Filed: Saturday, 21st April 2012
By: Staff Writer
Middlesbrough have beaten Southampton 2-1 at the Riverside this afternoon - keeping alive West Ham United's slim hopes of clinching automatic promotion for another 48 hours at least.
The defeat for Southampton - which meant Reading were confirmed as Champions - leaves them five points clear of West Ham with just one game of the season left to play, at home to Coventry City next weekend.
But should the Hampshire side lose or draw on the final day, Sam Allardyce's side can still overtake the Saints should they manage to win their final two games of the campaign at Leicester on Monday night and at home to Hull at the Boleyn Ground next Saturday.
Initially it looked like plain sailing at the Riverside Stadium for Nigel Adkins' side - who would have guaranteed promotion with a win today - after they took the lead through Billy Sharp with just 46 seconds on the clock.
However Nicky Bailey's equaliser on the stroke of half time - followed by Merouane Zemmama's dramatic winner with just 13 minutes left on the clock - maintained 'Boro's slim hopes of reaching the play-offs whilst keeping West Ham's admittedly slim hopes of finishing in the top two alive.
The omens aren't particularly good for West Ham as Southampton's opponents next weekend were relegated from the Championship today by virtue of a 2-0 defeat at home to bottom club Doncaster.
But with the Saints having thrown away the footballing equivalent of two match points already - following defeats against Reading and now Middlesbrough - who's to say there won't be one final twist in what has already proved to be a remarkable season?
Championship: Top of Table
1. Reading 45-89 69-39 +30
2. Soton 45 85-81-46 +35
3. West Ham 44-80 77-46 +31
Mon, 23 April: Leicester City v West Ham Utd (7:45pm)
Sat, 28 April: West Ham Utd v Hull City; Southampton v Coventry City (12:30pm)
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