REUTERS - Newcastle United sewed up the Championship title on Sunday, beating Barnsley 3-0 to finish above Brighton & Hove Albion and return to the Premier League with a bang on a frantic final day at both ends of England’s second-tier.
Brighton finished second after drawing 1-1 at mid-table Aston Villa, while at the other end of the table Nottingham Forest pulled off a narrow escape as 1995 Premier League champions Blackburn Rovers were relegated.
Forest looked set for the drop after Blackburn took a 2-0 first-half lead at Brentford, but Britt Assombalonga scored a penalty to put the twice European champions back in the box seat.
Chris Cohen doubled Forest’s lead after the interval and Assombalonga missed a second penalty, but made amends with a powerful shot from inside the area to give Forest a 3-0 victory that kept them up on goal difference.
Blackburn’s 3-1 victory over Brentford could not prevent them from dropping into the third-tier next season, alongside already relegated Wigan Athletic and Rotherham United.
”I couldn’t have asked for any more from my players,“ Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray told Sky Sports. ”It’s hard on us but that’s football, we’ll see what the summer brings...
“It is what it is. I’ll teach them what it takes to become a winning unit.”
Goals from Ayoze Perez, Chancel Mbema and Dwight Gayle were enough to help Newcastle and manager Rafa Benitez finish a point above Brighton, whose hopes of winning the title were dashed at the death.
Glenn Murray put Brighton ahead from the penalty spot but Jack Grealish levelled for Villa in the 89th minute to break Brighton hearts.
Both Newcastle and Brighton had already secured promotion before Sunday’s action.
“It’s always good to win trophies, but when... you have to work so hard for promotion and after to win the title you are really proud of your people, your staff, your players, everyone involved,” Benitez said. “It has been a fantastic season.”
Birmingham, who were also in danger of relegation and brought in Harry Redknapp as manager last month to help keep them in the Championship, held on for a narrow 1-0 win over Bristol City to stay up, two points clear of Forest and Blackburn.
“We could hear the cheers going up from the Bristol City fans and we knew we needed a win today,” Redknapp said. “It was not an easy place to come and win. I‘m so proud of the boys, they were fantastic.”
Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield and Fulham finished in the playoff places, with Fulham set to meet Reading in the first leg of the semi-finals next Saturday and Huddersfield taking on Wednesday a day later.
Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis