Ups & Downs
There’s only one way to feel about Manchester United’s Premiership victory, isn’t there? And that’s “meh”. One massive corporation has beaten another massive corporation. Well, hurrah. On Saturday afternoon, I watched the West Ham-Bolton match, and Bolton played as if they’d been drugged or something. Even at three up, though, West Ham didn’t look comfortable, and when Bolton pulled one back it looked as if they might be able to force a draw. Elsewhere at the bottom of the table, Charlton have to beat Tottenham tonight to maintain a chance of staying up at the end of the season, whilst Fulham, disappointingly, are safe after beating On Of The Best Two Teams In Europe at Craven Cottage. Presumably, Dave Whelan will now be consulting his lawyers on the subject of suing Liverpool for playing an under-strength team. Finally, in the least surprising Premiership news of the season, Glen Roeder fell on his own sword after Newcastle’s 2-0 home defeat by Blackburn Rovers on Saturday. Who’ll be next to pick up the poisoned chalice at St James Park? Given the rate at which managers seem to be resigning at the moment, they could have plenty to choose from.
The Football League season ended at the weekend after a season of enough excitement to make one wonder why anybody would have any interest in the Premiership in the first place. At the top of the Championship, Sunderland’s 5-0 win at the already relegated (and, frankly, not very interested looking) Luton Town rendered the outcome of the Preston-Birmingham match as irrelevant from Birmingham’s point of view. Preston won 1-0 – result that wasn’t enough to guarantee their place in the play-offs, because Wolves beat Leicester 4-1 and, in a result that will concern a number of their supporters ahead on next season, Barnsley were thumped 7-0 by West Bromwich Albion to set up a Black Country derby in the play-offs. Finally, Southampton beat Southend 4-1 to snatch the final place. At the bottom of the table, Leeds had waved the white flag on Friday afternoon by deciding to enter into administration before their match at Derby. They lost 2-0, disappointing those of us that were hoping that they would win 9-0 and make their administration a disastrous mistake.
In League One, it’s Bristol City who join Scunthorpe in the Championship after their 3-1 win against the already relegated Rotherham United, whilst Nottingham Forest could only draw at home against Crewe Alexandra. The former European champions (and it’s always worthwhile to remind ourselves that Forest have, on their own, been the champions of Europe twice more than Arsenal or Chelsea between them) take their place in the play-offs alongside Blackpool, Yeovil Town and Oldham Athletic. The match of the day (and arguably, indeed, of the season) came at the Liberty Stadium, where Blackpool beat Swansea City 6-4. 6-4! Blackpool have been in excellent form in the second half of this season, and they are the team that I suspect may get through the play-offs there.
League Two was the division that I was largely focussing on at the weekend, with issues still to be sorted out at both the top and the bottom of the table. Walsall drew 1-1 at Swindon to guarantee the title, a result that saw Swindon finally see off Franchise in the battle for the third automatic promotion place. They join Shrewsbury, Lincoln City and Bristol Rovers in the play-offs. Lincoln seem to get the play-offs every year and lose, so I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that Rovers might be good to make it a promotion double for Bristol this season. At the bottom of the table, all eyes were on The Racecourse Ground, and the relegation decider between Wrexham and Boston United. Boston, who cheated their way into the League several seasons back through making illegal payments to their players throughout their Conference promotion season, tried to cheat their way to maintaining their place in the League. They had a CVA ready to sign, depending on the result of the match (in the knowledge that a ten point deduction would be irrelevant in the case of a defeat, whereas they could sign it after the end of the season and try to beat the ten point deduction next season if they won), but it all turned out to be irrelevant anyway – they took the lead and were in front at half-time, but Wrexham ended up strolling to a comfortable 3-1 win. I’ve seen rumours over the last couple of days that, at the time of their promotion, the Conference decreed that they wouldn’t be allowed back again if they were relegated back. We shall wait and see with interest whether there’s any truth. If there is, well… it couldn’t happen to a nicer club.