Middlesbrough have parted company with boss Tony Pulis following their failure to win promotion to the Premier League.

Boro finished seventh in the Championship, missing out on a place in the play-offs by one point.

Pulis, who replaced Garry Monk midway through the 2017-18 campaign, was reportedly due to be out of contract next month and the club will not be extending his deal.

The 61-year-old was regularly criticised by supporters for his style of play, with Middlesbrough scoring just 49 goals in 46 league matches in 2018-19, but chairman Steve Gibson has thanked the departing manager for stabilising the club.

"Over the past 18 months Tony has been proactive, not only in the ambition to win football matches and promotion to the Premier League, but also in addressing our financial position in order to comply and respect the Championship Fair Play criteria," Gibson told Boro's official website. 

"He has ensured that the club is stable and strong for the future. He leaves us in excellent condition."

Norwich City lifted the Championship trophy after a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa saw them fend off the challenge of Sheffield United on a final day that also saw Derby County secure a place in the play-offs.

Derby's 3-1 win over West Brom, who ended the season in fourth, ensured Frank Lampard's men finished sixth ahead of Middlesbrough, who did all they could by beating Rotherham United 2-1.

Leeds United's place in the play-offs was already assured but a 3-2 defeat against the 10 men of already-relegated Ipswich Town left Marcelo Bielsa's men winless in four, while Bristol City, who could have secured a top-six finish if Derby and Middlesbrough slipped up, drew 1-1 at Hull City.

Second-placed Sheffield United, who drew 2-2 at Stoke City, will have the luxury of sitting back and watching while Leeds, West Brom, Villa and Derby contest the Championship play-offs.

 

LATE VRANCIC STRIKE ADDS GLOSS TO CANARIES' GLORY

Mario Vrancic scored Norwich's winner four minutes from time to send their travelling fans wild on a day when Daniel Farke's men were bidding to claim the Championship title.

In the end Sheffield United's draw at Stoke rendered the Canariers' result irrelevant, but it will not have felt that way to Farke and his players who capped a fine season with a win over one of the division's form teams.

Villa were unbeaten in 12 going into the game but they fell behind when Teemu Pukki tapped home Onel Hernandez's cross after seven minutes.

Jonathan Kodjia levelled matters seven minutes later, sweeping Conor Hourihane's low free-kick into the net, and Dean Smith's side looked the better side for spells before Vrancic rifled a shot into the bottom corner of Jed Steer's net from the edge of the box to put the sheen on a day of celebrations across Norfolk.

DERBY SECURE SIXTH AFTER DRAMA AT PRIDE PARK

Derby County clinched a place in the Championship play-offs at Middlesbrough's expense after they beat West Brom 3-1 at Pride Park.

Lampard's men took the lead when Martyn Waghorn rose to meet Jayden Bogle's first-time cross, timing his run well to shake off his marker and nod the ball down into the bottom corner of the net.

Waghorn limped off injured after 40 minutes and Stefan Johansen's equaliser for West Brom meant that Middlesbrough – who were 2-0 up at Rotherham at the time – were set to take the Rams' place in the top six.

But after Tom Lawrence's close-range shot was saved by Sam Johnstone's outstretched leg, Mason Bennett pounced on the rebound and poked it into the net to restore Derby's lead.

Lawrence then jinked his way into the area only to be felled by Kyle Bartley, and Harry Wilson buried the penalty kick in the bottom-left corner of the net before Baggies substitute Hal Robson-Kanu was sent-off for kicking out at Bradley Johnson.

LEEDS SLUMP TO THIRD DEFEAT IN FOUR

A calamitous mix-up between Leeds goalkeeper Kiko Casilla and defender Luke Ayling gifted a winning goal to Collin Quaner, who slid the ball home to earn already-relegated Ipswich a win over Bielsa's out-of-sorts side.

Flynn Downes put Town ahead when the visitors failed to clear their lines at a free-kick, but Mateusz Klich popped up with an equaliser just before the interval, slamming the ball inside the near post from 12 yards.

Andre Dozzell restored Ipswich's lead as Leeds were caught napping at the back two minutes into the second half, before Stuart Dallas equalised from close range when Kemar Roofe's shot rebounded off the crossbar.

Luke Chambers felled Roofe three minutes later and was sent off before the Leeds striker ballooned the ensuing penalty over the bar, and in the final minute the visiting fans were left in disbelief as their side slumped to a third defeat in four matches heading into the play-offs.

THREE POINTS NOT ENOUGH FOR BORO

John Obi Mikel scored his first league goal in English football for almost six years as Middlesbrough beat Rotherham, but a fifth win in six Championship matches was not enough to lift Tony Pulis' men into the play-off places.

Elsewhere, Brentford ended the season on a high as they beat Preston North End 3-0 at Griffin Park, and there were also wins for Nottingham Forest, Queens Park Rangers and Wigan Athletic, while Birmingham City drew 0-0 at Reading and Blackburn Rovers were held to a 2-2 draw by Swansea City.

Derby County let slip the chance to make all but certain of their place in the Championship play-offs as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Swansea City.

Derby could have ended Bristol City's chances of catching them by beating Graham Potter's Swansea, but Wayne Routledge's second-half strike cancelled out Richard Keogh's opener to leave Frank Lampard's Rams unsure of their fate.

Both Bristol City and Middlesbrough could catch Derby if they fail to beat West Brom on Sunday and Lampard will be disappointed that his side failed to capitalise on a dominant first half at Liberty Stadium.

Bradley Johnson almost opened the scoring with a fierce downward header from close range but Kristoffer Nordfeldt denied the midfielder, getting down quickly to make a superb reaction save.

Keogh rose to meet Harry Wilson's corner at the far post and his looping header crashed in off the post to leave Swansea chasing the game after 22 minutes.

Swansea improved after the interval and substitute Jay Fulton blazed over the crossbar early in the second half as gaps started to appear in the Derby rearguard.

Routledge made no such mistake in the 66th minute, bundling the ball home after Ollie McBurnie's close-range header was parried onto the post by Kelle Roos to ensure the points were shared.

Sixth-placed Derby have 71 points after 45 matches, a point above Middlesbrough and two clear of Bristol City.

Rotherham United suffered relegation from the Championship on a day when Derby County gave their play-off hopes a huge boost.

The Millers succumbed to defeat at high-flying West Brom, meaning Millwall can afford to breathe easy going into their final two games.

At the top end of the table, the Rams claimed a potentially crucial victory over fellow play-off hopefuls Bristol City.

Elsewhere, Middlesbrough kept pace with Frank Lampard's side courtesy of a come-from-behind win over lowly Reading.

MILLERS DOWN AND OUT

Having started the season among the favourites for the drop, Rotherham ultimately failed to overcome the odds.

But Paul Warne's side threatened an upset at The Hawthorns on Saturday, with Clark Robertson's header handing them a lead they held until the final 13 minutes.

The Baggies hit back with a quick-fire double through Jay Rodriguez from the spot and Rekeem Harper's strike.

That left the visitors four points behind 21st-placed Millwall – who drew 0-0 with Stoke City in the early game – with only one match left for the Yorkshire club.

Rotherham will join Ipswich Town and Bolton Wanderers – whose match with Brentford was postponed amid a player strike – in League One next season.

DERBY EDGE CLOSER

Derby headed to Ashton Gate just one point ahead of Bristol City, but a 2-0 win put them in the driving seat in the race for sixth place.

Lampard's men were on the back foot for long spells against the Robins, who fell behind to a Tom Lawrence goal.

The hosts' hopes of a turnaround were hindered by Antoine Semenyo's red card for a foul on Tom Huddlestone, with Jayden Bogle capitalising to double Derby's tally.

The Rams head to Swansea City in midweek before finishing the season at home to West Brom, while Lee Johnson's side – who are now winless in four – have Millwall and then Hull City.

 

PULIS KEEPS RAMS IN HIS SIGHTS

Middlesbrough are the side most likely to overtake Derby in the home straight, although Tony Pulis' men have just one game left.

Boro's 2-1 win over Reading saw them stay level with Derby on 70 points, with a goal difference that is six worse.

Lewis Wing cancelled out Danny Loader's fine finish before Britt Assombalonga netted the winner from a penalty.

The Royals had the consolation of being assured of safety courtesy of Rotherham's loss, although a far superior goal difference was always likely to keep them safe.

 

JOSTLING FOR POSITION

There were several games in which sides technically had nothing to play for, but that did not mean they were short on entertainment.

Preston North End and Sheffield Wednesday shared a 3-3 draw in the pick of the bunch, while Hull came from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Swansea.

