Some things from the weekend ~ 08-05-12
Premier League ~ Chicken set loose as Blackburn go down
Blackburn Rovers fans have made it their business to protest against manager Steve Kean and owners Venky's this season. Last night a fan managed to smuggle a chicken into Ewood Park and, adorned in a Rovers flag and a "Kean Out" placard, it was released onto the pitch in the seventh minute. Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi and Blackburn's Yakubu formed an unlikely partnership to corner the fowl in the goal net before capturing it and handing it to a steward.
In the match itself, Wigan secured their Premier League status at the expense of Blackburn thanks to an 87th-minute goal from Antolin Alcaraz. Rovers will be in the Championship next season but Kean says he wants to continue in his job, despite the protests against him: "I am not going to walk away. I will sit down with the owners and discuss a plan on how to assemble a squad to help us bounce back up straight away."
Championship ~ West Ham too strong for Cardiff
West Ham United went through to the Championship play-offs final with a comfortable 5-0 aggregate win over Cardiff City. Having won the first leg 2-0, the Hammers defied their poor home record – they have lost four and drawn eight at Upton Park this season – to win the second leg 3-0. Goals from Kevin Nolan, Ricardo Vaz-Te and Nicky Maynard sealed the most comfortable semi-final victory since Hull City beat Watford 6-1 on aggregate in 2008. On that occasion Hull went on to beat Bristol City the final and reach the Premier League.
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce said: "We have a huge opportunity to get into the golden league, not for the money from my point of view but because that is where it all happens. There has been a lot of hard work and it paid off today. The players excited and entertained the crowd." West Ham will play either Birmingham City or Blackpool in the final. The second leg of that tie is at St Andrews tomorrow, with Blackpool leading 1-0 from the first leg.
League One ~ Sheffield Wednesday go up as United face the play-offs
Sheffield Wednesday beat Wycombe Wanderers 2-0 at Hillsborough on Saturday to seal promotion to the Championship. In front of 38,082 fans, the Owls never looked in danger of letting their one-point lead over Sheffield United slip. Goals from two loanees, Michail Antonio and Nile Ranger, confirmed that Wednesday will be a Championship club next season. The Owls ended the season with a run of 14 games unbeaten, dropping only six points since their victory in the Steel City derby on February 26.
A priority for manager Dave Jones and chairman Milan Mandaric will be signing some of their loanees, particularly Antonio and defender Danny Batth, on permanent contracts. Antonio has already said he would like to stay, though it is up to his now Premier League parent club Reading. "I have enjoyed my time here. I could never say 'no'. The fans have taken to me and I have taken to the club."
Wednesday's victory means that Sheffield United will have to compete in the play-offs. They are the first team to reach 90 points and not win automatic promotion since Sunderland in the division above in 1998. United will not relish the prospect; they have been in the play-offs four times without ever being successful. In three of those seasons, they have reached the final and lost it without scoring.
In the semi-finals this year they play Stevenage, who confirmed their sixth-place finish with a 3-0 win over Bury. The first leg is on Friday and their manager, Gary Smith, is ready for it: "It will be quick, it will be energetic, it will be physical. It will be up and at them and I will have the guys on raw meat and razor blades all week."
League Two ~ Crawley are promoted again but Hereford are relegated
Crawley Town made it two promotions in a row by winning 1-0 at Accrington. Their caretaker boss, Craig Brewster, took over when former manager Steve Evans left to join Rotherham United. He has since guided Crawley over the line, despite their indifferent end to the season that has brought three wins in their final eight games.
Their players are keen to make sure Evans is not forgotten in the celebrations, though, with right-back David Hunt saying: "Evans assembled the squad and got us to where we were. I have had good luck messages every game since he has gone. People don’t know him; they have a perception of him. I have nothing but praise for him. He gave me a chance whenever I was fit, got my career back on track and got us winning stuff. He has got in touch with all the lads and he cared. This is what he put together."
At the bottom of the league, Hereford were relegated despite beating Torquay United 3-2. A win for Barnet at Burton Albion meant Hereford's victory was not enough to save them. They will play in the Conference next season for the first time since 2006 but chairman David Keyte has pledged to continue supporting the club's development.
"I came in into it two years ago not wanting to carry on with tight purse strings," he said. "The ground needs developing and all the off-field things need to move forward which, in turn, supports the team. We have made progress and all we needed was the football team to be held together. We’ve spent in excess of £100,000 on player budget compared to Graham’s last season. We just haven’t got the results and the results this squad should have got."
Conference ~ York City are going to Wembley again
York City will be calling Wembley "Bootham Crescent South" if they continue like this. They are through to the Conference play-off final with a 2-1 aggregate win over Mansfield Town. It took them until extra-time to overcome Mansfield, with a Matty Blair header in the 111th minute the difference between the sides. York City will play Luton Town in the final on Sunday May 20. Before then City will take on Newport County at the same ground, this time in the FA Trophy final. Tom Hocking
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