Yet another mixed bag of results of results for the East Midlands teams of the Football League with 2 wins, 3 losses and a draw for our six clubs. It is getting to the point of the season now where every goal and every point is significant for one club or another. This is especially the case for the Sky Bet Football League where nearly all of the leagues are still undecided. Going into the weekend every one of the six clubs in question had something to play for, whether it be the hardship of relegation, the glory of promotion or the fascinatingly appealing agony of the Play-Offs. This weekend saw one of our clubs achieve their pre-season goal as Leicester City’s promotion out of the Football League was confirmed. More on that to follow.
The round-up starts at the King Power Stadium where, as before-mentioned, Leicester City finally confirmed their promotion to the Premier League after beating a valiant Sheffield Wednesday side 2-1. Leicester took the lead early on thanks to Mahrez before the Owls stunned the expectant home crowd before half time thanks to a 20-yard strike from Michail Antonio. Wednesday had looked lively throughout the first half and The Foxes came out all guns blazing after the break. They were clearly in the mood to ensure their promotion would not have to wait another week! Leicester’s dominance finally paid off and Anthony Knockaert scored a typically elegant free-kick on the hour mark to send the King Power into raptures. The lead was held and Leicester claimed a victory that made their promotion immanent.
Anthony Knockaert celebrates his winner.
In order for Nigel Pearson’s side to achieve promotion, they needed QPR to lose and Derby to not win at Middlesborough on Saturday after Leicester’s match had been played on Friday night. As has been previously indicated both of these scenarios came to fruition and Leicester were confirmed as the first team to gain promotion in the entire Football League, which in itself goes to show how tight all of the divisions are. As the best and most consistent team all season it will come as a shock to nobody that Leicester will be plying their trade amongst the game’s elite next season. With exceptional performances from the likes of Player of the Year nominee Danny Drinkwater, Liam Moore and Kasper Schmeichel, promotion has seemed inevitable for many weeks now and it will delight their fans that they have done it with 5 games remaining.
Derby County could still have had a say in the promotion race going into this weekend and went to Middlesborough knowing that catching Burnley in 2nd was still a realistic possibility with the Clarets being without 40 goal strike force Danny Ings and Sam Vokes. It did not go to plan for The Rams and a seemingly lethargic performance led to Boro getting the better of them 1-0 thanks to a goal from Nathaniel Chalobah. Maybe it was the pressure of the situation for a relatively inexperienced Derby team or maybe it was simply an off day but it almost certainly ended their slim automatic promotion hopes. Despite the defeat a play-off place seems all but secured for Derby, a position that anyone but the most ardent Derby fan would have thought impossible when Nigel Clough was replaced with Steve McClaren in September. The Rams remain in good form and they know that they are certainly capable of beating anyone on their day. The Play-Offs will certainly test the metal of this young Rams side.
Nottingham Forest seem to be a side on a downward spiral that shows no sign of ending, even with the potentially morale boosting appointment of club legend Stuart Pearce as manager from June. This weekend saw The Reds entertain a Millwall team fighting for their lives in the Championship relegation zone. Another lacklustre and woeful performance from Forest led to a 2-1 reversal against a team with one of the worst away records in the league. It certainly appears that drastic action needs to be taken with this team in the final weeks of the season in order to have any chance of gaining a Play-Off spot. With other teams around them in seemingly imperious form the challenge for Gary Brazil now seems near impossible. It is looking extremely likely that Pearce will be gaining a team in the Football League rather than the Premier League.
In Sky Bet League 1, Notts County continue to fight for their status in the division. Shaun Derry has clearly got his team up for the fight and he has now pulled them to within 3 points of safety after seemingly being dead and buried last month. County arguably faced the hardest possible match at the moment on Saturday as they travelled South to take on in-form Brentford. Despite fighting bravely, The Magpies went down 3-1. This is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of as Brentford’s promotion to the Championship seems simply a matter of when not if. 3 wins in a row before this defeat has seen County give themselves a good chance of survival and if Derry manages this his stock as a manager will be extremely high.
Going into the bottom tier of league football, Chesterfield continue to carry on in a very steady manner as they seek automatic promotion out of League 2. The Spireites have had a Wembley final to keep them occupied in the last few weeks that arguably took priority over league form but Chesterfield remain in the Top 3 of the division. This weekend they entertained out-of-form Newport County at the B2Net Stadium. A ding dong battle saw the match end in a 1-1 draw, a result that neither team would really have wanted. This result leaves Chesterfield 3 points clear of 4th placed Fleetwood Town in the battle for automatic promotion. This battle is seemingly going right down to the wire and it will either be scenes of jubilation or the lottery of the Play-Offs, a scenario that nobody at the Derbyshire club wants to have to endure after such an impressive season.
Finally are Mansfield Town. They are arguably the only team out of the 6 East Midlands clubs that are now left with nothing to play from in the final 5 games of the season. Although this may sound very boring and unenthusing for Stags fans, it is a scenario that is extremely positive for the club. They travelled to the coast to take on Morecambe on Saturday and achieved an extremely respectable 1-0 win to ease any lingering relegation worries. This now means The Stags are 5 matches unbeaten and are unbelievably in the top half of the league. They sit 7 points off the Play-Offs but this is seemingly too much of an ask. 10 points is the gap between the Stags and the bottom 2 however, so it seems as if the end of the season will be prosperous for the Nottingham outfit.