Leicester City clinch last minute play-off spot in dramatic Championship finale

Leicester are in the play-offs while Hull City go up at the expense of Watford. Meanwhile Peterborough United and Wolverhampton Wanderers are relegated.

Leicester City started the day as, on paper, the least likely team to make it into the play-offs. After defeat to Watford last Friday it seemed that The Foxes dreams of promotion were still over. In fact much of the media had already started planning their future for them; Martin O’Neill was to replace Nigel Pearson because he had failed to do his job etc etc…

Then came the game against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground. A local rivalry reignited in the most important of terms as Forest would have to vacate their own play-off place in order for Leicester to fight it out for Premier League football.

What occurred was a thrilling game that reflected the mood across the Championship on Saturday; with all the league’s most important positions being decided in the final minutes of their respective games.

For Leicester it came in the 90th minute when Chris Wood laid on the ball for Anthony Knockaert to score the fifth goal of the game and wrap up a 3-2 victory that saw them sneak into the play-offs after Bolton Wanderers drew with Blackpool at the Reebok Stadium.

Simon Cox had given Forest the lead before Matt James and Andy King gave City a half-time advantage. But the French winger’s last minute strike countered Elliot Ward’s goal just after half-time to clinch their play-off spot in some style.

They will now face Watford in the play-offs after The Hornets failed to earn automatic promotion. Reduced to ten-men they conceded a late goal in a massively delayed fixture at Vicarage Road to condemn them to the hardship of the play-off route if they are to earn promotion to the top-flight.

Hull City therefore are promoted despite drawing 2-2 with Cardiff City. The Tigers missed a penalty in the final minute and moments later gave one away when Abdoulaye Faye handballed in the penalty area. Nicky Maynard stepped up to cause squeaky bums all round in the KC Stadium dressing rooms; but in the end Hull earned promotion.

And there was drama in the final minutes of the relegation battle. With Barnsley and Huddersfield delicately poised at 2-2 Crystal Palace scored a late winner against Peterborough United. With both Yorkshire clubs safe with that result Barnsley stopper Luke Steele stood unchallenged with the ball at his feet for over two minutes as a chant of ‘YORKSHIRE, YORKSHIRE’ reverberated around the John Smiths Stadium.

Peterborough join already relegated Bristol City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, who lost 2-0 at Brighton and Hove Albion, in League One next season.

It was a wonderful advertisement for the second tier of English football and while this season has arguably seen the English top-flight slip behind La Liga and the Bundesliga in terms of quality there is little doubt that when it comes to the leagues below the top; we certainly have the best.

image: © lefty1007

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