By Ronan Murphy
West Bromwich Albion striker Shane Long was on target for the second weekend in a row, but could not help his side defeat relegation-battling Wigan Athletic. Long opened the scoring for the Baggies on the half hour mark, but Wigan battled back to record a 3-2 victory.
Wigan's win means Newcastle United now sit just three points clear of the relegation zone despite a scoreless draw at West Ham United. Magpies goalkeeper Rob Elliot was in good form against the Hammers, and kept a much-needed clean sheet which should give Alan Pardew's side a confidence boost after their 6-0 loss to Liverpool last weekend.
Darron Gibson and Seamus Coleman played as Everton and Liverpool met each other in the Merseyside derby. However, despite Sylvain Distin's controversially disallowed goal, the game finished a 0-0 draw.
Hull City sealed automatic promotion to the Premier League with a 2-2 draw against Cardiff City. The Tigers knew a win would guarantee second-place, but a point was enough, with Ireland international defender Paul McShane finishing Robbie Brady's corner for Hull's second. Fellow Irishman Stephen Quinn was involved in the first goal, while David Meyler won a penalty kick late on.
Wolverhampton Wanderers' fate was sealed as they were relegated to League One following a 2-0 loss against Brighton and Hove Albion. Wolves had a big Irish involvement in Saturday's defeat: Matt Doherty, Kevin Doyle, Stephen Hunt, and Stephen Ward all featured, while young goalkeeper Aaron McCarey watched from the bench.
Simon Cox scored his first goal since November as Nottingham Forest were defeated 3-2 by Leicester City, with the Foxes confirming their place in the playoffs.
Derby County ended the season in 10th thanks to a 1-0 win over Millwall. David Forde was sharp in the Lions goal, and was only beaten by a late goal from substitute Conor Sammon.
Ireland under-21 international John O'Sullivan made his senior competitive debut for Blackburn Rovers, coming off the bench to play the last quarter of an hour in a 1-1 draw with Birmingham City.
Sheffield United recorded a 1-0 home win over Yeovil Town in the first leg of their playoff semi-final. The Blades did well to deal with League One top scorer Paddy Madden, with the former Bohemians striker having a second-half effort cleared off the line.
In the other playoff semi-final first leg, Swindon Town recorded a last minute draw with Brentford as former Ireland under-21 midfielder Kevin O'Connor put the ball into his own net.
Bradford City booked a place in the League Two playoff final at the expense of Burton Albion, with Ireland under-21 international Carl McHugh on the bench for both legs of the semi final. The Donegal defender has featured in 16 league games since signing from Reading in August.
A second-half goal from Northern Irish international striker Niall McGinn saw Aberdeen record a 1-1 draw with Dundee, and consign their opponents to relegation from the Scottish Premier League.
At the other end of the table, champions Celtic were held to a 1-1 draw by Ross County after Anthony Stokes put the Bhoys ahead with his fourth goal of the season.
Aiden McGeady scored his second goal in two games for Spartak Moscow, opening the scoring against Mordovia Saransk with a sixth minute strike. However, the winger was harshly dismissed for an off-the-ball incident just before half-time, and watched from the sidelines as Spartak were defeated 2-1.
New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Ryan Meara made his first appearance since returning from injury, playing the first-half of the Red Bulls' 2-0 MLS Reserve League loss to Columbus Crew. Meara had been the Red Bulls' first choice goalkeeper last season before a hip injury halted his progress.
|IRISH XI OF THE WEEKEND
Goalkeeper: Rob Elliot (Newcastle)
Defenders: Paul McShane (Hull), Richard Keogh (Derby), Alan Dunne (Millwall), Joey O'Brien (West Ham)
Midfielders: Michael Doyle (Sheffield United) Chris McCann (Burnley), Robbie Brady (Hull)
Forwards: Shane Long (West Brom), Anthony Stokes (Celtic), Simon Cox (Nottingham Forest)