Football League African Round-up
A dramatic final weekend of Football League action of the 2014/15 season saw Africans involved in promotion tussles and relegations battles.
Wolverhampton Wanderers at home to already-relegated Millwall witnessed a hat-trick of African goals for the hosts, with Bakary Sako playing through Nouha Dicko, following a mazy run, to convert from eight yards for the first. And Dicko doubled Wolves’ lead after a good run found him in space to turn onto his right foot and unleash an 18-yard stunner. Benik Afobe set up Sako to restore Wolves two-goal lead to make it 4-2 in the final minute, scoring from a tight angle. Youngster Dominic Iorfa featured in defence for Wolves, but ultimately they were to miss out on a Championship play-off place.
Sako was the top-scoring African in the Championship for Wolves with 15 goals, while Dicko and Afobe got 14 and 13 respectively.
Rudy Gestede ensured he finished the season as the top-scoring African and all-round top scorer for Blackburn Rovers, when he headed in a Craig Conway cross for his final goal of the season. A win was never going to secure them a play-off place, scoring to make it 3-1, while a late Ipswich Town penalty saw the game end 3-2. Kevin Bru‘s Tractor Boys were fortunate Derby County slipped up on the final day, to secure the final play-off place in the Championship. Gestede finished fourth all round in the Championship scoring charts with 20 goals, one behind teammate Jordan Rhodes.
There was only one man who could have stolen the top-scoring African gong in the Championship, and that was Watford’s Odion Ighalo, who came on with 12 minutes remaining. The Nigerian could not find the goal to win Watford the title in their 1-1 home draw with Sheffield Wednesday and go ahead of Gestede as the top scorer. But it will have been of little concern to the striker who secured their Premier League status for next season with a win at Brighton.
Brentford ensured they secured themselves a play-off place when Moses Odubajo‘s through-ball found Jota to make it 2-0 for at home to already-relegated Wigan. That result meant he and fellow African Toumani Diagouraga will be competing in the play-offs, just one season after securing their Championship status. Gaetan Bong could have changed the course of the game, if he had managed to convert his early chance, but ultimately Wigan bowed out of the Championship with a 3-0 defeat.
It was even sorrier scenes for Nathan Delfouneso‘s Blackpool, who were relegated to League One as the bottom side, but could not complete their final match of the campaign at home. The match was abandoned on 48 minutes when fans ran onto the pitch in protest of the ownership at the club, and is yet unknown if the game will be replayed with the scorers at the time 0-0.
Nathaniel Chalobah came close to putting through his own net at his side ran out 3-0 winners at play-off chasing Derby County. However, it was Ghana international Kwesi Appiah who got Reading off to a flying start with a second-minute goal following a poor Derby pass.
Frederic Bulot and Igor Vetokele couldn’t spoil Bournemouth’s promotion party, as they were comfortably beaten 3-0 on their own patch, meaning the Cherries secured the Championship title ahead of Ighalo’s Watford.
Despite Britt Assomablonga not appearing for Nottingham Forest since February, after being ruled out for 12 months with injury, he finished the season with a creditable 15 goals to his name. Forest will be wondering what they could have achieved had he been fit for the whole season.
Into League One and Tottenham Hotspur’s Dele Alli finished top African goalscorer in the league with 16 goals, as his side secured automatic promotion with thanks to Preston’s slip up at Colchester. In his final appearance for the club he bowed out with a winners’ medal and a 5-1 thumping of basement side Yeovil Town.
Mathias Pogba‘s early second-half header from a Gavin Tomlin cross looked to have put the Red Devils on their way to safety, only for two late Coventry City goals to secure the visitor’s League One status for another year, ending 2-1.
Chesterfield’s Tendayi Darikwa came close to giving the visitors a dream start at Sheffield United, but ultimately both sides settled for a 1-1 draw, preparing their respective sides for the play-off campaign ahead.
Elliott Omozusi‘s Leyton Orient thought they had secured their League One status when 2-1 up at play-off contenders Swindon Town on Sunday afternoon, only for a late Robins penalty enough to secure the home side a meaningless draw and send Orient down. It is a result that Nicky Ajose and Crewe Alexandra will be pleased about, as Crewe would have gone down on goal difference.
Finally in League One, Mustapha Dumbaya’s Notts County suffered relegation with a 3-1 final-day defeat at Gillingham.
Over into League Two, Adam El-Abd and Kelvin Etuhu‘s Bury celebrated automatic promotion with a narrow 1-0 victory over relegated Tranmere Rovers. El-Abd was lucky not to give away a penalty in the first-half for handball, but their hard work over the season paid off, as both teams headed off in opposite directions. That meant Rovers’ Michael Ihiekwe and Kayode Odejayi drop out of the Football League.
But there was better news for AFC Wimbledon’s Adebayo Akinfenwa, who finished top African goalscorer in League Two with 13 goals, as Shrewsbury Town’s Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro came second, narrowly missing out on double figures with nine goals and an immediate return to League One.