Birmingham win promotion back to Premier League

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The Independent Football

Birmingham clinched automatic promotion to the Barclays Premier League with a 2-1 win over Reading, condemning their hosts to the play-offs.

Reading goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann gifted the visitors the lead in the 19th minute when Keith Fahey's curled effort from outside the box squirmed through his grasp and over the line.

Kevin Phillips doubled their lead on the hour but seconds later Marek Matejovsky reduced the deficit.

The result ended Sheffield United's hopes of sneaking into the automatic promotion places as their goalless draw at Crystal Palace had little effect on the standings.

Burnley join them in the play-offs following a 4-0 win over Bristol City, thanks to two Graham Alexander penalties either side of Wade Elliott's thunderous volley and a late fourth from Joey Gudjonsson.

Preston beat QPR 2-1 to grab the last play-off spot by virtue of having scored one more goal than promotion-rivals Cardiff.

Sean St Ledger scored the crucial 74th-minute winner after Patrick Agyemang had levelled matters following Jon Parkin's first-half strike.

That ensured final day heartbreak for Cardiff, who lost 1-0 at Sheffield United with Jermaine Johnson's stunning half-volley putting an end to their Premier League dreams.

At the other end of the table, Norwich will be playing in the third tier of English football for the first time since 1960 after they were humiliated 4-2 at Charlton.

The hosts, already relegated, marked their last match in the Championship in style and they were three goals to the good by the half-hour mark thanks to Nick Bailey's opener and a brace from Deon Burton.

Norwich gave themselves a faint lifeline through Alan Lee in first-half stoppage time but things went from bad to worse minutes after the interval when Burton completed his hat-trick.

Sammy Clingan's free-kick reduced the deficit once more but it was too little too late.

The result ensured Barnsley would stay up regardless of their score at Plymouth, but the Tykes triumphed 2-1 to make sure of their Championship status.

Adam Hammill levelled matters after Gary Sawyer's opener and Jamal Campbell-Ryce fired the visitors into the lead shortly after the interval.

Elsewhere, already-relegated Southampton's miserable season continued as they fell to a 3-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest with Luke Chambers, Joe Garner and Robert Earnshaw grabbing the goals for the hosts following Bradley Wright-Phillips' opener.

Champions Wolves wrapped up their campaign with a 1-0 home win over Doncaster, with Richard Stearman's stoppage-time winner ensuring they take the title by seven points.

Roy Keane enjoyed his first home game in charge with his second win in as many games.

Giovani dos Santos and Pablo Counago's first-half goals gave Ipswich a 2-1 win over Coventry, with Clinton Morrison pulling one back late on.

Meanwhile. Blackpool beat Swansea 1-0 thanks to Dudley Campbell's 13th-minute goal and Watford triumphed 3-1 over Derby with a brace from former Rams striker Grzegorz Rasiak and one from Jobi McAnuff in the first-half, before John Eustace's late consolation.