Elsewhere, Birmingham City settled for a point at home to Wigan Athletic and Nottingham Forest won 1-0 at QPR, who would have equalised in the 88th minute had Nahki Wells not failed to convert from the spot.

Bolton Wanderers players are refusing to play their last two Championship matches of the season due to unpaid wages – a decision that has won the backing of the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA).

Squad and coaching staff members have still not been paid for March and first-team players reportedly refused to train for 48 hours this month in protest after club workers also went unpaid.

In a statement released on Friday, the players said they will not take to the field for fixtures against Brentford and Nottingham Forest until the matter is resolved.

"This situation is creating mounting mental, emotional and financial burdens for people through no fault of their own," the statement read. "The mental pressure has affected some people to the extent that they feel they are unable to perform their jobs sufficiently.

"These are unprecedented circumstances and are affecting every aspect of our lives, placing great strain on ourselves and our families.

"During this time, we have remained patient in hope of some explanation but information from the club has been extremely limited and very confusing. What we have been told changes constantly.

"With deep regret, we have decided not to fulfil our remaining fixtures unless we are paid. We understand that this will disappoint our fans and for this we sincerely apologise.

"We realise this may be seen as drastic action but we feel we have no other options left. This decision has not been taken lightly and is not a reaction to this one particular incident.

"We have suffered numerous issues this season, and recent seasons, brought on by the mismanagement of this club. We have been operating in a near untenable environment for some time and it is the accumulation of these issues that have resulted in our decision."

The PFA has lent its support to the Bolton players, saying: "The players have shown great patience and loyalty towards the club all season, but today, they have reached a point where action is necessary.

"The PFA has been working with the club since the beginning of the season and we have done all we can to resolve this issue including giving Bolton Wanderers a substantial loan to cover players' salaries in December. 

"We will continue to support and represent the players and work towards a longer-term solution in the best interests of the players and Bolton Wanderers Football Club."

Former Watford owner Laurence Bassini last week agreed a last-minute takeover of the club to prevent them going into administration.

Under-fire Bolton chairman Ken Anderson said he was "very pleased" to hand over ownership of the club, with the deal hoped to lead to the settlement of a High Court case related to an unpaid tax bill.

Bolton's relegation to League One was confirmed last week by their 2-0 home defeat to Aston Villa, with the club having been in the Premier League as recently as 2012. 

Norwich City and Leeds United dominate this season's Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Championship Team of the Year, providing three players each.

Leaders Norwich, who are all but guaranteed to seal automatic promotion to the Premier League, have Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis included.

Norwich striker Teemu Pukki, the league's top scorer with 28 Championship goals this season, is up front alongside Sheffield United's Billy Sharp and Tammy Abraham, who has hit 25 league goals for Aston Villa in his loan spell from Chelsea.

Sheffield United, second in the table and three points clear of Leeds with two games to go, also provide Oliver Norwood among the midfielders, while Villa playmaker Jack Grealish makes the cut.

Despite an untimely loss of form seeming set to land them in the play-offs, Leeds have defensive duo Liam Cooper and Pontus Jansson both in the side, along with Pablo Hernandez.

The only player named in the PFA's XI who does not feature for one of the Championship's top three or fifth-placed Villa is the goalkeeper, Darren Randolph, who plies his trade at play-off hopefuls Middlesbrough.

West Brom strike pair Jay Rodriguez and Dwight Gayle, who have scored 21 and 23 Championship goals respectively this season, are among the players to miss out.

There was also no place for Brentford's Neal Maupay, second behind Pukki in the scoring charts, or his team-mate Said Benrahma, whose 14 Championship assists is a league-high.

Birmingham City's Che Adams was named on the three-man shortlist for Championship's Player of the Season award, which was won by Pukki, but he did not gain selection despite netting 22 league goals.


PFA Championship Team of the Year in full:

Darren Randolph (Middlesbrough); Max Aarons (Norwich), Liam Cooper (Leeds), Pontus Jansson (Leeds), Jamal Lewis (Norwich); Pablo Hernandez (Leeds), Oliver Norwood (Sheffield United), Jack Grealish (Aston Villa); Teemu Pukki (Norwich), Tammy Abraham (Aston Villa), Billy Sharp (Sheffield United).

Sheffield United claimed another big win in their bid for promotion from the Championship as they beat Hull City 3-0 to pile the pressure on Leeds United.

