Football League African Round-up
Africans across the Football League had a busy penultimate weekend of the season, as they helped their respective sides to promotion and attempting to avoid relegation.
At the most important stage of the season, African players were at the heart of the action, while some came out on top and helped secure their sides’ promotion, others were left to look back on missed opportunities.
For Adlene Guedioura and Odion Ighalo it was an afternoon to remember, as they helped their side to a 2-0 victory at Brighton and Hove Albion, which meant the Hornets returned to the Premier League for the first time since 2007. Ighalo set up Watford top scorer Troy Deeney for the opening goal on 30 minutes, meaning the Englishman overtook the Nigerian with 21 goals. The 25-year-old came close with a header a minute later, but could not find the net, and his work was not done as he set up Guedioura, who could not convert from awkward angle on 53 minutes. Meanwhile, Brighton’s Kazenga LuaLua couldn’t convert with ten minutes remaining, and Middlesbrough loanee Mustapha Carayol was replaced by Craig Mackail-Smith on 60 minutes.
Albert Adomah‘s Middlesbrough on the other hand, had an afternoon that will live long in the memory of the supporters, but for the wrong reasons. The Ghanaian had the chance to level the game up just after the break, before setting up Lee Tomlin, however, neither could find the net at Fulham, a goal down. Adomah did though, manage to set up Daniel Ayala for Boro’s second, to make it 3-2 to Fulham. The visiting supporters began to sense luck was on their side, before Adomah’s effort was blocked right at the death, as Fulham’s Ross McCormack found an opening, with Boro keeper Dimitrios Konstantopoulos up for the corner, meaning an open net to steal a 4-3 victory for Fulham. Boro’s automatic-promotion chances are now dependant on Bournemouth slipping up on Monday night or on the final weekend.
Wolves outside chances of reaching the play-offs were with thanks to their African attacking talents, as Bakary Sako‘s freekick allowed Benik Afobe to head home on 25 minutes, making Wigan Athletic’s relegation fears closer to reality, as Wolves headed back to Molineux with three points. Wolves boss Kenny Jackett paid tribute to the duo, saying: “With Nouha Dicko and Afobe on the break, I thought we always had a threat.” Meanwhile, youngster Dominic Iorfa started for Wolves, as Gaetan Bong‘s side’s future is out of their hands.
Sebastian Bassong and Norwich City could not capitalise on the chance to move second, despite Bournemouth’s one-game in hand, as they drew 1-1 at relegation-threatened Rotherham, with a play-off campaign looking increasingly likely.
Reading were undone at home to Brentford, despite Nathaniel Chalobah‘s efforts, lifting his first shot wide of the target, moments before the Bees took the lead as they look to close in on a play-off place. Chalobah headed wide moments after Brentford’s opening goal, before shooting wide once again. Hope Akpan was an unused substitute for Reading and Moses Odubajo created numerous chances for the visitors, who went on to win 2-0.
Michael Mancienne and Chuba Akpom combined to try and put Nottingham Forest on level terms at Ipswich Town, Mancienne set up Akpom, whose shot from outside the box was saved, moments before a Tractor Boys own goal made it 1-1. Mancienne was involved again late in the game, but this time Freddie Sears shot struck the defender and looped in with seven minutes remaining to make it 2-1 Ipswich. Akpom did his best to steal Forest a point, with a shot blocked while the other went over.
Mr reliable,Rudy Gestede gave Blackburn Rovers the lead at Huddersfield Town in their 2-2 draw. His low effort half-way through the first-half struck defender Joe Wilkinson, on its way to goal. The Benin international has now scored five goals in three matches, but couldn’t stop his side slumping from 2-0 up to draw with the Terriers.
Jacques Maghoma and Sol Bamba both missed chances for Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United respectively in the Yorkshire derby in which Leeds prevailed 2-1 away from home.
Over in League One, Crawley Town will have felt they lost their fixture at Peterborough United cruelly, as the Red Devils fight to stay in the league, while the Posh had little to play for. Gabriel Zakuani‘s header went close, as he tried to put Peterborough level at 3-3. Posh were level within a minute, before Zakuani set up Conor Wasington for the winner on 90 minutes. Mathias Pogba had came close to giving Crawley the lead after eight minutes with a header, before testing Ben Alnwick in goal on 20 minutes. Crawley began to grow into the game, and Pogba could have returned the lead, before eventually making it 2-2. His next effort was too high as he attempted to bring it back to 3-3, moments before Peterborough shattered their chances of taking valuable points on the way to fighting off relegation, ending 4-3 to the hosts.
Elsewhere in League One, Sanmi Odelusi‘s Coventry City were beaten 3-1 at home to relegation-threatened Crewe Alexandra, while Dele Alli‘s MK Dons narrowly won 3-2 at Rochdale.
Into League Two, and Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro‘s 20th-minute strike ensured Shrewsbury Town returned to League One at the first time of asking. Shrews boss Micky Mellon credited the 30-year-old striker in their 1-0 win at Cheltenham, saying: “We all know how much Jean Louis Akpa-Akpro means to us and for him to get the goal is brilliant for him, but I’m delighted for the whole club.”
Kayode Odejayi pulled a late goal back for Tranmere Rovers at Plymouth in their 3-2 to loss, which condemned Rovers to the conference for the first time in their 94-year history of Football League competition. While Plymouth need just a point to be certain of a place in the play-offs.
Newport County are with an outside chance of reaching the play-offs, and David Tutonda kept them hopes alive after initially being denied on 30 minutes and shot across goal saved, before striking high in the centre of the goal just after the break for 1-0. County came out on top with a 2-0 victory at York City.
Oxford United managed to keep Cambridge’s Sullay Kaikai at bay, easily denying his effort on 25 minutes, before missing with a freekick moments later. Oxford United played their last game of the 2014/15 season at home with a 2-0 victory over Cambridge.
Youngster Fred Onyedinma had a header saved for Wycombe Wanderers after five minutes at home to Morecambe. But with Wanderers’ play-off place already secure, a 1-0 home loss was no big worry for boss Gareth Ainsworth.
Adebayo Akinfenwa pushed promotion-chasing Bury all the way with two good chances after 15 minutes, but ultimately the home side took the lead on 30 minutes, with a second to follow, as Wimbledon lost 2-0 at Bury.