Joy for Sheffield Wednesday, a painful death for Brighton
Wednesday make it to the play-off final, but Brighton become the best side to miss out on promotion for 111 years
Brighton & Hove Albion 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1 (Wednesday win 3-1 on aggregate).
Brighton suffered their third Championship play-off semi-final defeat in four seasons as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Sheffield Wednesday.
Trailing 2-0 from Friday's first leg at Hillsborough, Albion dominated the first half and took the lead on 19 minutes when Anthony Knockaert's cross was turned in by Lewis Dunk, both of whom had missed the first leg. But the noise of the Brighton crowd was silenced just before the half-hour mark when Ross Wallace's cross ended up in the hosts' net. Brighton players protested that Dunk had been pushed by Gary Hooper as the ball was played into the area but the goal stood and it seemed to break the self-belief of the Brighton players.
Despite needing three goals to overhaul the Owls, the Seagulls rarely threatened after the break as their Premier League dreams died a painful death.
Brighton finished third in the Championship, and only missed out on one of the two automatic qualification spots on the final day of the season as they drew with Middlesbrough. Nonetheless, they finished 15 points clear of sixth-placed Wednesday and had been expected to reach the Championship play-off final at Wembley on 28 May with ease.
Instead it will be the Yorkshire side who'll face either Derby or Hull at the end of the month. They clash tonight in the second-leg of their play-off with Derby trailing 3-0 from the first encounter.
Wednesday are looking to return to the Premier League after an absence of 16 years and manager Carlos Carvalhal left no one in any doubt what promotion would mean to one of England's most venerable clubs. "It's been a long time for Sheffield Wednesday and it's very important for the club," he said. "Now we can wake up the giant."
Paying tribute to Brighton, Carvalhal said "they had a fantastic season... they deserve promotion". However, the Portuguese was quick to add: "But that doesn't mean we don't deserve it. We have grown up together like a team."
For Brighton the result is a bitter end to a season that promised so much. As the Brighton Argus ruefully notes, Albion are "the first team since Manchester United 111 years ago to miss out on promotion after losing only five league games".
United played 34 matches in 1905, not the 46 that Brighton played, but it was the penultimate one last Friday that scuppered their chances of a first appearance in the Premier League.
“It’s difficult when you’re going into a second leg with 2-0 deficit but we had great belief and faith we could turn it around," said Brighton manager Chris Hughton. “Things have gone against us in recent weeks. Their goal was certainly a foul on Dunk. At 1-1 that gives them a leg-up. It was a scoreline they probably didn’t deserve. It was really disappointing and frustrating."