With Leeds facing Brentford in Monday's late fixture, the second-placed Blades moved three points clear of Marcelo Bielsa's side with a dominant display at KCOM Stadium.

Above them, Norwich City were held to a fourth successive draw, and with two games remaining, their lead has been reduced to just three points.

Play-off candidates Middlesbrough and Bristol City succumbed to defeats at Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday respectively, and Derby County took the chance to move into the top six thanks to a Harry Wilson late show against QPR.

In the early game, Aston Villa beat Millwall to claim their 10th successive win, while at the other end of the table Wigan Athletic secured safety with a 2-0 victory over Preston North End.

BLADES SHARP AS THE RUN-IN HOTS UP

Having seen off Forest on Friday, Sheffield United took full advantage of playing before Leeds by dismantling Hull in a Yorkshire derby.

Chris Wilder's side took the lead 10 minutes in – David McGoldrick heading home unmarked from John Fleck's corner – and the Blades never looked back.

McGoldrick doubled his tally 12 minutes later, curling in an excellent finish from 25 yards out, with Enda Stevens capitalising on more slack Hull defending to effectively wrap up the points before half-time.

While securing automatic promotion will be the priority, United are just three points behind Norwich with two games – against Ipswich Town and Stoke City – still to come.

CANARIES' CELEBRATIONS STILL ON HOLD

A matter of weeks ago, it looked as though Norwich's charge to the title, and the Premier League, was a mere formality.

Now, however, after yet another draw, things look a bit more complicated for Daniel Farke's side. Depending on Leeds' result against Brentford, there could suddenly be a three-way tussle for not just promotion, but the title.

Norwich dominated proceedings for much of Monday's encounter at Stoke, with Onel Hernandez beating Jack Butland in the 24th minute.

But the hosts fought back through Ashley Williams' header, and though Teemu Pukki restored Norwich's lead, Thomas Edwards drew Stoke level once more to secure a share of the spoils, and delay the Canaries' promotion celebrations.

CONTROVERSIAL PENALTY HELPS DERBY

Derby moved into the final play-off spot thanks to a dramatic 2-0 triumph over QPR, though Frank Lampard's side relied on a contentious penalty to break the deadlock.

With 94 minutes played, referee David Webb harshly deemed that Luke Freeman had fouled Jayden Bogle, and Liverpool loanee Wilson made no mistake with a composed finish.

QPR rallied, with Pawel Wszolek seeing an effort hooked off the line, but the result was settled when Derby raced clear – Wilson tucking in his second in the 101st minute.

Derby's move into the play-off spots comes at the expense of Middlesbrough, who lost 3-0 at Forest, while Barry Bannan's stunner set Sheffield Wednesday up for a 2-0 win over Bristol, who drop to eighth.

VILLA MARCH ON, WIGAN SAFE

Villa seem to be hitting top form at just the right time, as they all but guaranteed a play-off place with a 1-0 win over Millwall – Jonathan Kodjia on target for Dean Smith's side.

Millwall's defeat handed Wigan a boost ahead of their clash with Preston, who had Ryan Ledson sent off as the Latics secured the points with goals from Leon Clarke and Lee Evans.

In the process, Wigan moved onto 48 points, enough to make sure of their Championship status for another season after Rotherham United lost at home to Birmingham City.

Leeds United's push for promotion from the Championship took another twist as they went down 2-1 at home to 10-man Wigan Athletic.

Sheffield United's victory over Nottingham Forest earlier in the day had moved the Blades second and piled the pressure back on Leeds, and Marcelo Bielsa's side were unable to respond as they slumped to a shock defeat.

Elsewhere, Middlesbrough leapfrogged Bristol City – who could only draw with Reading – into the play-off places, while West Brom boosted their slim hopes of automatic promotion thanks to a late comeback win against Hull City.

At the other end of the table, Bolton Wanderers were relegated after losing to Aston Villa while Rotherham United remain in the bottom three despite a battling display in a 4-3 loss away at Swansea City.

There were wins for Preston North End and Blackburn Rovers, with the points shared between Birmingham City and Derby County, while Brentford drew at Millwall in a London derby.

 

PROMOTION RACE TAKES ANOTHER TURN

With Sheffield United having beaten Forest, the pressure was on Leeds to deliver at Elland Road, and a rampant start looked set to pave the way for Bielsa's side to move back into second place.

