Two Weeks Before Famous Watford-Leicester Finish, Another EFL Game Had Historic Ending
Over the last decade of football, few moments stand out in the public consciousness as much as Troy Deeney's last-minute winner against Leicester in 2013.
What began on one end with a Leicester penalty miss ended with a pandemonium-inducing, last-second winner at the other end to send Watford to the playoff final at Wembley.
That sort of end-to-end drama is rare in football simply because of the scarcity of goals, yet two weeks before Deeney's famous finish, another Football League match ended in almost identical fashion with just as much at stake.
The only difference is that James Coppinger's winner for Doncaster against Brentford is not replayed online every year nor is it remembered by millions of soccer fans around the world — all because of Troy Deeney's moment at Vicarage Road two weekends later.
Heading into the final game of the season, Doncaster Rovers sat in second, two points ahead of Brentford in third. The two sides faced off knowing that a Doncaster win or draw would hand Rovers automatic promotion, while Brentford needed a win to hop ahead of Doncaster and finish in the top two.
When the two sides met earlier in the season, 10th-place Brentford fell to seventh-place Doncaster. Now, the season was on the line.
It was a chippy match — featuring eight yellow cards — and after 90 minutes of even play, neither side had found the back of the net. Doncaster defended resolutely as it looked to secure the point it needed for promotion.
This continued until the fourth minute of injury time. A short cross was played in by Brentford's Clayton Donaldson to teammate Harlee Dean, who stood a yard or two behind the penalty area.
Dean controlled the ball with his chest and flicked it over his head. Whether planned or haphazard, his pass reached Bees midfielder Toumani Diagouraga. Diagouraga attempted to head the ball when he was fouled in the air by Doncaster's Dean Furman.
The Doncaster players looked around in confusion as the referee pointed to the penalty spot, while the Brentford 11 jumped with joy.
Center back and captain Kevin O'Connor was the designated penalty taker, but 19-year-old striker Marcello Trotta — a Fulham loanee — grabbed the ball and assumed the spot-kick duties.
The Italian ran up to strike the ball and thumped it against the crossbar. The rebound ricocheted around the penalty area and was ultimately cleared by Doncaster.
The clearance reached Rovers striker Billy Paynter, who stood alone at the halfway line. Paynter dribbled unopposed into the Brentford half and, when confronted by the keeper, he squared the ball to teammate James Coppinger — who easily tapped home the winner.
Brentford vs Doncaster 2013
The Doncaster players and staff stormed the pitch knowing that they secured a spot in the Championship, as, not only did Coppinger's goal ensure automatic promotion, but it also gave Rovers the league title, as the three points catapulted the club above Bournemouth and into first place.
Meanwhile, the Brentford contingent looked on in disbelief as automatic promotion had been snatched from their grasp.
Afterward, Marcello Trotta was devastated, saying:
"I scored my last penalty and was feeling confident, so I stepped up to take it. Unfortunately, I hit the bar. I was devastated and didn't sleep for two days afterward. I couldn't stop thinking about it. But the guys here have been brilliant and have helped me a lot. This is a chance now for me to put it right. I want to give even more because I feel it was down to me. We have got another opportunity and will do our best to get to Wembley. It's a tough schedule and a massive couple of days for the club, but we have a big enough squad to cope. This is a new scenario for me and a lot of the lads because we've never been involved in the playoffs. We will do our best to win."
In the playoff semifinals, the Bees once again conceded a heart-breaking goal in the final minute of stoppage time, this time an equalizer against Swindon Town when a spot at Wembley was within reach.
Brentford would go on to defeat Swindon 5-4 on penalties after the two sides drew 4-4 on aggregate — temporarily nullifying the pain of those two injury-time goals.
In the League One playoff final, the Bees fell to Yeovil Town 2-1, confirming a painful end to a rollercoaster season.
Yet in the years since, only one of the sides that played in that April 2013 promotion decider has achieved significant success.
Doncaster lasted a single season in the Championship and fell as low as League Two before returning to League One. Rovers are currently dead last in the third tier, a full 10 points from safety.
As for Brentford, the Bees won promotion to the Championship the following year and are currently in the midst of a promising first season in the Premier League. Not a bad tradeoff.