And breathe. After 46 gameweeks the 2019/20 Championship season is over, but the league left a lot of excitement for its final day.
Although Leeds United had already wrapped up the league title, there was still everything else to play for. An automatic promotion spot was up for grabs, the play-offs weren’t confirmed and no team had been relegated.
So, who came out on top?
West Brom join Leeds in the Premier League
One of the many exciting things about the Championship’s final day was that there were still three teams looking to join Leeds in next season’s Premier League. West Brom entered Wednesday in prime position and they would keep their second spot thanks to a 2-1 win over Queens Park Rangers. But it wasn’t that simple.
Despite QPR having nothing to play for and being inconsistent at best since the Championship returned, the west London side took the lead just after the hour mark through Ryan Manning. At that point in time, West Brom had dropped to third and lost their automatic spot.
But the Baggies fought back, equalising through Grady Diangana just before half-time, with the West Ham loanee capping off what has been a good season at The Hawthorns. With other results going their way, a draw would have been enough, but West Brom scored once again, this time Callum Robinson finding the net shortly after half-time. The drama wasn’t done there, with Ebere Eze drawing QPR level with a wonderful effort, but it was not enough to prevent West Brom’s celebrations.
West Brom have won promotion to the Premier League for the fifth time, more than any other club since the competition began.
The Baggies will be boing-boinging in the PL next season. 🎉 pic.twitter.com/SEq0XRqDu1
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 22, 2020
Brentford and Fulham must face the play-offs
When West Brom were beaten 2-1 by Huddersfield in their penultimate game of the campaign, it looked inconceivable that Brentford would not be playing in the Premier League next season. Going into their game against Stoke City at the weekend, the Bees had won eight straight matches and were on the march to the top flight.
But when it mattered most, Brentford lost their way. There were beaten 1-0 by a Stoke side still battling relegation at the time, putting the automatic play-off race back in West Brom’s hands. And they fell once again on Wednesday night, thanks to goals from Callum Styles and Clarke Oduor.
If you were a newcomer to the Championship and didn’t know anything about the standings when tuning into Brentford’s home game against Barnsley, you’d be forgiven for thinking the away side were the team fighting for promotion.
The Terriers were as excellent as Brentford were dire, with their back three particularly focused in keeping Said Benrahma, Ollie Watkins and Bryan Mbeumo quiet. That Watkins, who had scored 25 goals across the season, failed to have a single shot in the first half speaks to just how good Barnsley’s defence was.
It was also a night to forget for the other automatic promotion challengers, Fulham, as they were held 1-1 by Wigan. However, unlike Brentford, Fulham needed West Brom to lose to stand a chance of promotion.
Wales represented in the play-offs
Looking at the table before kick-off and the fixtures of the night, Nottingham Forest and one of Cardiff City and Swansea City were expected to complete the play-offs. But the Championship masters had other ideas.
Cardiff had the easier of the three matches on paper, hosting bottom of the league Hull City but a job still needed doing – and that’s exactly what they did. Settling nerves early on, Cardiff took a 2-0 lead into half-time which Junior Hoilett and Sean Morrison putting them in control of their own destiny. Danny Ward capped off the win late on, leaving the drama for the remaining two matches.
Swansea City needed a five-goal swing to secure the final Championship play-off spot:
↓ Nottingham Forest 1-4 Stoke
↑ Reading 1-4 Swansea
They ended up getting a six-goal swing. 🤯 pic.twitter.com/OHacUZ234u
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) July 22, 2020
For Swansea to have any chance of going up, they needed to win and have both Cardiff and Nottingham Forest lose – with a five-goal swing happening with regards to the latter too. With Cardiff winning, it was on Forest to prevent Swansea from making it two Welsh teams in the play-offs, but it was a horror show at the City Ground that the players will be thankful was played without a crowd.
The Reds went 1-0 down fairly early but still looked to be in control when Tobias Figueiredo equalised on the hour mark, even with Swansea beating Reading 2-1. And then Forest imploded. Two goals in five minutes combined with another Swansea goal mean Forest were just one away from dropping out of the play-offs on goals scored, whether they conceded or the Welsh side scored in their game.
Just moments into injury-time in the game at the Madejski, Wayne Routledge scored the goal that would have sent the travelling Swansea fans delirious had there been any – seeing the Swans leapfrog Forest. And there was still time for Forest to hurt their own supporters once more, with Nuno da Costa scoring an own goal to make it 4-1 to Stoke. Two 4-1s, two very different feelings.
Confirmed play-off matches:
- July 26: Swansea City vs Brentford
- July 27: Cardiff City vs Fulham
- July 29: Brentford vs Swansea City
- July 30: Fulham vs Cardiff City
Wigan relegated despite 13th-placed finish
With one minute remaining of the regular 2019/20 Championship season, Wigan Athletic were 13th and one would be forgiven for thinking they were safe. But as soon as the final whistle blew, the Latics’ 12th-point deduction for going into administration came into play, dropping them into the bottom three and subsequently League One.
It isn't just a game of football, it's absolutely everything to our players, staff and supporters.
— Wigan Athletic (@LaticsOfficial) July 22, 2020
Wigan went into the final day know they would need a win to keep their safety hopes alive with the 12-point penalty looming and things got off to an excellent start with Kieffer Moore giving them a first-half lead. But Fulham equalised shortly after half-time through a lovely free-kick from Neeskens Kebano and that would be that.
Hope hasn’t completely extinguished for Wigan however, who could stay up if they win their appeal. Should that happen, then Barnsley will drop into League One despite their 2-1 win over Brentford.
Charlton Athletic were always going to be up against it in their fight to survive the drop, facing champions Leeds United, but the Addicks didn’t even go down with a fight.
Lee Bowyer has had to make do with a very youthful team this season and lost one of their better players, Conor Gallagher, midway through the campaign as he switched loan clubs to Swansea City. But on Wednesday they were thrashed 4-0 by Leeds and, with Barnsley winning at Brentford, it was the Addicks for the drop.
Wigan and Charlton will be joined by Hull who, as previously mentioned, were beaten 3-0 by Cardiff. But special mention should be given to Luton Town, who started the day 22nd but beat Blackburn Rovers 3-2 to finish 20th – safe no matter what happens with Wigan. And a potential reward for staying up in their first Championship? The possibility of facing local rivals Watford next season.
Championship final day results in full:
- Birmingham City 1-2 Derby County
- Brentford 1-2 Barnsley
- Bristol City 1-1 Preston North End
- Cardiff City 3-0 Hull City
- Leeds United 4-0 Charlton Athletic
- Luton 3-2 Blackburn Rovers
- Millwall 4-1 Huddersfield Town
- Nottingham Forest 1-4 Stoke City
- Reading 1-4 Swansea City
- Sheffield Wednesday 1-2 Middlesbrough
- West Bromwich Albion 2-2 Queens Park Rangers
- Wigan Athletic 1-1 Fulham