get to it later.

The 1998 play-off final between Charlton and Sunderland was nothing short of incredible. The highest scoring EFL play-off final in history, both sides notched four goals each, with Charlton forward Clive Mendonca netting a hat-trick.

The breathless encounter ended in heartbreak for Sunderland, and more specifically Michael Gray. The English left-back stepped up to take the Black Cats' seventh penalty, knowing that he had to score or else his side would miss out on promotion.

Gray's penalty was tame at best, resulting in a comfortable save for Sasa Ilic.