Wigan went down to 10 men in the 14th minute – Cedric Kipre receiving his marching orders for a deliberate handball – and though Pablo Hernandez missed the resulting penalty, Leeds had the lead soon after thanks to Patrick Bamford's third goal in as many games.

But Wigan would not roll over, and having restored parity on the stroke of half-time, Gavin Massey doubled his tally in the 62nd minute when he headed Leon Clarke's cross in.

Leeds rushed to respond, but could not find an equaliser, and were fortunate that Reece James' free-kick did not dip under the bar.

The victory lifted Wigan five points clear of the relegation places, while Leeds sit third, behind Sheffield United on goal difference, with just three games left to play.

BAGGIES ON THE BOUNCE

Two successive away defeats had cast doubt over West Brom's promotion hopes, but the Baggies are firmly back in the driving seat for the play-offs after they followed up Saturday's 4-1 hammering of Preston with a dramatic win over Hull.

Todd Kane's double cancelled out Kieran Gibbs' opener at The Hawthorns, but Dwight Gayle was on hand to be West Brom's hero.

Having ensured that Hull's lead lasted just three minutes when he headed home from close range, Gayle nodded in his sixth goal in three games to claim the points with five minutes remaining.

West Brom sit fourth, and may still harbour hopes of pushing Leeds and Sheffield United in the automatic promotion race, though a play-off spot seems more likely.

BORO CAPITALISE ON BRISTOL CITY SLIP

Bristol City kicked off the day's proceedings against Reading, but had to rely on a Josh Brownhill equaliser to secure a share of the spoils at Ashton Gate.

That opened up the chance for Middlesbrough to move back into the play-off places, and Tony Pulis' side took their opportunity thanks to Britt Assombalonga's early goal against Stoke City.

The Potters have been in dismal form under Nathan Jones, and since he took over on January 12, Stoke have scored the fewest goals, attempted the fewest shots and attempted the fewest shots on target in the league.

BOLTON BACK IN LEAGUE ONE

It was always unlikely that Bolton would escape the drop, and a fourth successive defeat finally confirmed their relegation to League One.

Former Watford owner Laurence Bassini has agreed a deal to buy Wanderers, but they will play next season in the third tier after goals from Jack Grealish and Tammy Abraham saw Aston Villa ease to a comfortable victory.

Two of the relegated teams have now been confirmed - with Ipswich Town already down, though the race to avoid the drop remains on for Rotherham, despite Paul Warne's side ending up on the losing side of a seven-goal thriller at Swansea. 

Millwall sit on 43 points following their draw with Brentford, while Birmingham edged closer to safety by drawing 2-2 with Derby at home.

Sheffield United failed to put maximum pressure on Leeds United in the Championship promotion race with a dramatic 1-1 home draw against Millwall, while Ipswich Town were relegated to League One.

With Leeds in action later in the day against Sheffield Wednesday at Elland Road, the Blades had a chance to go two points ahead of Marcelo Bielsa's men and Gary Madine's goal seemed to have earned them victory.

Ben Marshall missed a late penalty for Millwall after John Egan was sent off, but Jake Cooper struck deep in added time for the relegation-threatened visitors.

Aston Villa's home win against Bristol City tightened the race for the top six, with West Brom, Middlesbrough and Derby County all collecting three points too, but Ipswich's time in the second tier is over.

 

BLADES LACK CUTTING EDGE

Sheffield United have lost form at a bad time of the season, with Chris Wilder's side having won only one of their past four Championship matches to hand the advantage to Leeds.

Madine's third league goal since joining on loan from Cardiff City in the January transfer window looked to have put his side clear of Leeds, at least temporarily.

But nerves struck in the closing stages and, after Egan was dismissed for handball having blocked a header from Tom Elliott, Marshall missed the resulting penalty.

Millwall punished the 10 men, however, with Cooper's diving header in the fifth minute of added time pushing the Lions two points clear of the relegation zone.


READING BOOSTED, IPSWICH DROP

Yakou Meite hit a priceless double for Reading in a 2-1 home win over Brentford that moved the Royals four points clear of the bottom three.

Meite struck twice in the first 15 minutes and, although Neal Maupay replied for the Bees with his 22nd Championship goal of the season, Jose Gomes' side held on.

Survival hopes are over for Ipswich, though, with Paul Lambert's side relegated despite Gwion Edwards' equaliser earning a 1-1 draw at home to Birmingham City, who are now six points above the danger zone.

