Posted by Barrie on Sunday, 3 May 2009

Birmingham seal promotion on final day of Championship season

Whilst the final relegation place was settled at half time today, with Norwich City trailing Charlton Athletic 3-1 (final score 4-2), and Barnsley level at Plymouth that they were never going to lose (winning 2-1 in the end), Birmingham played an end-to-end second half with Reading in a match they won to confirm their second spot and automatic promotion to the Premier League.

Birmingham City went into half time 1-0 up thanks to a goal from Keith Fahey. They deserved their half time lead. When Kevin Phillips made it 2-0 on the hour, they were looking comfortable until they switched off and conceded a Marek Matejovsky goal straight after. Reading pressed for an equaliser in the final 30 minutes, and Birmingham tried getting a 3rd on the counter. Neither happened as Birmingham ran out 2-1 winners and secured promotion. Reading will now face Burnley in the playoffs, whilst Preston North End face Sheffield United after they scrambled a 2-1 victory over Queen's Park Rangers on the final day which included clearing a shot off the line in stoppage time. Cardiff City started the day in 5th needing just a point to secure a playoff spot, but a 1-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday means they will be in the Championship next season. They miss out on playoffs on goals scored to Preston; a team they lost 6-0 to just a few weeks ago, when just a consolation goal in that game would have seen them in the playoffs looking at hindsight.

I was surprised with Wolves winning the league this season. Coming into it, I thought they'd be fighting for a playoff spot, but their attacking style of football, with Championship top scorer Sylvan Ebanks-Blake has seen them rack up the most wins both at home and away in the table and have been worthy winners under Mick McCarthy. But for a little slip up in February, with a few key players out injured, they've been solid.

Alex McLeish has come under a bit of stick this season, with one of the strongest squads on paper full of highly-rated Championships strikers, but haven't been as commanding as was expected coming into the season. Their defence, which conceded a league-low 34 goals this season has been the base of their promotion campaign. It was highly fitting that Kevin Phillips scored the goal today that confirmed their promotion; a player who hasn't played as many games as he wanted too this season, but a true professional who looks after himself, and is celebrating his second-successive promotion, after winning the league with rivals West Bromwich Albion last season. Whether he is McLeish's plans for next season we'll have to wait and see. He has an eye for goal but doesn't have the pace of the Premier League game.

The playoffs are always exciting and unpredictable. Although it's been a while since we had a classic final, with 4 of the last 5 finals finishing 1-0. Their are 4 top Championship teams in the playoffs this year, with pre-season favourites Reading, in-form Sheffield United and Preston, and Burnley who have had a great run in the domestic cups this season also taking part.

The 3 teams relegated from the Championship, Charlton Athletic, Southampton and Norwich City have all played Premier League football in the last 4 years, will be in the 3rd tier of English football next season. More proof of how unpredictable the football world is...

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