What a night it was in England’s second-tier football division: the English Football League Championship or just simply the Championship. The Premier League has and will continue to over-shadow the Championship and for good reason. After all, every club’s main goal in the Championship is to get promoted to the Premier League. However, the Championship is still a very exciting league to watch because of its passionate supporters. A lot of these supporters were put through a full gamut of emotions last night.
Before all the matches started only 3 clubs could secure the 2nd spot in the Championship and thus an automatic promotion to the Premier League. These clubs were Brentford, West Bromwich Albion, and Fulham. West Brom was the favorite with 1 more point than Brentford and 2 more points than Fulham. If they won against QPR, they would automatically be promoted. Brentford had what looked to be a very good chance as they played Barnsley who was 23rd in the league when the day began. Fulham had an outside chance of winning automatic promotion. They needed West Brom and Brentford to loss and they would need to secure all 3 points against Wigan.
Nothing seemed to be going to plan for all 3 sides as they all conceded the first goal in their respective matches. West Brom got one back before the stroke of halftime from West Ham loanee, Grady Diangana. Slaven Bilic’s side would then take the lead from the Aston Villa academy product Callum Robinson who is on loan from Sheffield United. This put West Brom in the driver seat for what then seemed to be clear promotion.
However, it is never that simple and things got dicey for West Brom when they conceded in the 61st-minute on a wonderful run and top corner finish from Eberechi Eze. At this point Fulham had levelled it at 1-1 and Brentford would soon follow suit from a cracking strike by Josh Dasilva. Fulham’s luck would run out as they could not fashion a winner and West Brom looked more likely to score a winner than QPR. Brentford in their desperate search for a winner ended up conceding in stoppage time securing Slaven Bilic and the Baggies a spot in the Premier League next season. Brentford and Fulham still have a shot if they win the 4-team play-off.
Play-off Race Collapse
Nottingham Forrest had held a top 6 spot in the Championship for almost the whole season and looked to be a sure shot to qualify for the Championship play-offs. Forrest sat 5th with a 5 point goal differential (GD) and a 3 point advantage over Swansea City. They were level on points with Cardiff but had a better GD by 4. On top of this, they faced a Stoke side that had nothing to play for except pride and a slightly higher position at the bottom of the table.
Cardiff City sat in the 6th spot and they had a very easy matchup against Hull City who sat at the very bottom of the table. Swansea City needed to batter Reading and hope for Stoke to batter Nottingham Forrest or for Hull to batter Cardiff. Needless to say, Swansea’s chances were slim to none.
Cardiff scored quickly and often against relegated Hull and never was really part of the storyline. The other Welsh side, Swansea City, also got off to a bright start has Liverpool loanee, Rhian Brewster, scored a beautiful goal from distance. Forrest was also off to a bright start and had multiple good scoring chances in the first few minutes of the match.
However, Stoke turned the tide as Danny Batth rose above the defender and scored a header in the 19th-minute. Things got even better for the Swans as Yakou Meite was sent off in the 41st-minute after he threw down Swansea center-back Mike van der Hoorn. Even though Jake Bidwell gave away an unlucky penalty just after that, you had to like Swansea’s chances against a 10-man Reading side for the second half.
It all seemed to be done and dusted when Tobias Figueiredo scored a header from close range to bring Forrest level in the 61st- minute. All Swansea’s efforts in the second half would not matter if Forrest got a point against Stoke. Wayne Routledge and Swansea did not know or did not care as they did their job spectacularly.
Routledge showed off beautiful control and finished with a lovely chip over the keeper to make it 2-1. Then Liam Cullen followed up with a perfectly timed volley to make it 3-1. To finish it off Routledge completed his masterful performance by scoring a header from close range to make it 4-1 in stoppage-time. Again this determined Swansea performance would mean nothing if Stoke City did not beat Forrest by at least 3 goals.
And guess what? That is exactly what happened. Forrest absolutely capitulated after their 61st-minute equalizer. They conceded 2 goals within 5 minutes to James McClean and Lee Gregory. This all was capped by their very own center back, Nuno da Costa, putting the ball in his own net in the 6th minute of stoppage-time! Thus, securing Swansea a spot in the Championship play-offs this upcoming weekend.
Relegation, even after the final kick of this Championship season, is still not completely settled. As I said before Barnsley had a stoppage-time winner against Brentford, but they also had a stoppage-time winner in their previous match. Guess who that was against? None other than Nottingham Forrest. Add a Charlton loss to the EFL champions Leeds United, a Wigan draw to Fulham, and Barnsley F.C. miraculously escaped!
Or did they? Barnsley still could be relegated if Wigan wins their appeal on July 31st and get their deduction of 12 points taken away. Luton Town, on the other hand, definitely have escaped relegation with a late goal against Hull on Saturday and a win on Wednesday against Blackburn in a five-goal thriller. Luton Town even skipped past Birmingham City and now sit 19th.
But wait there is more! Charlton and Wigan both still have another way of avoiding relegation. The EFL is investigating both Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday. The latter is being investigated for misconduct in the sale of its own stadium to owner Dejphon Chansiri. Derby County is also being investigated for a very similar issue in the sale of Pride Park to club owner Mel Morris’s company. A fine of up to 21 points could be enforced on both clubs which would relegate both of them.
This would, in turn, save Wigan and Charlton from relegation. Or would it? Charlton is also being investigated by the EFL for potential misconduct when East Street Investments took over the club in January. This could bring Hull City somehow back into the picture if Derby County is given the full 21 point deduction and Charlton and Sheffield Wednesday both are fined 12 points like Wigan.
So much to take in and a lot more action still to come in the Championship. One more club will be promoted after the play-offs and 6 clubs still do not know for sure if they will be relegated. What we do know for sure is that Leeds United and West Brom are going up and Nottingham Forrest is staying in the Championship next season.
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