Date: Friday, 29th May 1987.

Venue: St Andrews’, Birmingham.

Competition: Second Division Playoff Final Replay.

Score: Charlton Athletic 2 Leeds United 1 (a.e.t.)

Scorers: Charlton Athletic: Shirtliff (2). Leeds United: Sheridan.

Attendance: 18,000.                                                                                                       


Charlton Athletic: Bolder, Humphrey, Reid; Peake, Shirtliff, Miller; Gritt, Lee, Melrose (Stuart), Walsh, Crooks.

Leeds United: Day; Aspin, McDonald; Aizlewood, Ashurst, Ormsby (Edwards); Stiles, Sheridan, Pearson, Baird, Adams.

Referee: A. Gunn (Burgess Hill, Sussex)


The draw left the FA with the sudden quandary of how to settle the tie. A short-notice replay was hastily re-arranged for Birmingham's St Andrews. The game was to take place on the Friday and the two sides locked horns for the third time in less than a week. United supporters queued overnight to obtain their tickets for the decider, and an estimated 15,000 headed for the Midlands that Friday afternoon. The Leeds fans packed the Spion Kop terrace, the Railway End and most of the main stand to create a carnival atmosphere while the Londoners, just 3,000 of them, were tucked away in the far corner of the stadium. Had the clash been decided on strength of support there would have been no need to kick-off. But it wasn't.

The pattern of the game was identical to the previous encounters with a tense, nervous edge and tackles flew in from both sides. Leeds fans saw the sickening sight of skipper Ormsby leaving the field in pain after a crunching challenge on Garth Crooks back-fired.
But there was little in the way of excitement and, after a dull ninety minutes, the game went into extra-time with the prospect of penalties looming large. "All we are saying is give us a goal," begged the
Leeds fans. And, midway through that first period, the calls were heeded.

Midfield hero John Sheridan, a free-kick specialist, delivered a sweet, sweet strike beyond the reach of Bob Bolder and, in what seemed like slow motion, the ball hit the back of the net. Cue delirium. With just twenty minutes remaining, Leeds had one foot in the First Division. The United fans again raised the decibel levels to roar their team home, but just as victory and promotion was in sight, it all went wrong. Peter Shirtliff netted twice in the second period of extra time to turn the tables and jaded Leeds went from joy to despair in a matter of minutes.

The atmosphere changed, the tension came back. A small minority of fans jeered, when they attempted to show their frustrations in a manner that had become synonymous with Leeds supporters. Most were too disappointed to care or even notice. The sour taste was too much to take. The likes of Neil Aspin, Sheridan, Ian Baird and Micky Adams, warriors for the cause, applauded the crowd while the hordes of Leeds fans saluted their heroes with one spine-tingling chorus of "We'll support you ever more."

There were no tears from the Leeds fans, just an air of disbelief. Those fans that had travelled to Cambridge, Carlisle and Millwall, had briefly seen light at the end of the tunnel, and then seen it snatched away.

Heartbreaking doesn't begin to describe the feelings felt by Leeds fans in Birmingham. Yet it was only after the event that you understood the significance of the occasion.
Leeds player later said it was a blessing in disguise that Charlton had won because United wouldn't have coped in the First Division. He was more devastated about losing in the semi-final of the FA Cup six weeks earlier and missing the chance to go to Wembley. In retrospect he was probably right, but it didn't feel like it on that Friday evening. Losing the play-offs is horrible and commiserations go to the day's unlucky losers.


Alternate Report


So near and yet so far, was the story for Leeds United as Second Division hopefuls, they took on First Division escape artists, Charlton Athletic in the play-off Final Replay at Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s ground on the night of 29th May 1987. A place in the First Division awaited United if they could beat Charlton, who were in the play-offs after finishing in the depths of the First Division. The two-legged play-off Final had seen United lose at Selhurst Park, when Jim Melrose had given the Robins a 1-0 advantage to take with them into the second leg at Elland Road and although United pulled this goal back through Brendan Ormsby, neither side could get the goal to make them the winner and so the two teams moved onto Birmingham for the ‘sudden death’ replay.


Such was the interest, and hope, among United supporters that 13,000 of them made the trip to the Midlands to swell the attendance figure to 18,000. Striker John Pearson, a former Charlton player, returned to the United side in place of Bob Taylor and John Stiles was in for Andy Ritchie with Keith Edwards on the substitute bench. Hard as United tried, it was always going to be a struggle for them and in a fiercely contested game, United were to suffer a major blow when Brendan Ormsby, skipper and guiding light at the back, for United, was carried off with what turned out to be a serious knee injury.


A goalless ninety minutes sent the game into extra-time and United went ahead with a John Sheridan free-kick after a hundred minutes, following an handling offence by Paul Miller but there was to be a sting in the tail for United as Miller’s defensive colleague, Peter Shirtliff, came to Charlton’s rescue with a double strike as the match reached it’s final stages. United were just seven minutes away from a return to the top flight when the former Sheffield Wednesday defender shot low through a crowded penalty area to equalize in the one hundred and thirteenth minute. Then he delivered the final knock-out blow, with a header from seven yards, following a free-kick from Colin Walsh. It was last act agony for United but their fans, waving scarves and chanting, realized Billy Bremner’s men had given everything, gave them a terrific reception. In response the players gave away their shirts.


