The winners & losers from a thrilling final day in the Championship

08 May 2021 05:20

Forget the defunct Super League, forget the Premier League, forget everything anyone has ever tried to tell you about football, and heed these words: The Championship is the best league in the world.

As we headed into gameweek 46 of this long and arduous season, everything was up in the air at the bottom of the table. None of the three teams occupying the relegation places were mathematically relegated come the first whistle, and two of them stood a realistic chance of escaping the drop.

Derby County were the only side outside of the relegation zone who faced the possibility of slipping through the trap door at the final hurdle, but their fate was in their own hands. They just had to beat relegation rivals Sheffield Wednesday, or hope that they drew and matched Rotherham United's result against Cardiff City.

As it was, and as we should have expected, it all came down to the final seconds of the season. Rotherham were so close to safety throughout the afternoon, but a late Marlon Pack goal ensured their 1-1 draw with Cardiff saw them relegated.

It was down to Derby and Sheffield Wednesday. The game ebbed and flowed at Pride Park, before the two teams settled for an entertaining 3-3 draw - earned through a penalty from home forward Martyn Waghorn.

You can probably guess some of the winners and from the final weekend of Championship action, but here's your lowdown in case you missed anything.

1. Winners - Derby County

Safe | Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Somehow, Derby and Wayne Rooney have done it: They will spend another season in the Championship. Do they deserve survival? The table suggests so, but common sense tells a different story. One point from the final seven games was enough to keep the Rams in the division, and that point came via the award of a penalty.

Rooney's men were down, safe, down again and finally secure in the second tier, coming out of a topsy-turvy 3-3 draw with Sheffield Wednesday in 21st place.

Derby got seriously lucky that Rotherham United couldn't hold out for a win, and they've scraped to safety by one point and the slimmest of margins. They survived this relegation shootout and rightly breathe a sigh of relief, but there is little cause for celebration - questions must be answered over how this was allowed to happen in the first place.

2. Winners - Wycombe Wanderers

What a way to go down! Wycombe Wanderers were heartwarming newcomers to the Championship this season, and they have been a credit to the league with their application, team spirit and endless supply of determination.

Ultimately, it wasn't enough, and while they've never really stood any chance of remaining in the second tier, the history books will show that they actually ended the campaign in 22nd place, only one point from safety.

Gareth Ainsworth and his men can stroll back to League One with their heads held high, basking in the glory of their final day 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough. We hope to see you again, fellas.

3. Winners - Brentford

The record-breaker | Michael Steele/Getty Images

If anyone deserves to be promoted via the playoffs, it has to be Brentford, right? The Bees missed out in the final last season, and they have been in and around the top three all of this year.

They won't be too thrilled to go through that torture once again, but this time, they're entering the final three matches bang in form. A 3-1 victory over Bristol City was the perfect preparation, and Ivan Toney's opener meant the forward now holds the record for the most goals in a single Championship season.

Brentford are the in-form team going into this fight to the death, and you'd be a fool to bet against them in the semi-final with Bournemouth - and whomever they may meet in the final.

4. Losers - Rotherham United

It was all going so well. | Cardiff City FC/Getty Images

It was in their hands. To quote Clive Tyldesley, "NAME ON THE TROPHY!" If you got a trophy for staying up, anyway. Rotherham were safe for almost the entire 90 minutes, but in the end, they ran out of steam.

Lewis Wing's stunning volley smashed them in front, and they remained ahead until the 88th minute, when Marlon Pack broke Millers hearts with a somewhat scuffed strike from the edge of the box.

They were so close to safety that they could taste it, but the Championship is a cruel captor and they tumbled through the trap door in the dying minutes. 46 matches played, and relegated in the final five minutes.

5. Losers - Sheffield Wednesday

Heartbreak | Alex Pantling/Getty Images

A missed chance. The odds were stacked against Sheffield Wednesday before kick-off: They needed to win (already a mountain to climb) away at Derby, and then hope that Rotherham dropped points against Cardiff.

The Millers held up their end of the bargain, but Darren Moore's men were unable to drag themselves over the line against the Rams. The Owls were winning as they approached the final 12 minutes, but Waghorn's penalty drew Derby level and the visitors couldn't respond for a fourth time.

The points deduction certainly didn't help their cause, but for Sheffield Wednesday, realisation is setting in - they have dropped into the third tier of English football, having finished bottom of the Championship. Not good enough.

6. Losers - Bournemouth

Another bad day at the office | Jacques Feeney/Getty Images

This was not the way to prepare for the dreaded playoffs. Bournemouth roared back into top-six contention under Jonathan Woodgate, but the Cherries have ended the season with three straight defeats.

The Premier League hopefuls got exactly what they deserved in a 2-0 defeat to a very under-staffed Stoke City on Saturday afternoon, and never looked like challenging the Potters.

If they enter the playoffs with that level of effort and quality, they will not stand a chance against the buzzing bees of Brentford.

Source: 90min