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EFL Archive: Manchester City's day of destiny

23 March 2020

After a goalless 80 minutes of football at Wembley Stadium, not a single person could have predicted what was about to unfold in the 1999 Division Two Play-Off Final between Gillingham and Manchester City.

Gillingham 2-2 Manchester City (Manchester City win 3-1 on penalties)

The Gills and the Citizens both reached the Final by seeing off Preston North End and Wigan Athletic respectively over two Semi-Final legs, with this game being the first time that Gillingham would turn out at Wembley compared to City’s 11 previous visits.

With 76,935 spectators in attendance, and both teams finishing within two points of each other in the regular league season, the game was eagerly anticipated by many, and with what was at stake neither side wanted to be on the losing side.

It took 81 minutes for the deadlock to be broken, when a through ball from Paul Smith was blasted home by the advancing Carl Asaba, giving Nicky Weaver in the City goal no chance.

Goalscorer Asaba would soon become provider, as six minutes later his tidy back-heel sent Robert Taylor through on goal. His drilled effort from 20-yards beat Weaver and it looked to be game over for Joe Royle and his Manchester City men, with Gillingham heading to the First Division. 

But the Citizens had other ideas. While some fans chose to head for the exit, Joe Royle had built a side with a never die attitude and that was there for all to see in the dying moments of this game.

As Shaun Goater bared down on goal, a last-ditch challenge from Darren Carr saw the ball make its way to Kevin Horlock to fire home, game on all of a sudden.

With just seconds remaining, a long ball upfield by Weaver was flicked into the path of Goater but Barry Ashby’s tackle stopped him in his tracks. The ball however fell to Paul Dickov, who took one touch and fired past Vince Bartram in the Gillingham goal, sending the game to extra-time, the most dramatic of circumstances and the unlikeliest of scenarios. 

The game would go all the way to the lottery of penalties, which ultimately saw City come out on top and achieve promotion to the First Division.

Despite his heroics in normal time, Dickov failed to convert his effort from the spot, as he watched the ball come back off the post, but Horlock, Terry Cooke and Richard Edghill made sure their kicks were spot on, the Gills only managing one successful effort through John Hodge.

Misses from Paul Smith, Adrian Pennock and Guy Butters handed the Citizens the win, with the latter saved by Weaver to send him and the rest of the Manchester City camp into jubilation.

Manchester City: Weaver, Crooks (Taylor 85), Edghill, Wiekens, Morrison (c) (Vaughan 61), Horlock, Brown (Bishop 61), Whitley, Dickov, Goater, Cooke.

Gillingham: Bartram, Southall, Ashby, Smith, Butters, Pennock, Patterson (Hodge 105), Hessenthaler (c), Asaba (Carr 87), Galloway (Saunders 56), Taylor.

Attendance: 76,935


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