Rotherham’s relegation from the Championship was finally confirmed on Saturday, while Newcastle United and Brighton and Hove Albion pulled clear in the fight to secure promotion to the Premier League.
The Millers have endured a sorry campaign and came into Saturday’s meeting with Fulham knowing only victory would keep them alive.
It was not to be, on a day of widespread defeats in the scrap at the bottom.
WRETCHED ROTHERHAM’S FATE SEALED
Rotherham have picked up a solitary point on their travels this season, but a return to home surrounds could not help them beat the drop.
A positive start, in which David Button denied Lee Frecklington, soon faded and the Cottagers struck the crucial blow midway through the second half as Sone Aluko bundled home a scrappy effort.
FT | Millers 0 v 1 Fulham. Aluko’s second half strike confirms #rufc‘s relegation to League One as the Cottagers record victory in Rotherham
— Rotherham United (@OfficialRUFC) April 1, 2017
Victory was a huge one for Fulham, as they took advantage of Sheffield Wednesday’s draw against Barnsley earlier in the day to leapfrog the Owls into the final play-off spot.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s side had gradually reeled in Wednesday with a run of eight unbeaten matches before going down to Wolves before the international break, but they are now in the driver’s seat.
While the Cottagers begin to dream of the Premier League, it will be third-tier football for Rotherham in 2017-18.
PIG STOPPED PLAY
The South Yorkshire derby between Barnsley and Wednesday featured an injury-time equaliser from the Tykes’ Angus MacDonald, but the game was all about Sam Winnall’s return to Oakwell.
Striker Winnall left Barnsley for Wednesday in January after submitting a transfer request and the home fans’ feelings were made clear in the fifth minute when a toy pig was thrown onto the pitch, briefly stopping play.
5 – Slight delay in the match. Pig thrown onto the pitch. #COYR
— Barnsley FC (@bfc_official) April 1, 2017
Winnall silenced the boo-boys to put the Owls ahead five minutes into the second half, but MacDonald’s thumping header, after intense Barnsley pressure, cost Wednesday two points and their top-six place.
TOP TWO IN A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
Newcastle and Brighton have deservedly led the way this season, and wins over Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers respectively – coupled with Huddersfield Town losing to Burton Albion – put the top two clear.
Brighton are now nine points ahead of third-placed Huddersfield, with Newcastle a point further on in first place.
The victories were typical of the season. Glenn Murray sealed Brighton’s 1-0 win with Dwight Gayle’s 22nd of the season and a Matt Ritchie effort guiding the Magpies past Wigan 2-1.
Burton’s victory, sealed in the 96th minute by Jackson Irvine, could prove crucial at the bottom, helping them leap four points clear of the drop zone, with Blackburn’s first defeat under Tony Mowbray keeping them 22nd, a point adrift of Bristol City, who followed up thrashing Huddersfield by going down 2-0 at Brentford.
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