Friday, 10 May 2013

Championship Stakes - The Race for Survival

One of the improvements to League football I love is the final day bash where all teams from the same division kick-off at the same time.  If you like drama in your football then this is for you.

The Championship this season has been one of the closest I can remember. Cardiff were already confirmed winners and Bristol City were already doomed to League One competition next year.  For the rest of the places it was all to play for.  This article concentrates on the battle for survival.

Here is how things stood at the start of the day.

We’re going to forget about Bristol City, as they’re already down.

Here is a rundown of the runners and riders for the great survival race.

Wolves51pts – away to Brighton (4th)

Wolves were having a miserable time since Christmas, going 12 games without a win until March.  Their current run was 1 win in 5, picking up just 3pts with only a strange 1-0 win over promotion chasing Hull City to celebrate.  They were away to Brighton, who were certain of a play-off place.  Anything other than a win meant relegation but if Barnsley or Peterborough picked up a point then Wolves result would be irrelevant.  They would have to rely on goal difference which was superior to Barnsley by 2 goals, but not Peterborough by 4 goals.  For Wolves opponents, Brighton, were unbeaten in 9 and hadn’t lost at home all year.

Barnsley54 pts – away to Huddersfield (18th)

New Years Day and Barnsley lost to Peterborough and were rock bottom.  They then went on a run picking up 16pts from a possible 18.  With just 1 defeat in their last 8 they travelled to Huddersfield, who themselves were not safe.  A win for Barnsley could conceivably put Huddersfield down, although they’d need many other results to go against them.  A draw could be enough if Peterborough lost at Palace.  Their last meeting with Huddersfield ended with a 0-1 defeat.

Peterborough54 pts – away to Crystal Palace (5th)

Out of the relegation zone only on goal difference, Peterborough travel to Crystal Palace who have still to secure a play-off place.  Peterborough lost every one of their first 7 games of the season, yet they were on a run of just 1 defeat in their previous 12 coming into the final weekend, including a win over Sheffield Wednesday the previous week.  Like Wolves and Barnsley they could still go down even if they win, although Barnsley would have to overturn a difference of 6 goals.

Sheffield Wednesday55pts – home to Middlesbrough (12th)

Wednesday’s defeat at Peterborough a week ago now puts them in a position where they may need a result against Middlesbrough, who themselves are safe albeit just 5pts ahead of danger.  Just 2 defeats in their last 8 has given them every chance of safety but even a draw may not be enough.  They lost 1-3 to Middlesbrough in the corresponding fixture last November.

Millwall56pts – away to Derby County (13th)

Millwall’s form is shocking.  Just 1pt from their last 4 matches and just 1 win in their last 8.  They’ve scored just 4 goals in those 8 matches.  They’re away to Derby County, who they beat at home last November.  Derby are only 2pts ahead of Millwall but certain of Championship football next year.  Millwall could still stay up even if they lose, but will have to watch out for others.

Huddersfield57pts – home to Barnsley (22nd)

Huddersfield, like Wednesday, were only promoted last season and now found themselves struggling to stay up.  Huddersfield had come through the play-offs. Having been beaten by eventual Champions Cardiff in their first game, they won 4 of their first 6 games.  But a run of no wins in two months either side of Christmas had put them in a battle for survival.  They’d recently turned their form around with 3 wins in their last 4 and 1 defeat in their last 5, as they had the unusual experience of having to play other relegation-threatened sides in their final 6 games.  They were up against Barnsley, knowing a draw would guarantee safety.  Defeat, if other results go against them, could mean relegation as their goal difference is inferior to Barnsley.

Blackburn57pts – Away to Birmingham (10th)

Few clubs have had a stranger season than Blackburn.  4 wins from opening 6 matches saw them top the table.  They lost to Middlesbro, Steve Keen resigned and everything came crashing down around them.  They won just 7 more matches before April and were staring at the very real prospect of back-to-back relegations.  They’ve won 3 of their last 4 including wins over Millwall and Huddersfield to give them a chance of staying up.  They would seem an outside bet for the drop but this has been no ordinary season.

Under starters orders…….and they’re off!

BRIGHTON  1 – 0  Wolves

Just 5 minutes in and we have our first goal.  Kazenga LuaLua gives Brighton the lead against Wolves and things do not start well for the troubled Molineux club.  Remember a win for them will not be enough if Barnsley avoid defeat.

