Steele lifts Orient to match the joy of Essex

Colchester reach the second tier as Dons and Hartlepool fall and Leyton condemn Oxford
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The Independent Football

Tense, nervous headaches? They were to be found the length and breadth of the country yesterday because there were very few League One and Two matches on which a promotion, relegation or play-off issue did not rest. But at the final whistle there was joy in Essex and East London as Colchester United and Leyton Orient grabbed the final promotion places in One and Two respectively, and Southend United were crowned League One champions. By contrast misery ruled in Oxford, Hartlepool and Milton Keynes as relegation for their clubs were confirmed.

Phil Parkinson's Colchester grabbed the point they needed to earn promotion to the Championship, their first ever campaign in the second flight, thanks to an edgy goalless draw at Yeovil, while a 2-2 draw at Bournemouth was not enough for Brentford to pip them.

It had looked promising for the Bees when Sam Sodje gave them an early lead, but Steve Foley levelled on the stroke of half-time. Andy Frampton restored the visitors' lead before the Cherries' Adam Griffiths and Brentford's Sodje were sent off and Steve Fletcher equalised for Bournemouth.

Southend, promoted last weekend, were crowned League One champions when they beat Bristol City at Roots Hall, substitute Wayne Gray scoring the game's only goal three minutes from the end. Gray was on for Shaun Goater, playing his last match before retiring to Bermuda, and the striker, who also played for Bristol, was given a rousing ovation by both sets of fans (and roughly 300 from another former club, Manchester City) as he left the pitch.

At the bottom, Hartlepool United, held to a 1-1 draw by visitors Port Vale, and Milton Keynes Dons, involved in a goalless draw at Rotherham United, go down with Swindon Town and Walsall.

With Huddersfield Town and Brentford already qualified for the League One play-offs, Leon Knight scored a hat-trick as Swansea City beat Chesterfield 4-0, to hold off Nottingham Forest's late challenge and set up two matches with the Bees. Barnsley held on to the other play-off berth and set up a Yorkshire derby semi-final against the Terriers, thanks to a 2-1 win at relegated Walsall.

In League Two, it looked as though Grimsby Town would be promoted when Jean-Paul Kamudimba kept his nerve to net a 75th-minute penalty against Northampton Town. But the Cobblers, themselves already promoted, are strong away from home and Ryan Gilligan's equaliser quickly followed by Lee Steele's late winner for Orient at Oxford handed promotion to Martin Ling's East London side, demotion to the Conference for the Bulls and a play-off date to Grimsby.

Joining the Mariners in the League Two play-offs are Cheltenham Town, who limbered up for the extra games with a 5-0 thrashing of Mansfield Town, goals by Steve Gillespie, Ashley Vincent, Grant McCann, David Bird and Kayode Odejayi, while their opponents, Wycombe Wanderers, also showed good form with a 2-0 win at Peterborough United, Jermaine Easter and Mike Williamson on target. Lincoln City, who drew 1-1 with Rochdale, meet Grimsby.

THE LAST-CHANCE AFTERNOON

League One

Champions: Southend United Promoted: Colchester United Play-offs: Brentford, Huddersfield Town, Barnsley, Swansea City Relegated: Hartlepool United, MK Dons, Swindon Town, Walsall

League Two

Champions: Carlisle United Promoted: Northampton Town, Leyton Orient Play-offs: Grimsby Town, Cheltenham Town, Wycombe W, Lincoln City Relegated: Oxford Utd, Rushden & D

Conference

Promoted: Accrington Stanley Play-offs: Hereford United, Grays Athletic, Halifax, Morecambe Relegated: Scarborough, Altrincham (deducted 18 points for fielding an ineligible player)

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