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Report: West Brom looks to snap up Hughton

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West Bromwich Albion is ready to turn to a promotion veteran in its bid to return to the Premier League.

Chris Hughton is in frame for the Hawthorns set, which controversially fired Darren Moore earlier this year with the club in fourth place. The Baggies bowed out of the Championship playoffs with a Tuesday loss to Aston Villa.

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Brighton and Hove Albion fired Hughton on Monday, the day after the Seagulls completed the Premier League season in 17th place. They were 10th after 15 match days but won just three more matches in skidding into a relegation campaign.

Should Hughton get the job, he could have a very different set of players from the group which made the playoffs. From Sky Sports:

Whilst Albion have no debt and no need to sell, we have been told there was a verbal agreement with a number of players who were relegated from the Premier League last year, that if the team did not win promotion at the first attempt, they would be allowed to leave this summer, assuming a suitable bid was tabled.

Hughton also led the Seagulls to the FA Cup semifinals, two years after guiding the club into the Premier League via a second place finish in the Championship. He’s also guided Newcastle to promotion and helped Birmingham City to a fourth place finish in the second tier.

Aston Villa beat West Brom in shootout to reach Wembley final

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Aston Villa moved one giant step closer to a return to the Premier League by topping local rivals West Bromwich Albion 4-3 on penalties in the EFL Championship promotion playoffs on Tuesday.

[ SEASON REVIEW: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal ]

West Brom erased what was a 2-1 deficit to begin the semifinal second leg. Away goals are not used as a tiebreaker in the Football League’s promotion playoffs, thus the two Birmingham sides were forced into a penalty shootout, where Jed Steer would atone for a nearly calamitous error early in the game and season full of similar blunders.

Villa were in England’s top tier from 1975 until suffering relegation in 2016; they fell to Fulham in last season’s promotion final at Wembley Stadium. West Brom, on the other hand, saw their eight-year run in the PL end this time last year.

Leeds United hold a 1-0 advantage over Derby County, heading home for Wednesday’s other semifinal second leg.

Craig Dawson scored the second leg’s only goal, a towering header from Mason Holgate‘s long throw-in, in the 29th minute.

Villa’s Tyrone Mings made a goal- and potentially season-saving block in the 53rd minute, after Steer gave the ball directly to West Brom’s Jacob Murphy, who took a touch toward goal and fired for the bottom corner, the ball destined for the inside netting. Mings recovered from out of nowhere — wide left, where he was an option for Steer to play the ball out — to get a foot in front of the ball and boot it away.

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Steer started the shootout by denying Holgate with ease, diving to his left and getting both hands behind the ball to keep it out. Conor Hourihane took the opportunity to put Villa ahead seconds later. Steer came up big once again, denying Ahmed Hegazi on West Brom’s second effort. Mile Jedinak‘s first touch after coming on late in extra time came at the penalty spot, and the Australian dispatched his effort as coolly as could be done.

Tosin Adarabioyo got West Brom on the board in round 3, but Jack Grealish restored the two-make advantage by sending Sam Johnstone the wrong way for the third straight penalty attempt. Kieran Gibbs nicked the inside Steer’s right-hand post in round 4, but by the grace of luck the ball found its way into the corner. Albert Adomah put Villa’s fourth attempt over the bar.

James Morrison hammered West Brom’s fifth past Steer, setting up on-loan Chelsea forward Tammy Abraham for the decisive penalty. It wasn’t the best penalty ever hit, as Johnstone got a trailing foot on the ball, but it had enough power behind it to sneak over the line and send Villa to Wembley.

Aston Villa comeback stuns West Brom in playoffs

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Aston Villa beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 in their Championship playoff semifinal first leg on Saturday, as the home side launched a stunning late comeback at Villa Park.

The local derby swung in West Brom’s favor early on, as Dwight Gayle finished clinically but then a stunner from substitute Conor Hourihane was followed by a Tammy Abraham penalty kick moments later to send Villa Park wild.

To make matters worse for West Brom, their top goalscorer Gayle was sent off in the closing stages after a late challenge on Villa goalkeeper Jed Steer.

Villa or West Brom will play the winner of Leeds United or Derby County in the playoff final at Wembley on May 27 for a place in the Premier League.

After a fast start, West Brom went so close to opening the scoring, as Jay Rodriguez’s superb curling shot was tipped onto the crossbar by Steer.

At the other end Abraham sent an acrobatic effort just over, then Villa made a huge mistake and they were punished.

Glenn Whelan gave the ball away in a key area and Gayle pounced to smash home the opener at the Holte End to put West Brom 1-0 up. Villa struggled to get going again in the first half after that error, with West Brom dangerous on the break.

Abraham went close twice at the start of the second half as Villa pushed hard to get level with Jack Grealish leading the charge.

Villa eventually levelled 15 minutes from time as Hourihane smashed home a stunning strike with his left foot after Grealish found him unmarked 25 yards out.

It got even better for Villa moments later as Kieran Gibbs caught Grealish in the box and the home side were awarded a penalty kick.

Abraham stepped up to slot home the spot kick to give Villa a precious 2-1 lead ahead of the second leg at the Hawthorns on Tuesday.

