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Terry Pierce - A busy Easter in the Football League

Published: 26 Apr 2011 - 12:10:23

Easter Monday was one of those days in the Football League. More twists and turns and ups and downs than the big dipper on Blackpool Pleasure Beach, yesterday afternoon's action unfolded minute-by-minute and blow-by-blow as clubs up and down the leagues checked into the last-chance saloon.

The afternoon was breathless for some, filled with jubilation for others and a day of sadness for an unlucky few.

Starting in West London, QPR are on the brink of promotion to the Premier League and the Championship title after a scrappy 1-1 draw at home to Hull City. Three points would have secured top spot, and a point was enough as the final whistle blew at Loftus Road, with closest rivals Norwich only drawing themselves.

But, as the fans spilled onto the pitch, Simeon Jackson bundled home a late goal 125 miles north-east of Loftus Road, giving the Canaries a vital win and once again putting Rangers' champagne on ice.

Of course QPR will go on to win promotion, but there was something rather comical about a couple of thousand fans celebrating on the pitch when their success is yet to be secured.

Jackson's goal was his third of the game and his eighth in the last six games. It gave City a 3-2 victory over Derby County, and keeps them in the driving seat in the race for the second automatic promotion spot just two season after being relegated from the Championship.

Cardiff are one point further back but kept the heat on Norwich with a 1-0 win at Preston, a result that saw the Lancashire side relegated to League One.

And North End are all but guaranteed to be joined by both Sheffield United and Scunthorpe. Both clubs lie six points off safety with two games to play and with a huge goal swing also required, although the Blades have gone down fighting, with two consecutive 3-2 wins.

Down in League One, Brighton won the title a few weeks back but second is still up for grabs. Southampton and Huddersfield Town both won on Monday and areseparatedonly by goal difference, although the Saints do have a game in hand over the Terriers.

Huddersfield still have a trip to the Champions to come, so the Saints are probably just about favourites, leaving Town facing another crack at the play-offs.

They'll be joined by Peterborough, who have been rejuvenated by the return of Darren Ferguson, and MK Dons, while club legend Steve Fletcher's late winner on Monday strengthened the Cherries' grip on sixth.

At the foot of the third tier, last season's play-off final losers Swindon Town slipped into League Two with more of a whimper than a fight.

First under Danny Wilson and then Paul Hart, the Robins have endured a terrible campaign that has seen them win only eight times in the league, and their fall from Wembley to relegation in 11 months is staggering.

Who joins them in the basement is still very much anyone's guess. Three pointsseparatefour teams and although Plymouth are three points from safety, they have a game in hand but, more importantly, they have form, spirit and fight, three things Swindon have lacked all season.

Walsall currently lie one place above the drop zone but both Bristol Rovers and Dagenham are just one point from safety with two to play.

Passing Swindon into League One, like ships in the night, are Chesterfield, who sealed promotion on Good Friday, and Bury, who won at Chesterfield on Monday.

Wycombe currently lie in the third automatic spot after a routine win over Crewe saw them leap-frog Shrewsbury, who could only muster a point at home to play-off bound Accrington.

Torquay drew a thriller 3-3 at Burton, but the two dropped points gave Stevenage the chance to climb ahead of the Devon side and into the top seven.

At the bottom, Stockport's 106-year stay in the Football League is over. A 2-2 draw with Northampton was not enough to secure a stay of execution, and the relegation comes at the end of a torrid couple of seasons.

The second relegation spot is still undecided and could go right to the wire. Barnet followed up Friday's awesome away win at Gillingham with a point at home to Oxford, while Northampton and Lincoln are both still in grave danger of being caught by the Bees.

As Football League fans recover from a hectic Easter Monday and prepare to do it all again on Saturday, spare a thought for supporters of Preston, Swindon and, most importantly, Stockport. Relegation is a fact of life as a Football League fan, but to enjoy the good times, you need to experience the bad.

Just ask Norwich City.

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:terry pierce
Terry was born and bred in Wiltshire, and is a massive Swindon fan - travelling the length of the country most weekends to watch the 'mighty' Reds. He also manages a successful(ish) Sunday league side, and his life pretty much revolves around football. Five-year-old Terry was in the crowd when Swindon won promotion to the Premier League in 1993 with a 4-3 play-off win against Leicester. He cried after every goal. Read Terry's thoughts every week on life outside the Premier League. Follow Terry on Twitter @telpierce.

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