EFL PERMUTATIONS: Ipswich and Plymouth promoted from League One

EFL PERMUTATIONS: Ipswich and Plymouth promoted from League One, Stevenage join Leyton Orient in automatic promotion from fourth tier but Northampton Town fail to join them this weekend – while the Championship’s play-off race will go to the wire

  • The EFL saw its penultimate Saturday of the regular season take place 
  • Ipswich and Plymouth will be playing Championship football from next season
  • Northampton Town blow chance to go up from League Two this weekend

The English Football League saw its penultimate Saturday of the regular season take place, with a number of clubs achieving their ultimate dreams while others will be forced to start planning for at least a season in the tier below from August.

Much had been left to be decided heading into the afternoon, with relegation and the final two play-off spots in the Championship still up in the air.

Meanwhile, in League One, Plymouth and Ipswich achieved automatic promotion at the expense of Sheffield Wednesday, whose dire recent run sees them drop into the play-offs.

In League Two, Stevenage, managed by the oft-controversial Steve Evans, joined Leyton Orient in being promoted automatically to the third tier. Northampton Town, who needed a win to join them, lost 2-1 at home to Bradford City meaning they face an agonising week to try and get the job done next weekend.

Here, Mail Sport runs you through all of the crucial EFL permutations after another hectic afternoon of action for clubs below the Premier League.

Ipswich were promoted from League One after hammering Exeter City 6-0 at Portman Road

Plymouth Argyle were also promoted automatically with Sheffield Wednesday needing the play-offs

Northampton Town potentially face another agonising final day after failing to beat Bradford

The Championship 

Automatic – Burnley and Sheffield United

Both Burnley and Sheffield United have enjoyed remarkable seasons, both of which have been well-documented.

Vincent Kompany and Paul Heckingbottom, respectively, having done brilliant jobs, perhaps sometimes against the odds, to haul their clubs back to the big time.

Play-offs – Luton and Middlesbrough + two more 

Below them, however, things are less rosy – and certainly more uncertain. And a lot more confusing. Luton and Middlesbrough are confirmed to be taking part in this season’s play-offs, with their positions in third and fourth secured regardless of what happens from here.

The race for the other play-off spots, however, is fascinating. The table currently reads having Coventry (69 points) and Millwall (68 points) joining them, both having played 45 games, but with four points separating fifth to ninth (Blackburn Rovers, 65 points, having played a game fewer) that is not certain.

West Brom, despite a myriad of financial problems and issues currently rocking the club, could also sneak in. Their defeating of Norwich on Saturday means they have 66 points after 45 games, though will need Coventry to lose and Millwall, Blackburn and Sunderland to drop points. Unlikely, but not out of the question.

Coventry beat Birmingham City 2-0 on Saturday afternoon meaning they need a win next weekend to be sure of a place in the play-offs. Should they finish fifth, they will play Middlesbrough, who they happen to play on the final day.

Millwall, who beat Blackpool in dramatic fashion on Friday evening, sending The Tangerines down, are in sixth and will stay there if they win next weekend. But, they face Blackburn at The Den. They can finish with a maximum of 71 points.

Blackburn host Luton on Monday night in their penultimate game, a win would take them level on points with Millwall. Jon Dahl Tomasson’s side have a far superior goal difference over Gary Rowett’s, meaning if they win on Monday and they will only need a point to usurp Millwall. 

Coventry City won 2-0 at home to take a big step towards the play-offs in front of a packed home ground

Should Blackburn fail to beat Luton, the maximum number of points they can finish with is 69, meaning Coventry will be secured in the play-off places, leaving four teams scrapping for one place.

Sunderland, who salvaged a late draw at home to Watford that does little to help their case, could start the final day in ninth. They will need results to go their way should they want to sneak in, including needing Luton to take at least a point off Blackburn on Monday evening.

The maximum number of points the Black Cats can finish on is 69, meaning they need both Coventry and Millwall to lose. Their goal difference of 10, higher than most of those around them, could prove crucial. 

Should they win at Preston North End on the final day, and Coventry lose to Middlesborough, they will get in by virtue of Millwall and Blackburn having to play each other and both sides, of course, being unable to win.

West Brom need to beat Swansea away, while hoping Blackburn lose to Luton and then beat Millwall, while hoping Sunderland simultaneously fail to beat Preston.

Relegation – Wigan and Blackpool + one more

Slightly less complicated than the play-off race, but with its own quirks and twists, certainly.

Wigan Athletic and Blackpool are gone, by virtue of Huddersfield Town and Reading, in 21st and 22nd respectively, needing to play each other.

Cardiff City’s survival, meanwhile, was confirmed by Reading’s 1-1 draw with Wigan.

