Doncaster Rovers took on fellow relegation rivals Portsmouth on Saturday afternoon with both teams knowing defeat would send them down to League One.
With both sides in poor form going into this one, you could be forgiven for thinking that this could have been a forgettable game. The reality was a seven- goal thriller with more than its fair share of controversial decisions.
It was the home side who started brightly and they were two up within five minutes. Habib Beye opened the scoring for Rovers after three minutes before Fabien Robert made it 2-0. Manager Dean Saunders must have thought at this stage it would be his side’s day as they held their lead going into half time.
The second half, however, was a different story. The game turned in the 59th minute as Dave Kitson fell under pressure from Beye in the penalty area, the referee awarded a debatable penalty and sent Beye off. Greg Halford successfully converted from the spot and six minutes later Portsmouth equalised again from the penalty spot through Halford, after a foul by James O’Connor.
Doncaster were not going to sit back though, and re-took the lead just two minutes later as James Coppinger finished well and they were still ahead as the game went into the injury time. But there was still plenty of life in this encounter as Pompey equalised through Kitson, who appeared to handle the ball, before grabbing a winner through sub Marko Futacs sending the away fans back to Fratton Park with their Championship status still intact – for another game at least.
For Doncaster it means they will have to adjust to life back in League One and the appointment of Saunders in September seems not to have paid off for the Yorkshire outfit.
At the other end of the Championship on Friday night, Reading took top spot from Southampton, beating them 3-1 at St Mary’s and all but securing promotion to the Premier League. The Royals took the lead in the first half through veteran striker Jason Roberts.
Rickie Lambert equalised just after half time for the Saints with a deflected effort but the game swung firmly in Reading’s favour with the introduction of Adam Le Fondre who scored twice to leave the Royals six points clear of West Ham in third place with only nine points to play for after the weekend’s action.
Over at Upton Park on Saturday, West Ham made sure that they gave themselves a chance at achieving automatic promotion with a 6-0 demolition of Brighton. The Hammers were 3-0 up after just eleven minutes as Ricardo Vaz Te scored twice and Kevin Nolan added the third. Vaz Te completed his hat-trick on the hour, Carlton Cole grabbed the fifth, before a Gary Dicker own goal completed the rout.
At Elland Road, Neil Warnock finally got his first home win as Leeds boss with a 4-1 success over Peterborough. It was Darren Ferguson’s side who took the lead seven minutes before half time as Joe Newell took advantage of a mistake at the back to finish. Leeds, however, equalised just before half time through Billy Paynter and scored twice more within three minutes of the restart as Ross McCormack grabbed a brace.
Paynter grabbed his second of the game with 17 minutes remaining leaving Leeds in mid table in the Champioship and Peterborough in 18th position, but eight points clear of the relegation zone.
In the race for the play-offs, Middlesbrough and Cardiff both enjoyed 1-0 away wins leaving Boro two points behind Cardiff in the last play-off place. Liam Lawrence scored the winner for Cardiff at Barnsley with 21 minutes left, while substitute Curtis Main won the game for Middlesbrough at Pride Park with just ten minutes remaining.
Leicester City’s hopes of making a late dash for a play-off place look to ended with defeat at Millwall. Harry Kane opened the scoring for Millwall after 23 minutes and Andy Keogh made it two before Danny Drinkwater grabbed one back for the Foxes with eight minutes remaining. They couldn’t find an equaliser, however, and now sit six points off the play-offs while Millwall confirmed their Championship status for next season.
The remaining five fixtures all ended in draws as Birmingham were held 2-2 by Bristol City, Burnley and Coventry ended 1-1 at Turf Moor with the same between Crystal Palace and Ipswich Town, and Watford and Hull. The Nottingham Forest aand Blackpool game failed to produce a goal.
Tags: Adam Le Fondre, Dean Saunders, Doncaster Rovers, Portsmouth, Reading, Relegation, Southampton, The Championship