Monday's round of League Championship fixtures saw Burnley book their place into next year's Premier League with a 2-0 win over Wigan Athletic, while Derby County and Queens Park Rangers clinched their tickets for the playoffs with 2-1 wins over Barnsley and Watford, respectively.
Nottingham Forrest, meanwhile, took full advantage of Brighton & Hove Albion's draw against Blackpool to jump over the Seagulls in their hunt for the league's final playoff tickets.
|Fixtures for Monday, April 21|
|3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Birmingham City||2-4||Blackburn Rovers|
|3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Brighton & Hove Albion||1-1||Blackpool|
|3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Burnley||2-0||Wigan Athletic|
|3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Derby County||2-1||Barnsley|
|3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Ipswich Town||2-2||AFC Bournemouth|
|3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Millwall||0-0||Doncaster Rovers|
|3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Queens Park Rangers||2-1||Watford|
|3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Sheffield Wednesday||2-3||Charlton Athletic|
|3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET||Yeovil Town||1-2||Huddersfield Town|
|5.15 p.m. BST/12:15 p.m. ET||Leeds United||0-2||Nottingham Forest|
Burnley trail Leicester City by four points with the Championship title still on the line, but the league leaders still have a game in hand and would need to lose at least two of their remaining three matches for the Clarets to have a chance.
|Championship League table|
|4||Queens Park Rangers||44||22||10||12||56||41||15||76|
|6||Brighton & Hove Albion||44||17||15||12||51||39||12||66|
Wigan could have clinched a playoff spot with a result in this fixture, but the hosts were the better team from kick-off and goals from Ashley Barnes and Michael Kightly made sure this match was over before half-time.
Dan Clifford was one of many to congratulate the club:
The result gave Brighton & Hove Albion a chance to gain ground on fifth-ranked Wigan, but the playoff chasers stumbled to a 1-1 draw against relegation-threatened Blackpool, opening the door for Nottingham Forrest to leapfrog the Seagulls for sixth place and the clearest path to the final playoff ticket.
Stephen Dobbie was the villain for Brighton, cancelling out the opener by Dale Stephens just a couple of minutes later.
Nottingham Forrest recorded a routine 2-0 win over Leeds United during the late match, courtesy of two early goals from Matt Derbyshire. The hosts were never really able to challenge Forrest, who dug in after Derbyshire's two goals within the first 20 minutes of action.
QPR needed two goals in the last 20 minutes to overcome a gritty performance from Watford and secure access to the playoffs, with Joey Barton and Charlie Austin doing the scoring for the hosts. The Rangers are looking to jump back up to the Premier League after last year's relegation, but they will need to play with a lot more consistency to beat the likes of Derby in the playoffs.
As explained by Jack Pitt-Brooke, the club needed a lot of help from the visitors to obtain all three points from this match:
The atmosphere at Loftus Road was electric for this match, as both sets of fans voiced their obvious dislike for the other team. The Watford Observer couldn't help taking a final dig at the hosts:
Derby survived a late scare from bottom-feeders Barnsley to book their ticket to the playoffs and also failed to truly impress against a club that has struggled all season, and with Ipswich Town and AFC Bournemouth playing out a 2-2 draw, opening the door for a Nottingham club seemingly heating up just in time for the playoffs.
The team will face their most difficult challenge next Saturday, when fellow playoff-hopefuls AFC Bournemouth will play host to a tie that will have a massive impact on which teams will make the playoffs.
If the hosts win, Bournemouth would suddenly be very much alive in the hunt for the playoffs, while Brighton, who will play last-placed Yeovil Town on Friday, would most likely have the inside track to the final ticket once again.
One week later, Forrest and the Seagulls will go head-to-head, so plenty of drama is to be expected in the Championship's final weeks.
|Fixtures for Tuesday, April 22|
|8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Bolton Wanderers||V||Leicester City|
|8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Reading||V||Middlesbrough|
With just two weeks left to play in the 2013-14 English League Championship season, the race for the final playoff tickets is in full swing, with several teams playing on Saturday still vying for a place in the top six.
Leicester City and Burnley look like the two safest safe bets to move up to the Premier League automatically. The league leaders have already locked up their spot (by virtue of a guaranteed finish in the top two) and need just three more points to secure the League title, while Burnley hold an eight-point advantage over Derby County with just three matches left to play.
Elsewhere, Ipswich Town fumbled an excellent opportunity to gain on some of the top-six teams, as the Blues were held by Watford, losing 3-1. With Queens Park Rangers and Brighton & Hove Albion dropping points, the team could have emerged as the weekend winners, but it now faces a difficult task against AFC Bournemouth from a less than ideal position.
Let's take a look at the matches played this weekend and the updated standings, as well as look ahead at Monday's set of fixtures.
|Fixtures for April 18/19|
|AFC Bournemouth||2 - 4||Sheffield Wednesday|
|Blackburn Rovers||0 - 0||Yeovil Town|
|Charlton Athletic||0 - 0||Bolton Wanderers|
|Huddersfield Town||1 - 1||Brighton & Hove Albion|
|Wigan Athletic||3 - 0||Reading|
|Reading||0 - 1||Burnley|
|Burnley||0 - 2||Derby County|
|Leicester City||1 - 0||Queens Park Rangers|
|Barnsley||0 - 1||Leeds United|
|Middlesbrough||1 - 2||Millwall|
|Nottingham Forest||1 - 0||Birmingham City|
|Watford||3 - 1||Ipswich Town|
Burnley will host Wigan Athletic, who have all but secured their spot in the upcoming playoffs but will still need to keep an eye on teams like Ipswich Town and Reading as they both try to make a late push for a top-six finish. The Latics would love nothing more than to return from Burnley with a solid result as they look to keep the teams chasing the playoffs at bay, but per ESPN FC, no team has conceded fewer goals at home than Burnley has, with just 14.
The hosts still have an outside shot at the league title, but as shared by this Derby fan, the path to the finish doesn't look particularly easy for the club:
The Rams will host Barnsley, and as unlikely as it would seem for Burnley to lose out in their remaining three games, Derby might actually have a chance of finishing the season with nine out of a possible nine points. Barnsley's 1-0 home loss to Leeds United on Saturday has the club under serious threat of relegation, and the prospect of a visit to a Derby club still vying for a top-two finish is the last thing Keith Hill's men needed.
The Rams have enjoyed a fantastic season, and as reported by The Derby Telegraph's Peter Green, manager Steve McClaren couldn't be more proud his group of players made the playoffs against all odds:
We never dreamed it was possible.
All credit to the players, they have grown together, become a team and now they are getting their rewards.
We deserve to be there. We aim now to finish as high as possible and then treat it as a cup competition.
Ipswich Town dropped vital points against Watford on Saturday, losing 3-1 to the mid-table side to remain just outside of the playoff field. AFC Bournemouth trail the Tractor Boys by just two points and will also be looking for the win to keep their playoff hopes alive in what will arguably be Monday's most anticipated fixture.
The72 agrees this is one of those late-season matches that could lead to some serious drama:
Bournemouth suffered an upset 4-2 loss to Sheffield Wednesday on Friday, so both teams will be looking to bounce back in the worst possible way. The loser of this match will most likely lose out on playoff qualification, with just two fixtures remaining, so expect both teams to leave it all on the field.
Monday's slate of games will not only play a vital part in deciding which four teams will advance to the playoffs, we could also see a new champion crowned if Burnley drop points. Meanwhile, the battle against relegation is also still in full swing.
It looks like Bank Holiday Monday could turn into quite the holiday for football fans all over the country indeed.
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