Football League round-up: Buoyant Sam Allardyce expects West Ham promotion

 

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The Independent Online

Sam Allardyce believes West Ham have banished the poor home form which cost his side automatic promotion as they head into the play-offs this week.

The Hammers won a club record 13 matches on their travels this season, but managed to drop 28 points at Upton Park, with six draws and a defeat from seven matches earlier this year seeing them slip out of the Championship's top two.

Saturday's 2-1 home success over Hull was not enough to clinch promotion after Southampton secured second spot by seeing off Coventry, and they now head to Cardiff on Thursday for the first leg of their semi-final before the return a week today.

But Allardyce is buoyant ahead of the tie. "We've just battered Brighton 6-0. We also had a terrific comeback to draw 3-3 with Birmingham, so now our home form is as good as it is away," he said. "We'll go to Cardiff with the confidence that we have beaten them 2-0 at their place already and we'll go with the confidence that we are the third best team in this league."

On paper, West Ham should prevail, having finished 11 points ahead of Cardiff, but Allardyce will ensure his team do not get complacent. "What's gone on before doesn't matter," he said. "You go into the play-offs as equals."

In League One, Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson conceded that the only way his side will seal promotion is now by the play-offs after they were held 2-2 at home by Stevenage, a result which allowed neighbours Sheffield Wednesday, who won 2-1 at Brentford, to leapfrog them into the second automatic promotion place with one game left. "I expect Sheffield Wednesday to win at home next week so that will mean we're in the play-offs," he admitted. "If we can go to Exeter and win, we'll just see what happens." At the foot of the table, Wycombe Wanderers, Chesterfield and Exeter all lost and will join Rochdale in the basement next season.

The Swindon Town manager Paolo Di Canio said winning League Two was his favourite moment in his professional career after his team pulverised Port Vale 5-0 to gain promotion to League One as champions. "As a player I won Serie A and the Uefa Cup, but this is the best because it is my first trophy as a manager," enthused Di Canio.

"It is not about the medal," he explained. "It is about taking charge of a team and my players deserve a lot of credit. We have been the best team in the division all season and deserve to go up as champions."

Some 33 years after leading Shrewsbury Town up to the old Division Two in 1979, the Shrews' manager Graham Turner repeated the feat to guide the club to automatic promotion to League One by sealing a second-placed finish after beating Dagenham and Redbridge 1-0.

"This club deserves to be playing at a higher level so there's a difference between 1979, when there weren't so many expectations, to this season when people were expecting us to do what we've done," Turner explained.

Ups and downs...and play-off dates

Championship

Reading and Southampton are promoted. West Ham United, Birmingham City, Blackpool and Cardiff City are in the play-offs. Doncaster Rovers, Coventry City and Portsmouth are relegated.

League One

Charlton are promoted. Sheffield Wednesday or Sheffield United will join them. Huddersfield and MK Dons are in the play-offs. Notts County, Stevenage or Carlisle will join them. Rochdale, Chesterfield, Exeter and Wycombe are down.

League Two

Swindon and Shrewsbury are automatically promoted, and will be joined by either Crawley, Torquay or Southend. Macclesfield relegated, plus either Hereford or Barnet.

Championship play-off dates

Thurs & 7 May Cardiff v West Ham

Fri & 9 May Blackpool v Birmingham

Final 19 May (Wembley)

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