When you lose a game that could have been crucial to your doomed promotion hopes, it takes a special, special goal to lift the spirits. Leicester City's Steve Thompson provided just this agains Swindon in 1993...
Okay, I’ll be honest; the greatest goal I ever saw won’t make the Pantheon of greatest goals for many people.
Don’t get me wrong, anyone can see it’s a good goal, but great? Well, that’s where context, occasion and emotion come into the equation. Once you take those factors into account it’s quite clear this goal is bloody fantastic.
Wembley in the 1990s was like a second home for Leicester City, we played there seven times in nine seasons between 1992 and 2000 winning two play-off finals and two League Cups and it was on our second trip that Steve Thompson scored the goal I doubt will ever be surpassed for me, which is strange because ultimately we lost the game and I’d soon see other great goals from City players, some of which would, amazingly, actually win us stuff.
There was Steve Walsh’s brace in the 1994 play-off final which saw us promoted at the expense of the sheep-shaggers from Derby. Steve Claridge’s late, late winner which would see us promoted against Crystal Palace in the 1996 play-off final, Claridge again the following year in the League Cup final replay and Matt Elliot in the 2000 League Cup final. (Clearly being called ‘Steve’, while not vital, helps considerably if you want to score a memorable goal for Leicester.)
But, no, it’s Thommo’s strike which does the business for me. The previous season we had lost in the play-off final to Kenny Dalglish’s big-spending Blackburn courtesy of a dubious penalty so there was a sense of unfinished business when we pitched up at Wembley to face Swindon for a ticket to the land of milk and honey (or Premier League as some people like to call it) on May 31st 1993.
The first half was fairly even but as it wore on we began to dominate albeit in early-90s physical, First Division style. Barcelona we were not. But, minutes before the break Swindon took the lead when their player-manager (remember those?) Glenn Hoddle scored an admittedly sweetly struck shot onto the bottom right-hand corner.
Annoying, but it had come against the run of play so we were not too disheartened. Nine minutes into the second half and we were very disheartened as we were 3-0 down, after first Craig Maskell and then Shaun Taylor scored for the Robbins. As the red half of the stadium bounced with joy, it seemed we would be condemned to another season of play-off final heartbreak.
He took one touch with his right “HIT IT!” and then ignored our advice and calmly passed it with the outside of his right foot into the bottom corner.
But then the best 11 minutes of football I’ve ever seen happened. Within five minutes of their third we got our first. Steve Walsh rose majestically to meet Lee Philpot’s cross and hammer a header against the right-hand upright. Julian Joachim was on hand to rifle the ball past Fraser Digby. It was clear from the deep, brooding roar from the City supporters that somehow we all sensed this was no mere consolation.
Ten minutes later Walsh had another headed chance and this time made no mistake, beating Digby to Philpot’s high hit-and-hope cross. 2-3.
Then just a minute later Thompson scored The Goal. Now, I remember what happened like it was yesterday. Swindon drove forward from the kick off and almost immediately conceded possession. Walsh, deep in his own half, fed the ball out wide to Philpot who played it into the path of Mike Witlow breaking forward from our defence to the edge of Swindon’s penalty area.
Then he played it back behind the Swindon defenders rushing towards their own goal and someone, somewhere slowed time down. What actually happened in a matter of seconds seemed to take minutes. Joachim made a run to the right pulling Martin Ling with him and creating the space for Thompson. “HIT IT!” we screamed in unison. He took one touch with his right “HIT IT!” and then ignored our advice and calmly passed it with the outside of his right foot into the bottom corner. Cue delirium.
The rest of the game is a blur, I remember something about ANOTHER dubious penalty, losing 4-3 and not getting promoted. The pain of that defeat was quickly forgotten thanks to our win over Derby in the same game the following season, but I can tell you one thing; I will never forget that equaliser.
Thommo, I salute you.
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