Rotherham United came from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Stoke City, Michael Smith and Matt Crooks scoring in the second half to move the Millers within a point of safety.

QPR recorded their first win under caretaker boss John Eustace by thrashing mid-table Swansea City 4-0 at Loftus Road, Tomer Hemed with a double that sees Rangers pull eight points clear of Rotherham.

Bolton Wanderers, meanwhile, are likely to follow Ipswich through the trap door. Their 4-0 loss at Derby was their fifth defeat in six Championship matches and they are nine points adrift of 21st-placed Wigan Athletic, with the visit of leaders Norwich City to come on Sunday.


VILLA ON THE CHARGE

Bolton's next game is at home to Villa, with Dean Smith's men making it eight wins in a row courtesy of a 2-1 victory over top-six rivals Bristol City.

Goals from Tammy Abraham and Conor Hourihane set up Villa's win, although Famara Diedhiou hit back for Bristol City, who had been unbeaten in their last five games.

Middlesbrough continue to improve after a six-game losing streak seemed to have ended their play-off hopes, with a 1-0 win over Hull City secured thanks to Britt Assombalonga's first-half goal.

But slim top-six hopes are fading fast for Nottingham Forest and Preston North End. Forest lost 2-1 at home to Blackburn Rovers, their third straight defeat, while it is four reverses in a row for Preston after they went down 4-1 at West Brom.

Dwight Gayle fired in a hat-trick for James Shan's Baggies, who are close to guaranteeing a play-off place and are only six points behind Sheffield United.

Leeds United leapfrogged Sheffield United into second place in the Championship after a 2-0 win away at Preston North End on Tuesday.

Patrick Bamford scored twice as Marcelo Bielsa's side moved two points ahead of the Blades, who are in action against Birmingham City on Wednesday.

West Brom's automatic promotion hopes suffered a potentially fatal blow with a 3-2 defeat to Bristol City, while Middlesbrough boosted their play-off hopes with a win away at struggling Bolton Wanderers.

There were also wins for Blackburn Rovers, Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea City against Derby County, Nottingham Forest and Stoke City respectively.

BAMFORD PUNISHES 10-MAN NORTH END

Leeds and Sheffield United are locked in a pulsating battle for the Championship's second automatic promotion place and Bielsa's side have cranked up the pressure ahead of the Blades' visit to Birmingham.

Their cause was helped by the dismissal of Ben Pearson, who received a straight red card for hauling down Bamford as he went through on goal shortly after the interval.

The visitors took full advantage of their numerical superiority in the 62nd minute when Bamford powered home from 25 yards.

The former Chelsea striker then added a second 14 minutes from time, heading in Mateusz Klich's right-wing cross to seal a vital three points.

BAGGIES' TOP-TWO HOPES DEALT A BLOW

West Brom are now nine points behind Leeds in fourth after three goals in the opening 19 minutes set Bristol City on their way to a important victory in the play-off battle.

The Robins, who are four points ahead of seventh-place Middlesbrough in fifth, stormed ahead thanks to goals from Josh Brownhill, Andreas Weimann and Jack Hunt.

Dwight Gayle reduced the deficit two minutes into the second half before Jay Rodriguez added a second 16 minutes from time.

They were unable to find a leveller, though, as caretaker boss Jimmy Shan suffered a second defeat in four days.

FLETCHER KEEPS PULIS' MEN IN PLAY-OFF RACE

Middlesbrough ended a torrid run of form to push Bolton Wanderers closer to relegation.

Tony Pulis' side had lost their last six games in the league, but Ashley Fletcher scored twice to move them to within two points of sixth-placed Aston Villa.

Bolton, meanwhile, remain eight points from safety with just five games left to preserve their Championship status for another season.

RAMS WELL BEATEN IN LANCASHIRE

Derby County's hopes of sneaking a play-off place suffered a setback as Blackburn Rovers ran out 2-0 winners at Ewood Park, while Sheffield Wednesday jumped above Nottingham Forest into ninth after a resounding 3-0 win at Hillsborough.

Elsewhere, Swansea City ran out 3-1 winners over Stoke City at the Liberty Stadium.

Sheffield United moved back ahead of Leeds United as the battle for the second automatic promotion spot in the Championship intensified on Saturday. 

The Blades, who had fallen behind their Yorkshire rivals last weekend, battled to a 1-0 win at Preston North End, while Leeds fell to a shock loss at Birmingham City.

