Welcome to The Trawler, your weekly submersion through the teeming waters of life in the Championship, League One and League Two. You might be surprised what you find down there
Saints back in the big time
Seven years after defeat to Manchester United on the final day of the Premier League season relegated Harry Redknapp's team, Nigel Adkins has put Southampton back in the big time. An emphatic 4-0 win against relegated Coventry did the job at St. Mary's, meaning the Saints finished runners-up to Reading and claimed the second automatic promotion spot in the Championship.
When you consider the club's recent past it's remarkable to think they'll back rubbing shoulders with the likes of United again come August. Southampton went into administration in 2009 and were relegated to League One after a points deduction. It took two years to return to the Championship, but Adkins has now made it back-to-back promotions to march the Saints back where they once belonged. His only regret is his team's failure to maintain the momentum they had in the first half of the season and seal top spot.
"It's a great achievement to get promoted, but I'm gutted we haven't won the league to be honest," said Adkins. "I really wanted to win the league so we'll have to get over that."
Adkins admits his squad will need strengthening to compete in the Premier League next season, but has vowed to continue upholding his footballing principles. The record crowd of 32,363 who spilled onto the pitch at St. Mary's after the final whistle will no doubt be happy to hear it.
Play-off line-up confirmed
Southampton's win on Saturday resigned West Ham to a spot in the play-offs, where Sam Allardyce's team will take on Malky Mackay's Cardiff in the semi-finals. Cardiff will be looking to make it third time lucky, having failed at the semifinal stage last season and lost in the play-off final in 2010.
Allardyce meanwhile will be dealing with the dual pressure of play-off football and trying to deliver the promotion he promised at the start of the season. "I won't enjoy the play-offs," he said. "The only thing you enjoy is getting through, then planning for the final." He later promised to lead the Hammers to play-off glory.
The other semi will see Birmingham and Blackpool come together, the two clubs who were relegated alongside West Ham from the Premier League last season.
Steel city on a knife edge
The battle for the second automatic promotion spot from League One will go to the final day of the season, with Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United separated by just a point in second and third respectively.
United were ultimately relieved to come away with a 2-2 draw at home to Stevenage on Sunday, thanks to Matthew Lowton's late equaliser.
That result followed Wednesday's 2-1 win at Brentford and means it's The Owls with the advantage as we head into the deciding games this coming Saturday (May 5th). Both teams will face relegated opponents - Wednesday are at home to Wycombe, while United face a trip to Exeter.
A win for Wednesday would do it. If they lose however, United's superior goal difference means just a draw would see them promoted. To the winner, guaranteed Championship football next season. To the loser, torture by play-offs.
Not one for the neutrals
This week's "telling it like it is" award goes to Bury manager Richie Barker, who didn't much enjoy his team's 0-0 draw against Oldham in League One. Barker called the game "a damp squib" and went on to bemoan the standard of play from both teams.
(Potential sponsors of both clubs look away now) "The longer it went on, the worse it got," he said. "I've never seen so many mis-kicks in half an hour in a League One match in my life."
Strife of Brian
Macclesfield manager Brian Horton has addressed fans who attempted to break into the directors' box on Saturday, following his team's 2-0 loss to Burton Albion and subsequent relegation from the Football League.
"I would have loved more time and I would have loved to bring in two or three of my own players, but I couldn't do that," Horton said. "I am sorry for the fans, but to the minority who were having a go at the board and at me I just say 'you're talking nonsense'. "
Horton was brought in to try and save Macclesfield from the drop. It seems unlikely he will remain at the club next season.
Di Canio corner
Paolo Di Canio's Swindon sealed the title with a 5-0 romp against Port Vale on Saturday, sparked by a long-range stunner from midfielder and League Two Player of the Year Matt Ritchie. The result brought Di Canio his first piece of silverware as Robins manager and delivered exactly what the Italian had predicted.
"At my first press conference I said I would lead the team to promotion and now the job is done," Di Canio said. "There have been tough moments during the season, but we have done so well. We are champions."
McGhee's walk of shame
Mark McGhee's Bristol Rovers might have thumped Accrington 5-1 in their final home game of the season, but their manager saw no reason for celebration after the final whistle.
"To be honest I felt embarrassed at parading in front of the fans because we have finished mid-table and that is hardly cause for a party," he said.
It's yet to be decided whether veteran former England goalkeeper David James will sign a new deal at Bristol City, but the 41-year-old didn't exactly strengthen his case by going off injured with just under half an hour to go at Burnley on Saturday.
City manager Derek McInnes decided not to name a substitute keeper for the Championship clash, so defender Liam Fontaine was asked to put on the gloves and keep Burnley at bay for the remainder of the match. He conceded once, but to James' relief City found an equaliser and the game finished 1-1.