And three more (Courtesy Mark Ledgard)


From the YEP: After getting within twenty minutes of the First Division, Leeds United’s promotion dreams were shattered by Charlton Athletic’s captain Peter Shirtliff. John Sheridan had steered Leeds ahead in the one hundredth minute at St Andrews but the former Sheffield Wednesday defender silenced the massive Leeds following with two goals in the last seven minutes of extra time to keep his side in the First Division. Then for long minutes after the game was over there was tension as the 13,000 followers from Leeds refused to move from the terraces until their heroes made a re-appearance. Some thirteen minutes after leaving the field, barefooted, and led by their track-suited Manager Billy Bremner reappeared to acknowledge their supporters’ desire to give them a final cheer. In the long term the match might have been decided by the two captains. Charlton’s leader scored their vital goal while the Leeds captain Brendan Ormsby had limped out of the action three minutes before half-time after badly twisting his leg. Anxiety and despair was written all over the faces of the Leeds players after the decisive and sometimes bruising finale to their season.


After five extremely close ties in the play-offs the play-offs for the last place in Division One for the following season, they had finally gone down in a cruel way, in extra time. It was a bitter blow after an exhausting fifty-five match season and it was clearly shared by the club’s enormous backing in the 18,000 crowd. But apart from the tension at the end they were generally well behaved albeit there were a number of arrests. “It’s been a great season for us despite this final blow and we can now use our experience as a springboard for next season. I am sure we will be there again,” said Leslie Silver, the Leeds Chairman.


For Charlton, new boys themselves at the beginning of the season to Division One, the night ended in bliss. But it looked in the tenth minute of extra time as though it would be a black night for them. At that point in extra time, John Stiles fired a long through pass which John Pearson headed down for Keith Edwards to bore down on goal. But Paul Miller was judged to have handled and Leeds were awarded a free-kick thirty yards out. John Sheridan expertly floated the ball over the Charlton defensive wall and out of Bob Bolder’s reach, and suddenly the First Division beckoned Leeds. Soon afterwards Paul Miller became the fourth player to be booked on the night, following Mark Aizlewood (three other bookings in the play-offs), Ian Baird (two other bookings in the play-offs) and Peter Shirtliff as Allan Gunn, the Sussex referee, kept a firm hand on the tension-packed night. Leeds held the lead for thirteen minutes, trying to hold Charlton back with a massed defence. But in the one hundred-and thirteenth minute after a concerted push, Mark Stuart rolled a penalty area pass back to Peter Shirtliff and from fourteen yards he threaded a low shot into the corner of the Leeds net for the equaliser. Three minutes later John Sheridan conceded a free kick out on the right after impeding Steve Gritt. It was taken short by Colin Walsh and knocked over by Andy Peake and Peter Shirtliff in the middle of a crowd of players forced in a diving header to put Charlton in front and put them in line for another season in the First Division.


Until extra-time the match had been a tight affair although throughout the second half Charlton had the edge. Leeds had had to regroup after Brendan Ormsby had gone down awkwardly trying to stretch for the ball while challenging Garth Crooks. Mark Aizlewood fell back into the back four and did a gallant job with the deputy Leeds captain Jack Ashurst, but the loss of Brendan Ormsby was a blow for Leeds. Mervyn Day made two particularly fine stops late in the second half from fierce drives by Robert Lee and the game went near boiling point when Ian Baird collided with Bob Bolder in one of Leeds’ raids. Almost half of each team gathered in a melee in the Charlton goalmouth before Mr Gunn cautioned both Ian Baird and Peter Shirtliff. Then as the tie reached its ninetieth minute it looked for a moment as though Keith Edwards, once more for Leeds might grab another of his late decisive goals when Neil Aspin sent him away after breaking down the right wing. But Bob Bolder made a fine one-handed stop at the near post and Leeds’ chance of making history as the first side to be promoted to Division One in the play-offs seemed to have gone until John Sheridan struck. Both sets of players stood up well to the gruelling examination as the extended tie wore on but in the end Peter Shirtliff decided the course of the night and Leeds’ five year wait to return to the big time had to go on.