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY  1 – 0  Middlesbrough

Sheffield Wednesday take the lead against Middlesbrough as Steve Howard scores.  Wednesday will be safe if they can hold onto this lead.

Huddersfield  0 – 1  BARNSLEY

Barnsley cause panic amongst the strugglers as they take the lead at Huddersfield as Chris O’Grady grabs a vital goal.  At this stage Barnsley are out of the bottom three, throwing Peterborough in there.  A Peterborough goal would see Huddersfield drop into that danger zone.  This is also disaster for Wolves as a point for Barnsley means relegation for them.

Crystal Palace  0 – 1  PETERBOROUGH

The moment Huddersfield had been dreading as Lee Tomlin puts Peterborough in front at Crystal Palace.  Huddersfield are now in the bottom three but an equaliser for them would mean they swap places with Barnsley.  Peterborough climb three places as Millwall are now looking over their shoulder.

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY  2 – 0  Middlesbrough
Leroy Lita puts Sheffield Wednesday further in front against Middlesbro which brings no change to the table but Wednesday fans can breathe a little easier.

BRIGHTON  2 – 0  Wolves

A final nail in Wolves coffin?  LuaLua scores his second for Brighton and things look desperate for Wolves as even 3 goals for the visitors may be irrelevant

BIRMINGHAM  1 – 0  Blackburn

As half-time approaches, Ravel Morrison gives Birmingham the lead at home to Blackburn.  Blackburn are now one of 5 clubs on 57pts but their goal difference keeps them out of trouble.  This goal moves Peterborough up a place.

CRYSTAL PALACE  1 – 1  Peterborough

Into injury time at Selhurst Park and Glenn Murray turns things upside down as Peterborough are thrown back into the lions den.  They are praying for Huddersfield to score or to get back in front themselves.

HUDDERSFIELD  1 – 1  Barnsley

Huddersfield take just 8 minutes of the second half to get back level with Barnsley.  Jermaine Beckford’s goal pulls his side out of the bottom three and throws their opponents, Barnsley, back in there.  Peterborough are relieved too.

Crystal Palace  1 – 2  PETERBOROUGH

More good news for Peterborough fans as Nathaniel Mendez-Laing puts them back in front at Palace.  This lifts them back up to 19th and means even if Barnsley go back in front at Huddersfield they won’t be safe

Birmingham  1 – 1  BLACKBURN

Jordan Rhodes scores yet another goal for Blackburn as they equalise against Birmingham.  They were rarely in trouble unless Barnsley were scoring plenty, but it still gives them some comfort

Huddersfield  1 – 2  BARNSLEY

Chaos again as Jason Scotland puts Barnsley back in front at Huddersfield and this pulls them again out of danger as the two clubs swap places.  Barnsley are safe if things stay as they are, Huddersfield need a goal.

HUDDERSFIELD  2 – 2  Barnsley

Huddersfield only have to wait 7 minutes as James Vaughan equalises and this plunges Barnsley back into danger.  Barnsley must score again otherwise they’re down unless Peterborough throw it away at Palace

CRYSTAL PALACE  2 – 2  Peterborough

Time for Peterborough fans to get edgy as Kevin Phillips equalises for Palace.  This now means Posh are now in the bottom three and have to hope they score themselves or that Huddersfield can get another goal against Barnsley.

DERBY COUNTY  1 – 0  Millwall

Connor Sammon scores for Derby and Millwall must now start to worry as goals for Peterborough or Barnsley would see them go down.  There are just 5 minutes to go.

CRYSTAL PALACE  3 – 2  Peterborough

Just time for one more goal on an incredible day and it comes at Selhurst Park, but not for the visitors.  Palace complete their comeback to ensure a play-off place but Mile Jedinak’s goal for the home side has sealed their opponents fate.  Peterborough has to hope Huddersfield can score another against Barnsley otherwise its League One football for them next season.


In the end those late goals sent Peterborough down.  Ten minutes to go they were safe, leading at Palace but now things had changed.  Barnsley hung on in the end to live to fight again as their draw meant Peterborough joined Wolves and Bristol City in League One next season.  Things got tricky for Huddersfield at one point, but in the end a draw was enough for them as they played out the final minutes with neither side wanting possession.

It has been one of the most amazing Championship seasons many can remember with drama at both ends and many issues still not decided until the final few minutes of action.

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