However, Abraham did push over Mason Holgate in the box late on and was lucky to not concede a penalty kick.

And West Brom then made their task even tougher as their top goalscorer Gayle was shown a second yellow card for fouling Steer and will now miss the second leg.

Championship playoff preview: Derby, Leeds, Aston Villa, West Brom

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The Championship playoffs get going this weekend with Leeds United, West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa, and Derby County going at it with a spot in the Premier League on the line.

[ PREVIEW: Brighton v. Man City | Liverpool v. Wolves ]

Last year, Fulham finished third just two points behind a guaranteed promotion spot, but managed to earn a place in the top flight via the playoffs. The year before that, Huddersfield Town tasted playoff glory after finishing fifth in the Championship table to earn its first-ever trip to the Premier League.

Aston Villa v. West Bromwich Albion

Villa Park is begging for a return to the Premier League. After the storied club was stunningly relegated three seasons ago for the first time since 1987, it’s been a long, hard road to this point. They finished a disappointing 13th the first time around as hopes of going straight back up vanished, and a fourth place finish last season saw them reach the playoffs but Fulham was last year’s team of destiny and won a slim 1-0 victory over Villa in the final, so the fans have been through this ringer before.

West Brom, meanwhile, is another recent Premier League mainstay looking to get back to the promised land where they’d been for eight straight seasons before last year’s relegation. West Brom has been promoted three since the turn of the millennium, but all came via automatic promotion – both of which defender Chris Brunt were with the club for – while both playoff journeys over that span ended in disappointment.

Aston Villa will have leading scorer Tammy Abraham back from a hamstring injury, a major boost as they look for a trip back to the top flight. The hosts are in great form – an important feature for any playoff team – as they were seven points off the playoff spots in 10th back in mid-February, but rattled off 10 straight wins beginning in early March, and while they’ve slipped in the last two league matches, there is far more riding on this weekend’s tilt.

Derby County v. Leeds United

The top seed in the playoffs gets going first as Leeds United looks for its way back to the top flight for the first time since relegation in 2004. Derby County, meanwhile, hasn’t been back since its disastrous 2007/08 campaign that set the record low for a point haul in a Premier League season.

Still, this matchup has more teeth than just a chance to reach Wembley – it’s the first time these two teams will meet since the Spygate mayhem that marred their January matchup. Frank Lampard will now look for revenge over Marcelo Bielsa who admitted to spying on Derby training before the weekend match, with the former Chelsea midfielder also hoping to turn around the results of the regular season, where Derby was beaten by Leeds twice during the regular season.

Leeds, meanwhile, had aspirations of automatic promotion, but a poor finish to the season saw them fall out of a top-two position with just three wins in their last nine league matches, and more specifically no wins in the final four, with three losses in that span. Bielsa will need to pick the team up, known for his high-intensity managerial style that could be wearing the team out, as the playoff takes no prisoners and bad recent form can be deadly.

Derby County will have plenty of experience at this level, although to this point with nothing to show for it. The club has earned a playoff spot in four of the last six seasons, but have only made it to Wembley once, falling to Queens Park Rangers in the in the 2014 playoff final.

Championship wrap: Promotion race intensifies

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As always, things got weird and wild in England’s second-tier on Friday.

Leeds United lost at home to 10-man relegation battlers Wigan Athletic 2-1, despite taking the lead early and Wigan playing a man down for over 75 minutes.

Pablo Hernandez missed an early penalty kick for Marcelo Bielsa’s side who have now dropped out of the automatic promotion spots with three games of the season to go and no longer have their destiny in their own hands. This defeat marked the first time this season that Leeds have lost a game after taking the lead.

As for their main rivals for automatic promotion, Sheffield United rallied in the second half to beat Nottingham Forest on Friday and moved into second behind Norwich City as Blades boss Chris Wilder has done a magnificent job for the club he supports.

Norwich look certainties for promotion and their return to the PL after a three-year absence could be confirmed on Monday, while Sheffield United know they will be back in the Premier League for the first time since 2007 if they win their final three games of the season.

In the playoff race, West Brom, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough all won to sit in fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, while Bristol City and Derby are hanging around just outside the playoff spots with draws to set up a frantic final few weeks. There are some huge teams pushing to be in the playoffs and have a chance of playing in the richest game in soccer at Wembley on May 27, and Villa are the form team right now with nine-straight wins.

At the other end of the table, Bolton’s defeat at home to Villa means they were relegated to the third-tier and they will join Ipswich Town in League One for next season, while Rotherham and Millwall battle to stay out of the final relegation spot.

Below is a look at the standings and points in the promotion race, as the battle to get into the Premier League for the 2019-20 rages on.


As things stand – Championship table, promotion race

Automatic promotion
1st: Norwich City – Played 42, points 86
2nd: Sheffield United – Played 43, points 82

Playoff picture
3rd: Leeds United – Played 43, points 82
4th: West Brom – Played 43, points 76
5th: Aston Villa – Played 43, points 72
6th: Middlesbrough – Played 43, points 67

Pushing for playoffs
7th: Bristol City – Played 42, points 66
8th: Derby County – Played 42, points 64