Leaders Norwich City prevailed in the early kick-off, thrashing QPR, while Aston Villa's fine form continued with a dramatic win at Sheffield Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Bristol City, Derby County, Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest all dropped points in pursuit of a play-off spot.

In the fight for survival, Bolton Wanderers' misery continued with a loss to Ipswich Town, but there were big wins for Rotherham United and Millwall.

BLADES STAY SHARP TO RECLAIM SECOND

It has been a thrilling battle between the Blades and Leeds and this weekend belonged to Chris Wilder's men.

David McGoldrick's first-half goal settled matters at Deepdale, where Preston's top-six hopes took a hit.

But it was Marcelo Bielsa's men who suffered arguably the biggest shock of the day, beaten 1-0 by a Blues side who had lost five on the bounce.

Che Adams' goal proved decisive and came just after Patrick Bamford had struck the post for Leeds.

Those results came after Norwich had thrashed QPR 4-0 at Carrow Road, with Teemu Pukki on target twice as the Canaries moved seven points clear heading into the final six games.

BRUCE TASTES BITTER DEFEAT 

Wednesday boss Steve Bruce faced his former employers at Hillsborough and saw his side ship two late goals in a 3-1 loss.

It was 1-1 heading into injury time, with Albert Adomah and Tammy Abraham netting to boost Villa's promotion hopes.

Dean Smith's charges are now fifth after a sixth league win on the bounce.

As for Wednesday, their dreams of a late surge into the top six look to have been ended.

PLAY-OFF HOPEFULS STUTTER

It was not only the Owls who fluffed their lines on Saturday, with Derby held to a thrilling 3-3 draw at Brentford.

Frank Lampard's side, who led three times, remain two points behind sixth-placed Bristol City, who also had to settle for a point following Nathan Byrne's last-gasp leveller for Wigan Athletic.

Tony Pulis' Boro lost 3-1 at Swansea City, and Forest were beaten 2-1 by lowly Rotherham.

 

TENSION BUILDS IN SURVIVAL BATTLE

That win for the Millers, who occupy the final relegation spot, put them within a point of Reading.

The Royals lost 3-1 at Hull City, while Millwall moved a point clear of the danger zone thanks to a 2-0 home win over high-flying West Brom.

Ahmed Hegazi in particular had a day to forget for the Baggies, scoring an own goal and seeing red.

Bolton, whose very future hangs in the balance, could find no solace on the pitch as Collin Quaner's double saw rock-bottom Ipswich to a 2-1 win.

Elsewhere, Stoke City prevailed 1-0 at Blackburn Rovers.

Bristol City moved back up to fifth in the Championship with a 1-0 victory over fellow play-off contenders Middlesbrough on Tuesday.

Adam Webster's first-half header proved the difference at the Riverside, where Boro were booed off after a fifth straight defeat that left them eighth – two points adrift of Aston Villa in sixth.

George Saville blazed over a glorious opportunity before Jonny Howson failed to get the better of Max O'Leary when one on one in the 20th minute.

Howson saw another attempt deflected onto the post and Ashley Fletcher's follow-up was cleared off the line, with Webster's goal coming against the run of play in the 31st minute.

Britt Assombalonga also struck the woodwork after the restart but Boro were unable to find a route back into the game.

Swansea City ended a run of three straight defeats with a resounding 3-0 victory at home to Brentford, who are now winless in four.

Nathan Dyer was on target after just 31 seconds – his first league goal for the Swans since August 2014 – and he doubled his tally after Daniel James rattled the crossbar.

Bersant Celina struck the woodwork before half-time but James got the hosts' third on the follow-up after Connor Roberts' effort came back off the upright in the 78th minute.

Graham Potter's team moved up to 14th, level with Brentford on 50 points.

Bolton Wanderers' next two home Championship matches are in doubt after the club was ordered to keep fans out of the stadium on safety grounds.

The regional Safety Advisory Group has placed a prohibition notice on the club, meaning supporters cannot enter the University of Bolton Stadium until it can be proved they can "deliver the matchday operation to the standard required".

It means the games against Ipswich on April 6 and Middlesbrough on April 9 are under threat.

The EFL said in a statement on Tuesday: "Whilst disappointed, the EFL understands the rationale for the position taken by the SAG at this time. 

"However, we still hope the fixtures will take place as planned. We will work with the club and offer them any practical assistance that is available to us in an attempt to find a successful and timely resolution to the issue."

