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Monday, 22 April 2013

The View Outside The Premier League: Gillingham and Mansfield are champions but Hull still sweat


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Sqf hugh larkin

Mansfield Town are back in the Football League. It was a nervy afternoon for nearly 7,000 packed in to Field Mill but a 1-0 win over Wrexham ensured that a tremendous challenge from Kidderminster Harriers fell just short.

Now the Harriers must play Wrexham in the play-offs while Newport County take on Grimsby Town. These last two met on Saturday and the Mariners received a boost by beating the Welsh side 3-0. At some point in the campaign all four play-off contenders had legitimate hopes of finishing top, but it's Kidderminster who carry the real momentum into the end of season showdown.

Mansfield can prepare for League Two football again after five seasons out of the '92'. Paul Cox's squad have avoided the play-offs after losing to York City last year and the fan base and potential at the club should mean that they will be able to maintain their place back in the League.

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Gillingham secured the title in League Two after being the frontrunners for some time. The ultra-enthusiast Martin Allen has bounced back from his controversial sacking by Notts County to take the Kent club back to League One at his first attempt.

This success brings hope that the Gills can return to the sort of success that saw them hold a place in the second tier between 2000 and 2005. The title was secured with a slightly anti-climactic home draw with strugglers AFC Wimbledon - but more than 11,000 were at Priestfield to celebrate.

The success has been based on a team ethic. Gillingham don't have one heavy scorer like Tom Pope at Port Vale, but Danny Kedwell and Deon Burton have shared 27 League goals and the squad have posted an exceptional away record with just two defeats on the road.

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Cardiff City are champions in the Championship, but Hull City are still waiting to see if they will join them in automatic promotion to the Premier League. The Tigers weren't able to secure a win over relegated Bristol City at the KC Stadium so Watford's victory over Blackburn Rovers Keeps the Hornets in the hunt.

Steve Bruce's side still have the edge as they lead Watford by four points with just two games to go. Hull have to play Cardiff in their last game so they would like to get the win they need at Barnsley, but the Yorkshire side are in a relegation battle and will fight to the end.

Hull might get a favour from Leicester City. Watford must travel to the East Midlands on Friday and the Foxes are desperate for points to hold on to a play-off berth.

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Bournemouth are almost up from League One. Only three sides can be promoted automatically, but the Cherries have a significant edge. Brentford are three points back with just a game left and they are seven goals back from Bournemouth on goal difference.

Doncaster Rovers sit between these two in second. The South Yorkshire club lost at home to Notts County on Saturday, so they are threatened by Brentford who were held at Hartlepool.

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Hugh Larkin

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