Secondly: Peter Shirtliff saved Charlton’s First Division life with two goals in five minutes in a game of high drama at Birmingham. It had seemed that John Sheridan had ended Leeds’ five-year exile with a goal nine minutes into extra time. But Charlton, the team that always manages to come back from the dead, did it again as captain Peter Shirtliff scored the equaliser in the one-hundred-and twelfth minute and then with the bravest of diving headers scored the winner. St Andrews resembled an internment camp, with over three hundred police drafted in at a cost of £30,000 to cope with the notorious Leeds fans. West Midlands Police were furious the club had agreed to host the game, after a riot involving Leeds fans two years previous during which a boy was killed and two hundred people were injured. A minute’s silence was held before the start of the match in memory of Ian Hainbridge, the fifteen year-old who lost his life. The vast Leeds following, who somehow managed to exceed their thirteen thousand ticket allocation, created an atmosphere which must have made their team feel right at home. Charlton had just a handful of supporters pocketed at one end. Just as in the two previous play-off games, the tension from the terraces spilled over onto the pitch. Peter Shirtliff initiated the first of a series of late challenges from both sides when he sent Ian Baird tumbling. And with the prospect of a definite outcome this time, the fear of defeat only too plain. Leeds suffered a severe setback just before half-time, when Captain Brendan Ormsby was injured as he tried to tackle Garth Crooks and had to be substituted by Keith Edwards. Leeds undoubtedly missed the skipper’s steadying influence in the second half. Five minutes after the break Mark Aizlewood, who had dropped back into the back four, stopped a through ball reaching Garth Crooks with his hands and was booked for the fourth time in the play-off series. Tempers frayed a little after Ian Baird made a heavy challenge on Charlton’s goalkeeper Bob Bolder, and following a scuffle the Leeds front-man and Peter Shirtliff were both booked. Edwards almost scored a last minute winner for Leeds but Bob Bolder dived to make a fine save and take the game into extra-time. And in the frenzied atmosphere it took John Sheridan just nine minutes to make the breakthrough. Keith Edwards’ run on goal was impeded by Paul Miller and referee Allan Gunn awarded a free-kick twenty-five yards from goal. Sheridan curled a perfectly flighted free-kick into the roof of the net. But just when it seemed that Charlton were beaten, skipper Shirtliff came to the rescue. Just nine minutes from the end after Mark Stuart had seen a shot blocked, he side-footed home from fifteen yards. Then four minutes later he flung himself at Robert Lee’s free-kick to ensure Charlton’s First Division survival.


Thirdly, a view from south of Watford: Peter Shirtliff abandoned his defensive duties to personally salvage Charlton Athletic’s First Division place for the next season. The Charlton skipper’s two extra-time goals, the first he had scored in that long season, brought a tense and dramatic finale to this third play-off final at neutral St Andrews. As his team-mates celebrated Shirtliff said, “I had a feeling that I was going to score tonight, that’s why I had my hair cut! Over the forty-two games of this season we didn’t deserve to be relegated, but we’ve not been scoring enough goals. I include myself in that criticism, I should have had more.” Shirtliff revealed that this was the first time he had scored twice in match, adding, “I had a free-shot for the first and a free header for the second, but the coaching staff deserve the credit for working on the free-kick which set it all up.” The cruel irony for the huge army of Leeds fans which descended on Birmingham is that the man who robbed them of their dream return to England soccer’s elite was one of their own. For Charlton’s skipper Shirtliff is a Yorkshireman, born just down the M1 from Elland Road in Chapeltown, Barnsley. Charlton had looked dead and buried in the one-hundredth minute of this marathon as John Sheridan hoisted a free-kick over their five-man wall and into the top right hand corner. It seemed as if Leeds, who had finished fourth in the Second Division, had leapfrogged into the grade they once dominated under Don Revie. But that would have been a dreadful injustice to Charlton. Leeds were a formidable, almost frightening outfit in the collective sense with their fans noisy and hostile. Of the 18,000 at St Andrews, 15,000 must have been Leeds supporters, whose notorious fanaticism persuaded the authorities to have three hundred police officers on duty at the game. The Londoners also had to withstand a degree of provocation on the pitch, for Billy Bremner’s latest Leeds generation know all about intimidating football when the stakes were as high as they were in this decider. So it should be stressed that Charlton’s achievement was considerable and once again a credit to Lennie Lawrence, who deserved to keep his side in the First Division after all they had been through since the previous August. In a disappointing first half there were a few direct chances on goal, though John Sheridan, the man being hunted by Arsenal and Spurs, wasted a fine chance in the nineteenth minute. Leeds lost the services of their skipper Brendan Ormsby just before half time when he fell awkwardly from a challenge on Garth Crooks and had to be carried off, Keith Edwards taking his place. But, as the game went into extra-time, Leeds won a free-kick on the edge of the area for an alleged handball by Paul Miller. Although, it was the opinion of the reporter, that the ball had hit him in the face. In any event, John Sheridan, with only a two yard run up, lifted the ball into the net to send the Leeds contingent wild with delight. But in the one-hundred-and-twelfth minute, from a square ball from substitute Mark Stuart, captain courageous Peter Shirtliff, glided an equaliser into the right-hand corner. Five minutes later, with a shoot-out looming, came his final decisive contribution. Colin Walsh back-heeled a free-kick on the edge of the area and Andy Peake curled it in for Shirtliff to settle it with a diving header.




Match Action:





(Above four Match Action photos Courtesy Mark Ledgard)







Peter Shirtliff scored both the Charlton goals                            John Sheridan opened the scoring for Leeds from a free-kick conceded by Paul Miller



Colin Walsh and Any Peake were involved with the moves for Charlton’s goals                     John Humphrey was at full back for Charlton



            Keith Edwards was the substitute for the injured Brendan Ormsby and Mark Aizlewood had to drop back into the back four



                      Ian Baird was booked after fouling the Charlton Keeper Bob Bolder                                            Neil Aspin put Keith Edwards through