The Championship Playoff Final is often given the title ‘The Richest game in football’ due the lucrative increased sponsorship and TV money in the Premier league. 13 years ago, Derby County and West Brom battled it out at a packed Wembley stadium.
Derby County narrowly missed out on automatic promotion with Birmingham City finishing second place, just two points ahead of The Rams. West Brom, on the other hand, weren’t as close to the automatics and had to seal their playoff place on the final day of the regular season. They finished in fourth place on 76 points.
Derby County played Southampton in the semi-finals, whilst West Brom faced Midlands rivals, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Following the second leg, Derby County and Southampton finished 4-4 on aggregate, a penalty shootout was required. The Rams prevailed 4-3 booking their place in the Wembley final. Things were more straightforward for West Brom, they won both legs seeing the final aggregate score finish 4-2 to The Baggies.
The final was special for several reasons. The 2007 Final was the first to be held at the newly built Wembley following almost five years of construction. It was also a day of lasts, this was the final game that Graham Poll refereed prior to his retirement.
West Brom dominated and controlled the game for large spells. Rams ‘keeper Bywater was called into action on numerous occasions. The Rams had to work hard in the opening quarter of the game, but were unfortunate not to open the lead after 10 minutes. Peschisolido made a defence spitting run and was found by Howard.
However the 36-year-old lacked composure with his shot and it was easily saved by the West Brom ‘keeper. The game evened out towards half time, with both sides cancelling each other out with chances. West Brom had the best chance in the latter stages of the first half. Phillips tried an audacious 20-yard chip which just clipped the crossbar.
West Brom started the second half as they finished the first, looking the more likely team to score. Billy Davies needed to make a change and just that he did. On 59 minutes, Barnes was brought on for Peschisolido and what an impact he had. Somewhat against the run of play it was Derby that broke the deadlock just after the hour mark. Giles Barnes put in a low cross which Stephen Pearson turned in.
West Brom were unable to force a way back into the game and The Rams held on to secure a dramatic 1-0 win.
It was a fantastic occasion for both sets of fans to be part of.