The final day of the regular Championship season had two points to settle, first the final automatic promotion place being fought out between West Ham and Southampton, and second the last play off position between Cardiff and Middlesbrough.
Southampton have been in the top two positions all season long and it would have been a big shock to Nigel Adkins’ side if they were to miss out on finishing second on the final day of the season. West Ham meanwhile have had an up and down season with their home form being particularly erratic.
Saints took on Coventry at St Mary’s on Saturday afternoon knowing that a win would be enough to send them up into the Premier League for next season. Before the game the fans may have been biting their nails, but the players showed no nerves on the pitch, emphatically beating the already relegated Sky Blues.
Two goals in either half sealed a 4-0 win for the Saints meaning they can take on the likes of the Manchester clubs, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool once againt next season. It didn’t take long for Adkins’ men to take the lead, Adam Lallana struck a volley which was diverted into the Coventry net by Billy Sharp after 16 minutes. Just three minutes later the lead was doubled and the fans and players could relax, with Jose Fonte heading home his first goal of the season.
It was more of the same in the second half as Southampton enjoyed the majority of possession and were intent on putting on a show for their home support. Jos Hooiveld provided the third goal of the game drilling past keeper Joe Murphy on 59 minutes, and four minutes later the final Southampton goal of the season came through Adam Lallana.
The result gives Southampton a double promotion after coming up from League One last season, and if they can be as successful as Norwich have been in the Premier League following their own double jump, the Saints fans will be very happy.
Over at Upton Park the fans knew that it wasn’t to be the end of their season as news of the goals at St Mary’s filtered around the ground. West Ham weren’t to be denied a win on the final game of the league campaign as they beat Nick Barmby’s Hull side. Carlton Cole was the scorer of both Hammers goals, one just before and one just after half time. Corry Evans did grab one back for the East Yorkshire side with nine minutes to go but West Ham weren’t to be denied the three points.
Sam Allardyce’s side will now take on Cardiff City in the play offs after the Welsh side came from behind to beat Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. The impressive Wilfred Zaha gave Palace an early lead after minutes, but Cardiff hit back in the second half with goals from Peter Whittingham and Don Cowie to secure the win and the final play off place.
Cardiff’s win meant that Middlesbrough missed out on the play offs this season, but as it turned out Tony Mowbray’s side couldn’t find the win they needed to overtake Cardiff anyway. Boro came up against a Watford side with an in form goalkeeper in Scott Loach who made several great saves to keep the Boro attack at bay. All three goals came late in the second half, Watford taking the lead through Chris Iwelumo with minutes left before Marvin Emnes equalised with five minutes left on the clock giving Mowbray’s side some hope. Just three minutes later though Watford scored the winner through Troy Deeney meaning Boro must prepare for another season of Championship football.
Over at St. Andrews, Birmingham grabbed a win over Championship winners Reading. Adam Rooney in the first half and a second half Wade Elliot penalty sealed a 2-0 home win for the Blues while Ian Harte had a spot kick for Reading saved by Colin Doyle. Birmingham will now take on Blackpool in the play offs.
Ian Holloway’s side will go into the play off fixtures off the back of a 2-2 away draw at Millwall. Blackpool came from behind to lead with eight minutes left on the clock but Millwall were not to be denied a point. Andy Keogh scored the opener for the home side after just 12 minutes before they were pegged back by an Ian Evatt header just before the half hour mark. Nouha Dicko struck to give the Seasiders the lead with 19 minutes left, but Harry Kane’s strike with 7 minutes remaining meant that the points were going to be shared.
Dexter Blackstock scored twice for Nottingham Forest as they beat relegated Portsmouth at the City Ground. Blackstock’s second half double on 70 and 89 minutes means Forest finish in 19th position and Pompey will have some serious work to do on and off the pitch in preparation for next season.
Leicester managed a late winner at Elland Road as they beat Neil Warnock’s Leeds United to secure a top ten finish. Martyn Waghorn had given the Foxes a first half lead before a Danny Webber strike equalised for Leeds with just eight minutes left on the clock. Harry Panayiotou was the man to snatch the winner for Leicester.
Ipswich ended a five match run without a win ensuring Doncaster Rovers’ spell in the Championship ended miserably. Ipwich were 2-0 up before the half hour mark with goals from Tommy Smith and then Ryan Stevenson. Rovers grabbed one back five minutes later through Fabian Robert, but a second half Jason Scotland penalty sealed the win for the Tractor Boys. Habib Beye did grab a consoltion goal late in the game for Rovers, but it was too late to effect the result.
Finally the three other Championship games all ended in draws. Derby & Peterborough and Burnley & Bristol City played out 1-1 draws, whilst Barnsley and Brighton played out a goal less draw.
Tags: Birmingham, Blackpool, Cardiff, Championship, Middlesbrough, Nigel Adkins, Play-offs, Promotion, Southampton, West Ham