Bolton told the SAG they are unable to commit to meeting safety requirements prior to a High Court hearing on Wednesday, which is related to unpaid debts.

On Monday, players reportedly refused to train after staff were not paid salaries on time for the second month in a row.

Chairman Ken Anderson confirmed on Tuesday that he has accepted an offer for the club "of less than what I paid, so I am not holding out for a big profit as is continuously and incorrectly bandied around in the media and on social media".

He also apologised to non-playing staff for the delay over wages, adding: "Fortunately, they did not choose to go on strike and their loyalty to the club cannot be questioned, unlike the players' decision, which unfortunately has a negative rather than a positive logic behind it.

"I am not quite sure what the players think striking will achieve."

Bolton are five points from safety in the Championship, with seven matches remaining.

Onel Hernandez scored the only goal of the game as Norwich City won 1-0 at Middlesbrough to move five points clear at the top of the Championship.

With Sheffield United beaten earlier in the day, the table-topping Canaries took full advantage to stretch the gap to now-second-placed Leeds United thanks to Hernandez's fine strike.

Norwich enjoyed the best chances of the first half and Darren Randolph twice frustrated Teemu Pukki with smart stops from the in-form forward.

Boro almost broke the deadlock shortly after the interval when Daniel Ayala crashed a header from Ryan Shotton's long throw against the foot of the post, but the breakthrough came at the other end after 54 minutes.

Hernandez cut inside from the left and drilled a low effort inside Randolph's near post to set Norwich up for a late defensive showing.

And despite a couple of scrambles in Tim Krul's box in the closing stages, Boro could not find an equaliser and remain in eighth place, having dropped out of the play-off places after results elsewhere on Saturday.

Norwich City hold a four-point lead at the top of the Championship as Sheffield United moved into second place with victory over promotion rivals Leeds United. 

Chris Basham scored the only goal of the game in the early kick-off at Elland Road, the Blades overcoming their Yorkshire rivals to climb above them in the table. 

Norwich capitalised on Leeds' loss with a 2-1 victory away at Rotherham United, who slip into the relegation zone after Reading collected a hard-fought point at Stoke City. 

West Brom won for a second time under caretaker boss James Shan, while Aston Villa thumped play-off rivals Middlesbrough 3-0. Preston North End, meanwhile, are up to seventh thanks to a 1-0 triumph against Birmingham City. 

Nottingham Forest and Hull City were held to draws, by Ipswich Town and QPR respectively, but Sheffield Wednesday maintained their hopes of a top-six spot, winning 4-2 at home to Blackburn Rovers. 

At the other end of the table, Wigan Athletic eased their relegation fears with a resounding 5-2 triumph over Bolton Wanderers, who are getting cut adrift. 

GODFREY WINNER HEAVENLY FOR CANARIES

Ben Godfrey was the hero for Norwich as his 67th-minute header clinched Daniel Farke's side a sixth successive win. 

The Canaries are now five points clear of Leeds, who had goalkeeper Kiko Casilla sent off in the closing stages of their 1-0 loss to Sheffield United, forcing a limping Pontus Jansson to take over between the posts.

West Brom may not have entirely given up on automatic promotion just yet either - Kyle Edwards' superb solo goal was enough for the Baggies to overcome Brentford.

VILLA ON THE CHARGE

Aston Villa continued their resurgence, recording a fourth win on the spin to close within a point of Middlesbrough.

Anwar El Ghazi and John McGinn scored in a dominant first-half performance from the hosts at Villa Park, with Albert Adomah adding a third just before full-time.

Tony Pulis' side are looking over their shoulders after a third straight loss, Preston now sitting just a point behind Middlesbrough after Sean Maguire's stoppage-time goal defeated Birmingham.

Wednesday are also making a late charge, Steve Bruce's in-form team extending their league unbeaten run to 11 games with a comfortable victory at Hillsborough.

WIGAN WIN RELEGATION SCUFFLE

Wigan recorded their first league win since February 2 - and in emphatic fashion, too - as they overwhelmed fellow strugglers Bolton, who are now eight points from safety.

Joe Garner scored the only goal of the opening half before Wigan crucially struck twice soon after the break, Gavin Massey making it 2-0 before Nick Powell added a third.

Reading have moved out of the bottom three after the woodwork helped them pick up a point at Stoke, the home side denied by the post as they drew 0-0 for a third successive outing.

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