The Championship’s top three sides; Burnley, Middlesbrough and Brighton, are all on 87 points and are separated by just three goals with just two games left to play, after another pulsating weekend of action in the second-tier of English football.
Burnley returned to the summit of the Championship on Friday night after a 1-0 win at rivals Preston. Joey Barton’s free-kick sealed the three points for the Clarets just six minutes into the match. The visitors could have extended their lead, but both George Boyd and Andre Gray missed crucial chances.
Middlesbrough missed the chance to regain top spot after drawing 0-0 with Ipswich, who themselves needed a win in their bid for promotion. Neither side was able to carve out a sufficient chance as both teams had to settle for a point. Boro have now gone eight matches unbeaten, whilst the Tractor Boys’ are now unable to make the play-off’s.
Brighton ran out 3-1 winners at Charlton after a fine performance as they won for the fifth consecutive match. Sam Baldock opened the scoring with a simple finish from Conor Goldson’s pass, before Johann Berg Gudmundsson equalised for the Addicks just after half-time. Yet, moments later Jiri Skalak restored the Seagulls’ lead and Tomer Hemed converted a penalty in stoppage-time.
Meanwhile at the bottom of the division, Milton Keynes Dons were relegated to League One after they were thumped 4-1 at home to Brentford. The hosts, who needed to win their last three fixtures and hope results went their way, took the lead early on through Nicky Maynard. But a superb strike by Sergi Canos followed by efforts from Lasse Vibe, Ryan Woods and Jake Bidwell saw the Bees easily dispatch the Dons.
Sheffield Wednesday failed to clinch a place in this year’s play-offs after they let in a late equaliser to draw 1-1 with Derby. The Owls would have guaranteed a place in the top six if they had beaten Darren Wassall’s side and they took the lead when Barry Bannan scored a sensational strike from 30-yards. But the Rams spoiled the party in the 82nd minute when substitute Darren Bent found the back of the net.
Cardiff are now four points off the play-offs after a dramatic 2-1 win over already relegated Bolton. Zach Clough had given the visitors the lead, but a Kenneth Zohore effort drew the Bluebirds level, before Peter Whittingham’s penalty deep into stoppage-time kept the Welsh club’s Premier League ambitions alive.
Hull City’s unlikely automatic promotion chances were scuppered after a 2-2 draw with Leeds United. Chris Woods opened the scoring for Steve Evans’ side, but late first-half goals from Abel Hernandez and Tom Huddlestone saw the Tigers go 2-1 up before Stuart Dallas’ eventual equaliser.
Fulham will play in the Championship again next season, despite a 3-1 home loss to Nottingham Forest, after MK Dons lost on Saturday. The visitors raced into a 2-0 lead when Robert Tesche and Henri Lansbury both found the back of the net in the first-half. Matt Smith pulled one back for the hosts, but Lansbury doubled his tally for the afternoon shortly after.
Meanwhile, Blackburn’s winless run was extended to six games after a 2-2 draw with Bristol City. Rovers went ahead when on-loan Sunderland forward Danny Graham provided a cool finish, but the visitors turned the game around when Jonathan Kodjia equalised and Aaron Wilbraham looked to have headed the winner just 15 minutes from time, only for Graham to score his and Rover’s second of the match just five minutes later.
Birmingham’s play-off dreams were dashed after a 1-1 draw at Huddersfield. David Cotterill put the Blues in front with a wonderful free-kick, but a Joel Lynch effort from the edge of the box meant it was a point apiece.
Reading put an end to their four-game losing streak when they drew 1-1 with QPR in a game that had 38 shots at goal. Grant Hall put the Royals in the lead with a fine header with just over 30 minutes played. Yet, Deniss Rakels struck the back of the net for the Hoops shortly before half-time as both sides missed a catalogue of chances.
And finally, Rotherham sealed their place in the Championship next term following their goalless encounter at Wolves as Neil Warnock’s side completed an unlikely turn around with two matches to spare. The 0-0 result means that the hosts have now failed to score at home for the fourth consecutive match.
Player of the Weekend: Danny Graham (Blackburn)
Team of the Weekend: Burnley
Goal of the Weekend: Barry Bannan (Derby v SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY)