Monday 18 December 2017

Bournemouth on brink after Watford promotion joy

Eddie Howe's Bournemouth side will be promoted to the Premier League if they secure all three points against Brighton tonight
Eddie Howe's Bournemouth side will be promoted to the Premier League if they secure all three points against Brighton tonight
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Bournemouth will be promoted to the Premier League if they take three points from tonight's visit of Bolton Wanderers after a dramatic weekend which saw Watford sealing a top-flight berth.

The Londoners won at Brighton on Saturday lunchtime and then followed events from elsewhere on the team bus as 10-man Norwich could only manage a draw at Rotherham while Middlesbrough lost 4-3 to Fulham in a chaotic encounter.

Slavisa Jokanovic, Watford's fourth manager this season, chose to leave out Irish U-21 defender Tommie Hoban for the Brighton mission but promotion should raise the profile of a well-regarded player. His compatriot Sean Murray has been sidelined with injury since the New Year and faces a battle to be part of their plans next season.

Bournemouth enter the Bolton game in second place, level on points with Middlesbrough and one ahead of Norwich but their markedly superior goal difference means they are a solitary win away from getting over the line.

Irish midfielder Harry Arter will seek to pull the strings after the disappointment of missing out on the PFA Championship Team of the Year.

Three members of Martin O'Neill's regular squad did win the acclaim of their peers with Keiren Westwood selected in goal for his Sheffield Wednesday displays, Derby's Richard Keogh nominated in defence and the prolific Daryl Murphy rewarded for the finest season of his career.

He scored his 25th of the season on Saturday to help Ipswich towards a 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest that keeps them in the play-off places.

Ipswich sit fifth and need a draw from their journey to Blackburn next weekend to ensure their place in the end-of-season drama.

Derby are a point behind them after a late instinctive volley from Jeff Hendrick to nab a 3-3 draw at The Den broke the hearts of David Forde's relegation-threatened Millwall.

Steve McClaren's side are two ahead of Brentford and Wolves and their goal difference means they just have to avoid defeat at home to Reading to give themselves a chance of making up for last year's heartbreak at Wembley.

A three-point deduction for Rotherham has given Millwall fresh hope at the bottom and they were out of the drop zone midway through the second half on Saturday as they led 3-1 while their rivals trailed Norwich. Young Irish striker Aiden O'Brien gave away a contested penalty that opened the door for a Derby comeback.

The fact that both their games eventually ended level means that Forde's boys could go down tomorrow if Rotherham beat Reading in their game in hand with a point between the sides as it stands.

Millwall have a trickier closing game too as they travel to Wolves while Rotherham lock horns with a Leeds side that have nothing to play for. James McClean was sent off as Wigan missed out on the opportunity to move level with Rotherham by losing to Wolves and they require a collapse from their two rivals and an upset at Brentford to complete an unlikely escape. The dismissal could prove to be the Derry lad's last act in a Wigan shirt.

Meanwhile, Eoin Doyle struck a pair of penalties for Cardiff as they struggled to a 3-2 triumph over already-relegated Blackpool to cap a weekend where he was voted into the PFA's League One side for his pre-Christmas exploits for Chesterfield that earned the January move.

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