Rotherham, currently in 20th on 46 points having played 44, one fewer than Reading, need just two points or a win from their final two games to confirm survival. They host Middlesbrough on Monday.

Reading will need results to go in their favour and hope to beat Huddersfield on the final day

Should Huddersfield win at Cardiff on Sunday, they will need only a point against Sheffield United in the week to relegate Reading, who are in the position they are owing to a points deduction earlier this month.

Huddersfield and Reading play each other on the final day, so if Huddersfield get a point, two points or indeed no points from their two games in hand, it will come down to a straight shootout at the John Smiths Stadium on the Coronation Weekend.

League One 

Automatic – Plymouth and Ipswich

Plymouth and Ipswich are up. Sheffield Wednesday’s remarkable collapse in the last month or so sees them drop into the play-offs. The two automatically promoted sides could both get 100 points.  

Kieran McKenna is held aloft by his players after Ipswich put together a stunning run to secure promotion

Play-offs  – Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley + two others

South Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley are confirmed to be taking part in the play-offs, they will finish third and fourth, respectively.

Bolton will definitely be in there, but are unsure whether they will finish fifth or sixth at present. They have 78 points and are currently fifth.

Below them, Peterborough and Derby carry hopes of securing the final spot. Should Derby beat Sheffield Wednesday, there is nothing The Posh can do – they trail the East Midlands side by two points.

Peterborough face Barnsley on the final day, should they win and Derby lose, they will sneak in. The highest they can finish is sixth, while Derby can climb to fifth should they win and Bolton lose.

Relegation – Forest Green Rovers + three more

Cambridge United secured an imperative win at Accrington Stanley on Saturday afternoon which means they have given themselves a hope of survival.

They currently sit in 22nd, third from bottom, with 43 points from their 44 games so far. Their game in hand is against Burton Albion on Wednesday night. Should they win that, they will leapfrog both Morecambe and MK Dons, currently in 21st and 20th respectively on 44 points each. MK Dons would drop into the relegation zone.

Four sides get relegated from League One, meaning consecutive Cambridge wins on Wednesday and then on the final day would see MK Dons, Morecambe and Accrington Stanley go down. None of those sides could avert that.

John Coleman’s Accrington Stanley side are on the brink and will need a miracle from here

Accrington Stanley face Oxford United in their final game, and know results need to fall in their favour, including significant goal swings. 

Should they beat Oxford, they will finish with 44 points. They would then need one of the aforementioned three sides above them in the table to lose, and lose handsomely.

Cambridge have a goal difference of -28, Morecambe’s is -30 and MK Dons’s is far superior at -22. Accrington’s is -38. It seems incredibly unlikely a 16-goal swing will occur, meaning they are reliant on one of Morecambe or Cambridge.

Saturday’s loss against Cambridge looks to have put the writing on the wall for Accrington, who have one leg in the grave.

League Two

Automatic – Leyton Orient and Stevenage + one more

Stevenage joined Leyton Orient in celebrating automatic promotion with a 2-0 win over Grimsby Town on Saturday.

Northampton Town would have joined them, but lost 2-1 at home to Mark Hughes’ Bradford City, conceding a last minute goal, meaning they will need to win next weekend against Tranmere to be sure of promotion. 

The Cobblers were burnt last season after Bristol Rovers produced an astonishing goal-difference swing with a 7-0 victory over Scunthorpe. Their supporters will be praying to avoid yet further final day heartache.

Should they fail to win and Stockport County win, the Lancashire side will go up automatically. They currently have 78 points to Northampton’s 80.

Steve Evans celebrated wildly as his Stevenage side were promoted to League Two

Play-offs – Northampton or Stockport + three others

One of Northampton or Stockport, plus three others, battling it out for the fourth promotion place.

It’s tight. Very tight. Bradford will join one of the aforementioned sides with a win or a point against Crewe Alexandra in midweek, having played a game fewer than Mansfield Town in eighth. They currently have 75 points.

Above them, at the moment, are Carlisle United and Salford City. Neither of them play against each other, so both know that a win or a draw on the final day will be enough for them to secure their spots in the play-offs. They are level on points with Bradford.

Bradford’s late goal means they need just a point from their remaining two games to secure play-off spot

Mansfield will need, likely, one of Salford or Carlisle to slip up – and for there to be a goal swing. They have a goal difference of 15, with Salford’s currently 19 and Carlisle’s 23.

Salford play Gillingham, who have nothing to play for, while Carlisle travel to Sutton, also with nothing to play for.

Relegation – Hartlepool and Rochdale 

Hartlepool and Rochdale are already down. Crawley can breathe a big sigh of relief. Wrexham and one other, from the play-offs, will come up. 



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