It was a Bad Weekend for… Men, dinosaurs and Bees

It was a Bad Weekend for…

Men in black (and white)There’s no doubt that this has been a massive week. Forget Luis Suarez and all that, news of JLS splitting up (they only had one shot, and they made it count) shook a world already slipping off its axis at the realisation the Bundesliga had taken over football. And so it was on Saturday that the Premier League represented a welcome break for us all.

All except Newcastle, still shaken from their derby defeat of a fortnight ago (and the aforementioned JLS bombshell), abysmal for 90 minutes and worth every bit of a 6-0 home defeat to Liverpool – their worst for nearly a century.

That is not to say Liverpool weren’t magnificent. They were efficient with possession and clever with their movement. Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson were able to roam and play with freedom, while the visitors were unusually clinical, scoring six goals from just 11 shots. Remember, this was a side deprived of their top scorer: manager Brendan Rodgers wore a ghastly black shirt/tie combo in mourning for his suspended Uruguayan. Or was it a tribute to Kop favourite Johnny Cash?

But as good as Liverpool were on Saturday, Newcastle were much worse. Following this defeat the Magpies are just five points above the drop zone and give the appearance of a side sleepwalking their way to relegation. The lack of remaining games and the general incompetency of the sides below them may well save the Toon but this has been a rotten year for last season’s surprise package.

The bottom twoIt’s customary to feel sorry for relegated clubs, empathising with their fans for the heartache of dropping a division after a season of false hope. But any sympathy evaporated over 90 listless, turgid minutes at Reading as the Premier League’s bottom two served up a terrible advert for Championship football.

We sympathise for the 23,388 fans at the Madejski Stadium, who lost time they will never, ever get back, but the goalless draw that confirmed both Reading and QPR’s relegations will have surely made every neutral thrilled to see the back of both.

Shearer, Hansen and LawroThough in danger of being touted the ‘Poor Man’s Gary Neville’, Everton’s Phil Neville took his seat on the Match of the Day sofa on Saturday to test his punditry chops next to the mighty Alan ‘never heard of Hatem Ben Arfa’ Shearer. And it took just a few seconds for Neville Junior to show BBC viewers that there is more to analysis than simply describing exactly what happened out on the pitch.

In the process of talking viewers through Liverpool’s many goals against Newcastle, Neville gave the viewer insight, showed nous and spoke with the simple touch that viewers of Sky’s Monday Night Football have come to love from his elder brother. Meanwhile, when Gary Lineker asked Shearer what had gone wrong for Newcastle, he informed us that they lacked desire. Thanks Alan.

It’s probably too much to ask that Alan Hansen will expand beyond his famed one word summaries (think “Passion. Pace. Desire. Skill. Kick”) or that Mark Lawrenson will tone down his one-man comedy routine. But with Neville leaving Everton this summer, the BBC could do much worse than convince him to sign a contract with them.

Robert MadleyWhat better way to ease into a Premier League refereeing career than with an end-of-season, mid-table contest with nothing at stake? For Robert Madley, West Brom’s visit to Southampton on Saturday ticked all the boxes for his first shot at officiating an elite game – until it all started to go wrong.

Three red cards later and the wrath of fans of both sides weighing heavy, Madley will have travelled home on Saturday teatime seriously debating his latest career move.

Dean SaundersIn a season that has seen its share of questionable managerial moves – Michael Appleton must regret his flit from Blackpool to Blackburn – it’s hard to top Dean Saunders’ mid-season dash from Doncaster Rovers to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

At the time, the switch seemed very clever. League One Doncaster were riding high (as was Saunders’ reputation) while Wolves were in a ‘surely it can’t get any worse’ position after the disastrous tenure of Stale Solbakken. At the time, Doncaster were running into rocky ground – a patch of poor form immediately before and after Saunders’ departure threatened their season – and Wolves were desperate.

Oh, hindsight. In a week where Robert Downey Jr. quipped his way back onto screen as a slightly emo Iron Man, hindsight again proved itself as the one superpower really worth having as Wolves wandered even deeper into Championship relegation trouble by way of a 2-1 home defeat to Burnley. Doncaster, meanwhile, won the League One title, in astonishing circumstances we'll come to further down the page.

Results elsewhere mean that to preserve their Championship status, Wolves need a final-day win, defeats for Peterborough and Barnsley, and a four-goal swing. It’s not impossible but as Scunthorpe proved in League One (relegated despite beating play-off-bound Swindon 3-1), when you put your fate in the hands of others even the biggest of efforts can prove fruitless.

As for Saunders, though he's no superhero, you can forgive him too for feeling a little bit emo as he contemplates his passage back to League One – while the club he left behind celebrates leapfrogging him.

BeesWhat a weekend for bees! A late spring and growing use of pesticides, coupled with three years of unpredictable weather, has seen the UK’s bee population plummet. Now there are real concerns over honey quantities and crop yields dependent on the insects’ famed pollination skills.

But the sorry plight of our bee population dives almost into insignificance when compared with our footballing Bees.

Brentford started the day in third place in League One, two points behind the team they faced at Griffin Park, Doncaster. The maths were simple: if Brentford won, they would be promoted. If they didn’t, they would wind up in the play-offs and Doncaster would go up automatically.

A tense and even game all came down to a 95th-minute ‘next goal wins’ scenario when Brentford were awarded a penalty. Club captain Kevin O’Connor was the man whom Brentford manager Uwe Rosler “selected to take the penalty”, but Marcello Trotta grabbed the ball – and in the excitement and tension of the moment, the Bees players decided among themselves to entrust the Italian loanee, rather than the 486-appearance legend in his 15th year at the club, with the kick that would take them to the Championship.

As Trotta's penalty crashed against the crossbar Brentford’s players and fans stopped, stunned, knowing their chance of automatic promotion was gone. Worse was to come for the Bees, as Doncaster raced up the other end to score a winner through their own long servant James Coppinger. It was a goal that would ultimately win them the title at the expense of Bournemouth, who finished second after a goalless draw at Tranmere.

Meanwhile in League Two, a seven-way battle to avoid relegation came to rest on the results of just two games: AFC Wimbledon’s home clash against Fleetwood, and Barnet’s visit to Northampton. Wimbledon had started the day in the bottom two with Aldershot (relegated after a brave but unsurprising 2-0 defeat at Rotherham, who achieved promotion) and a goal difference that was the worst in the division. In short, only a win would do.

And just like the League One promotion chase, League Two’s relegation battle came down to a penalty kick. With the scores tied at 1-1, Jack Midson netted from 12 yards to put Wimbledon ahead with 18 minutes remaining. Depending on results elsewhere, this could have relegated any one of four other clubs, or even Wimbledon themselves.

Fortunately for Wimbledon, at roughly the same time, Northampton were knocking in a quickfire double that would ultimately send Barnet – Edgar Davids and all – to non-league football.

Leagues One and Two have been as rich and entertaining as ever and will be massively missed over the final few weeks of the season, with most Premier League business taken care of and the Championship ending next week.

But no fear – the play-offs start on Thursday.