This weekend, Hull City booked their place in next season’s round-up. Cardiff are already confirmed and there shall be a Hunger Games style contest to decide if Watford, Brighton, Leicester or Crystal Palace will seal a coveted place on this site accompanied by woeful picture captions and shoddy analysis. Hopefully it’ll be Crystal Palace because they have a cool name.
But what of the teams that are already here, and those that are living out their final days on the round-up before falling into obscurity and being written about only by proper journalists?
Well Reading may be dead and buried, but they produced a great display in a sensational match against Fulham at Craven Cottage. Hal Robson-Kanu opened the scoring in the 12th minute from the penalty spot after John Arne Riise had fouled him in the box.
The game ambled along until a goal flurry in the second half. Robson-Kanu bagged a second in the 62nd minute as the ball fell kindly to him in the box and he curled a shot past Mark Schwarzer.
The home side pulled a goal back as Bryan Ruiz supplied a cool finish to end a slick move with Hugo Rodallega on 70 minutes, but just 5 minutes later substitute Adam Le Fondre reinstated the Royals’ two goal lead.
Then just two minutes later, Ruiz had another, heading in a fantastic ball into the box from Alex Kacaniklic. Hectic. Hugo Rodallega smashed an effort off the crossbar before Jem Karacan secured Nigel Adkins’ first win as Reading manager, smashing a shot in from the edge of the box in the 83rd minute. Sadly it’s too late for Reading and we shall not speak of them here next season.
Wigan travelled to West Brom where another thrilling encounter was served up on the dinner plate that is The Hawthorns. This sort of nonsensical rambling is exactly what the Latics hope to be a part of next season, but the Baggies took the lead after 29 minutes, Romelu Lukaku sliding a pass to an advancing Markus Rosenburg who played a perfect ball in for Shane Long for a tap-in.
West Brom looked comfortable with their lead but out of the blue, Arouna Kone headed in a cross from Jean Beausejour on 39 minutes.
The Baggies regained their lead in the second half as slack defending from the Latics allowed Gareth McAuley to nod in a Graham Dorrans free-kick on 50 minutes.
Wigan’s equaliser came on 58 minutes, substitute James McArthur had only been on the pitch for a minute before heading in a cross from the lively Shaun Maloney.
Maloney had a hand in Wigan’s dramatic late winner, twinkling his way through the box in the 80th minute before handing Calum McManaman a goal on a plate.
Latics keeper Joel Robles played his part in securing a vital three points for Roberto Martinez’s strugglers, thwarting a terrific effort from Dorrans late on.
A resurgent Aston Villa travelled to Norwich. Gabriel Agbonlahor opened the scoring for the visitors in the 55th minute, picking up the ball in his own half before drifting through the Canaries defence and unleashing a shot as he approached the edge of the box.
Villa defender Joe Bennett was lucky to still be on the pitch at the end of the 90 minutes, picking up an early booking and getting away without a second for several fouls, including giving away a penalty. He was clearly desperate for a shower.
Robert Snodgrass was fouled and Grant Holt scored from the spot on 74 minutes.
Agbonlahor provided another fine goal, fitting for a winner, in the 89th minute as Villa continue to rise from a previously perilous placing in the table.
The game between Spurs and Southampton started late after traffic problems around White Hart Lane and it took an equally late Gareth Bale strike to keep Tottenham’s Champions League dreams alive.
The Saints started well, Nathaniel Clyne bursting free of the Spurs defence within the first ten minutes before shooting wide. Hugo Lloris had to be at his best to push a Rickie Lambert free-kick onto the post with his fingertips.
The man who has won three player of the year awards in the past week came to Spurs’ rescue, cutting in onto his left foot and unleashing yet another scorcher of a shot into the back of the net in the 86th minute. A late Bale out for AVB’s men. Chuckle.
West Ham and Newcastle shared the points in a goalless draw at Upton Park. Papiss Cisse came closest to scoring in the first half, the striker denied a goal after his shot trickled towards the net but was cleared off the line by Winston Reid. It looked like a close call, but replays showed that the whole of the ball wasn’t over the line.
The Hammers put their visitors under pressure late on, and Magpies keeper Rob Elliot produced heroics to deny Kevin Nolan and Matt Jarvis.
Swansea and Manchester City also drew 0-0 in a game devoid of any inspiration. Match of the Day commentator Steve Wilson should win a prize for summing it up like this: “a Polish art house movie…it wiles away an afternoon, but a bit more plot wouldn’t go amiss.” He should do this round-up from now on.
Both teams had little to play for, and it was a Bosnian who most prominently fluffed his lines. Edin Dzeko missed from close range, perhaps summing up City’s season. Somehow. Michu also made a meal of a good chance and David Silva blasted wide as some of the best players of the season took an early holiday, which you would do when you have lots of money and can go wherever you want. Thailand probably.
In the tea-time kick-off, relegated QPR welcomed Arsenal. It could easily have been an episode of You’ve Been Framed being shown on ESPN as QPR made a shambolic start. Theo Walcott gave the Gunners the lead after just 20 seconds, Mikel Arteta playing the ball into the box for the England winger to slot home without being troubled by anyone in blue and white hoops.
In the second half the Rs looked a lot better but the Gunners held on. Wojciech Szczesny produced a fine save to deny Loic Remy and kept their chances of having yet another Champions League campaign high.
On Sunday, Liverpool and Everton did battle in a bland Merseyside Derby. The first half was played at a high tempo but there was little action to trouble Tim Howard or Pepe Reina. So far, so yawn.
The biggest talking point of the game came in the second half. The Toffees had the ball in the back of the net after Sylvain Distin got his head to a corner, but the effort was ruled out after referee Michael Oliver whistled for Victor Anichebe impeding Reina. And that was about it. Poor old Jamie Carragher has to have this as his final derby.
Snoozy Sunday continued as Manchester United welcomed Chelsea. There was little excitement in the game until the very end. In a lacklustre first half, Oscar had a shot saved by Anders Lindegaard and Robin Van Persie sent a shot just wide of Petr Cech’s post.
The game trundled along with an air of half-heartedness until Chelsea took a late lead. In the 87th minute, Oscar played in Juan Mata and the Spaniard’s shot deflected off Phil Jones and into the bottom corner.
As the game finally came to life 87 minutes too late, Rafael was soon sent off for kicking out at fellow countryman David Luiz, the Chelsea defender laughing smugly as one of United’s top performers this season lost his cool and received the Reds’ first red of the season. From Howard Webb, too, hopefully signalling the end of the “Webb is a Man Utd player chortle chortle chortle” jokes that plague this world.