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Hull secure automatic promotion to the top flight on dramatic final day
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Captivating climax to Championship season

By richbrawn1 on May 8th, 2013 in Blow the whistle 6 comments
Captivating climax to Championship season
Pipped at the post - Zola
It was the day of reckoning for no less than 13 clubs of the final day of the Npower Championship, their fate hanging by the most minuscule of threads after a gruelling 46-game campaign of toing and froing. And the drama of the final day did not disappoint as an action packed series of twists and turns ensued before the final whistle brought an incredibly exciting season to a close.  

Perhaps the most captivating story was the fight for automatic promotion to the top flight and the chance to make certain your prelude to the riches, glamour and bright lights of the Premier League. They say promotion to the top division is worth £120 million so this was without a doubt the biggest prize of the day and it was either Hull City or Watford who would join Cardiff City in making the step up.  

Hull were sitting just a point above Watford so they knew they’d have to at least equal Watford’s result to sustain a second place finish. Watford knew they had to better Hull’s result if their bid to snatch the automatic place away from the Tigers was to come into fruition. This meant they’d have to rely on Cardiff to get a result at the KC Stadium and then do their bit at home to Leeds United. This scenario was certainly not beyond the realms of possibility though. After all, Cardiff are the champions of the division, so if they really wanted to show up, there was no reason why they couldn’t blow Hull’s promotion bid off course. Either way though, it was always going to be a nerve-jangling afternoon for both Hull and Watford.  

Watford’s day didn’t get off to the best of starts when their first choice keeper Manuel Almunia was injured in the warm up. This meant that Jonathan Bond had to deputise in goal. Then 24 minutes in a nasty collision occurred between Bond and his own defender Ikechi Anya. It quickly became apparent that Bond would not be able to continue and it took some time before he was carefully stretchered off the pitch. This meant 19-year-old academy product Jack Bonham was thrust into the limelight for his first ever first ever senior appearance.  

Then things went from bad to worse for the Hornets after a mix up between Joel Ekstrand and Bonham gifted Hull substitute Dominic Poleon the opportunity to tap into an empty net. Watford equalised shortly after with the thunderous strike from Almen Abdi. At the time of course, Watford knew that a 1-1 draw would not be enough, until news filtered through that Frazier Campbell had put Cardiff in front against Hull. This meant that as things stood, it would be Watford who gained promotion. That was until Nick Proschwitz levelled the score for Hull in the 58th minute. This swung the promotion race back in Hull’s favour and five minutes later the Tigers were in front, with Paul McShane meeting a Robbie Brady corner.  

Hull knew that if they won, they would be up, whatever happened in the Watford game. But there was some incredible late drama to come. First, Cardiff went down to 10 men when Andrew Taylor was sent off for a second bookable offence. They then conceded a penalty, which gave Hull the opportunity to seal the win, but Proschwitz’s spot kick was saved by Cardiff keeper David Marshall. Then amazingly, Cardiff were awarded in penalty in the dying minutes of time added on. Nicky Maynard duly dispatched his spot kick and the game was brought to an end with Hull now unsure of their fate.  

Although the games were meant to be running simultaneously, the Watford game had been delayed due to the nasty injury to Jonathan Bond. This meant Hull had an agonising 16 minute wait, watching the Watford game on TV and praying that the Hornets didn’t score. News of Cardiff’s late equaliser rang around Vicarage Road and the atmosphere suddenly turned from one of despair to one of optimism. All Watford needed to do was win the game they would be promoted.  

The Hornets poured forward in search of that destiny defining winner. Leeds keeper Paddy Kenny was forced to make a superb double save, first to deny Abdi and then to keep out Nathaniel Chalobah’s follow-up. But as Gianfranco Zola’s team threw everything forward, Leeds saw an opportunity to hit them on the counter attack when Ross McCormack raced through on goal. He then looked up and noticed Watford’s young keeper off his line and went for a chip. It looked as if Bonham would be able to catch it but somehow the ball slipped through his grasp and rolled into the net.  

It was utter devastation for Watford. They would now have to settle for a place in the play-offs. It was a heart-wrenching outcome considering they had come so close. For Hull, it was sheer ecstasy as they would be on their way to the Promised Land of top flight football next season.  

Elsewhere there were play-off positions still yet to be decided. Bolton Wanderers had recently snuck into the top six due to some outstanding form in the back end of the season and they clearly fancied their chances of beating Blackpool at home to clinch a top six finish. Crystal Palace were in a good position for a play-off finish, with their final game being at home to relegation threatened Peterborough. The other two sides in the mix were set to do battle against each other, with Nottingham Forest at home to Leicester. With Brighton having already sealed their play-off place, Leicester had to not only beat Forest, but then also hope that Bolton didn’t win to claim the final spot.

And amazingly, that was exactly what happened. Bolton were only able to manufacture a 2-2 draw in the Lancashire derby but it looked as if this would be enough to see them through as the Forest Leicester game was also deadlocked at 2-2. But then in injury time, Anthony Knockaert popped up with a winning goal that sent the Foxes into the play-offs through the back door.  

At the other end of the table, amazingly there were still seven teams in danger of relegation to League One, with only Bristol City’s fate having already sealed. Wolverhampton Wanderers were in the worst position, as they would have to hope that Barnsley and Peterborough both lost and that they won big if they were to have any chance of survival. Sheffield Wednesday, Millwall and Huddersfield all knew that they could also go down if results didn’t go their way. Even Blackburn could still have been relegated mathematically, but by virtue of their goal difference, that was highly unlikely.

In the end, Wolves were beaten 2-0 at Brighton, so their relegation was sealed and it was all on the final place. Barnsley needed a result of some sort to get out of trouble in their game at Huddersfield. They managed a 2-2 draw. This meant that Peterborough needed to better that result, or it would be them to suffer the dreaded drop.

With 7 minutes of the game remaining, Darren Ferguson’s men were on course to stay up, as they were 2-1 in front at Crystal Palace. But then veteran striker Kevin Phillips struck an equaliser before Mile Jedinak dealt them a devastating blow in the 89th minute to make it 3-2 to Palace. And so it was Peterborough who fell at the final hurdle and had to face the grim prospect of a season in the third tier.  

It was such an exciting and enthralling final day of the season for the neutral and it was quite incredible that the margins could be so fine. But I guess that’s what makes football such an amazing spectacle. It looks like the final day of the Premier League could rival that as well. With the race for the top four still on and one final relegation place yet to be decided, there’s lots more excitement in store. If truth be told, I’m not sure my ticker can take it!
By richbrawn1 on May 8th, 2013 in Blow the whistle

Captivating climax to Championship season
6 responses
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26 Sep, 2013
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26 Sep, 2013
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28 Sep, 2013
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