The former Tottenham boss admits he saw spot-kicks as his team's best chance of victory with 10 men against Derby before Bobby Zamora struck a clinical 91st-minute winnerBy Liam Twomey at Wembley Stadium
QPR were hoping to survive extra time and take their chances in a penalty shootout when Bobby Zamora struck his late winner to beat Derby County in a dramatic Championship play-off final at Wembley, Harry Redknapp has admitted.
Zamora pounced on a poor attempted clearance from Rams captain Richard Keogh to fire into the top corner in the 91st minute and send the 10-man R's back into the Premier League at the first attempt.
The former Fulham striker's goal was QPR's only shot on target in the match, with Derby having dominated the final 30 minutes after Gary O'Neil was dismissed for a cynical foul on Johnny Russell.
When asked what emotion he felt when he saw Zamora's shot hit the net, Redknapp replied: "Surprise. It was a fantastic finish and I was delighted.
"We were hanging on and looking to get to extra time. That was the only hope I could see for us with 10 men - we were under the cosh and wondering if we could stay organised for extra time and maybe even get to penalties. I'd be a liar if I said otherwise. Then Bobby sticks that one in the top corner.
"It was a cynical challenge [by O'Neil]. I don’t think he was the last man but it was a deliberate foul so I couldn’t really argue with it.
"It was a backs-to-the-wall job but I felt we defended well with 10 men. Richard Dunne was magnificent and Nedum Onuoha and Robert Green defended for their lives."
For Derby boss Steve McClaren, Zamora's goal ensured a devastating end to his first visit to Wembley since a 3-2 home defeat to Croatia ended his England side's hopes of qualifying for Euro 2008.
But McClaren's thoughts were only with his players as he reflected on a defeat which condemns Derby to another season in the Championship.
"We said before the game ‘Just concentrate on performance’ - playing in the style that got us here, and I’m so proud of them," he insisted. "They did that to a T. We controlled the game, dominated and had the courage to play.
"Football is a cruel game. One lapse and you lose a game like that. But credit to QPR. With 10 men they’ve got the ideal team and experience to deal with that, and we couldn’t get past Robert Green.
"We kept patient, kept probing, and felt that with another 30 minutes, eventually our patience would have been rewarded, but you can’t account for a little slip at the end.
"Maybe it was a lapse in concentration, thinking of extra time.
"I said before the game that if we were ready, we’d win. We haven’t, for whatever reason, so I said to the players ‘We’re not ready yet’. We’ve still got a bit of learning to do, but I’m so proud of what they’ve achieved.
"We don’t want this kind of hurt again. But this team, if it sticks together, will get stronger."