Mark Cooper: Swindon-Sheff Utd tie 'ridiculous' & a 'freak'

Swindon Town players celebrate
Swindon Town's players celebrated reaching the play-off final, where they will meet Preston
By Nabil Hassan - BBC Sport at the County Ground

Swindon manager Mark Cooper described his side's thrilling 5-5 League One play-off semi-final draw with Sheffield United as a "freak" and "ridiculous".

The result saw Swindon earn a 7-6 aggregate victory over the Blades to seal their place in the Wembley final.

His side had been 3-0 in front after 18 minutes and 5-3 up after 84 but United scored two late goals to set up a nervy finish at the County Ground.

"I can't put into words what I've just seen to be honest," said Cooper.

"I'm putting it down to being a freak of a game, I don't think there will ever be another one like that. It was like two heavyweight boxers trying to knock each other out."

The result set a new record for the highest number of goals in a play-off semi-final and Cooper's side will now take on Preston for a place in the Championship on 24 May.

Swindon fans
Swindon fans endured a nervous nine minutes of injury time as they held on to win 7-6 on aggregate

"Fair play to Sheffield United," Cooper told BBC Sport. "At 3-0 down they kept going, gambled everyone going forward. We kept scoring, they kept scoring and it was a ridiculous game of football."

Cooper's side finished fourth in League One and are now a game away from returning to the second tier of English football after a 15-year absence.

"We've got to enjoy the night and the feeling of getting to Wembley," he added. "I'm very proud of them.

"I'm proud because at the start of the season we were written off as relegation fodder really. For a group of young boys to come through and be one game from the Championship and to get to Wembley is a remarkable achievement from them.

"They have been brilliant all season, we know we have our faults and we can't have everything. We play a certain way and at times we have to concede but we're not bad going forward. We entertain and play some really good football."

Record breakers
Swindon's 5-5 draw with Sheffield United broke the record for the most goals in a single play-off match.
The 13 goals in the semi-final tie is also a new record, surpassing the 12 that were netted in Crewe's 9-3 aggregate win over Walsall in a fourth-tier semi-final in 1993.

Cooper said his father - the former Leeds United and England defender Terry - who was at the game had "never seen anything like it".

"I've got the biggest headache, I'm pleased and delighted," added Cooper. "It's the most ridiculous game of football you will ever see, brilliant goals, rubbish defending. It was incredible."

After a day of reflection, Cooper's attention will then turn to the final at Wembley - a stadium where he has previously experienced victory in the FA Trophy while in charge of Darlington.

"Been there once and won once so I'm hoping that carries on," he said.

"It comes down to one game and we've done remarkably well to get there. I'm sure (Preston manager) Simon Grayson was rubbing his hands together watching it and with the firepower at their disposal I'm sure they'll fancy their chances, but on the Wembley surface we have a chance."