IT was a weekend of contrasting emotions for Yorkshire football as Doncaster Rovers were effectively condemned to a second relegation in three seasons while Sheffield Wednesday and Bradford City booked their places in the play-offs.
The penultimate weekend of the Football League season brought plenty of drama to the county but for Rovers it was a familiar sinking feeling as bottom club Crewe Alexandra claimed only their second win since late November.
Despite going ahead at Gresty Road through Tommy Rowe, Rovers slumped to a 3-1 defeat that means the club is as good as down.
Fleetwood Town can inflict the killer blow today with a point at Walsall but, even if the seaside club lose in the Midlands, Doncaster will still need to beat Burton Albion on the final day and benefit from a very unlikely goal difference swing to have any chance of staying up.
League Two beckons for a club who as recently as 2014 were competing in the Championship but Darren Ferguson has vowed to make it just a one-year stay.
The Rovers manager said: “The feelings are ones of complete disappointment. It’s a terrible day for the football club – to be relegated into League Two.
“It’s been a terrible season – we aren’t going to be making 12 goals up. While it’s still mathematically possible, you kind of know your own fate.
“Today kind of summed up what I feel has been a problem since I have been at the club. We have not been mentally strong enough to cope with things that have gone against us within games and over a period of time.”
On his own future, Ferguson, who is on a rolling deal and has spoken to the club hierarchy, whom he says are backing his efforts to move the club forward, added: “We have had good discussions and I will be ready for the challenge.
“We have not been good enough. I have got to learn from certain things that have happened this season and ready to go again next season, which I will be. It’s a big challenge.”
The mood of despondency felt at Doncaster was in stark contrast to the joy evident at Hillsborough as Wednesday confirmed their place in the Championship play-offs.
Taking on the only club that could pip them to sixth place, the Owls made light work of Cardiff City with a 3-0 triumph that included a double from Gary Hooper.
“I said from the beginning that we were outsiders this season,” said head coach Carlos Carvalhal.
“We achieved this place because we have a fantastic group of players. They are acting like a team, we are one as a team.
“Getting to the play-offs is the work of a lot of people; the players, the chairman, the fans who turn out home and away.”
Also celebrating on Saturday night were Bradford, whose 1-0 win at Southend United was enough to ensure Phil Parkinson’s men can finish no lower than fifth.
Lee Evans scored the only goal of the game to maintain the Bantams’ standing as the form team in the third tier, their last 11 outings having yielded 25 points.
“The aim was to get the job done,” said the City chief, whose five seasons at the helm have brought an improvement in league position every year. “We didn’t want to rely on anyone else.
“There is nothing worse than going into the last game and having to look at other results. Everyone gets a bit edgy. I was so pleased with the way the players approached the game.”
Hoping to join City in the end- of-season promotion-deciders are Barnsley.
The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy winners, however, suffered a blow when relegated Colchester grabbed a point with a dramatic ‘98th-minute’ equaliser at Oakwell.
With Scunthorpe United claiming a fifth straight win, the two clubs are locked together on 71 points with one game to play.
Barnsley boast a slightly better goal difference – plus 13 to plus 11 – but face a tough assignment at champions-elect Wigan Athletic.
The Iron, meanwhile, head to Sheffield United, whose own play-off hopes ended with a 3-1 loss at Coventry City.
Reds caretaker head coach Paul Heckingbottom said: “To put it into perspective, we are where we want to be.
“We have to be delighted to know that if we win the last game we make the play-offs. That is what we wanted.
“We have a lot riding on one game. We go to Wigan, who are top of the league, and look to win. The lads won’t need lifting for that.”
Tom Lapslie’s last-gasp equaliser inevitably took the shine off the players’ post-match lap of appreciation at Oakwell but Heckingbottom insists the mood remains positive.
“We were so up and down at times,” he added. “The energy and work rate was there, as was the quality at times. But we also had some real bad decision making as well.
“The mood was flat but we are looking forward to Wigan.”
There was disappointment for FA Trophy finalists FC Halifax Town, who were relegated from the National League after neighbours Guiseley beat the drop by one point thanks to a 4-3 win over Torquay United at Nethermoor.
Coupled with the Shaymen’s 1-1 draw at home to Macclesfield Town, it meant Jim Harvey’s side were the ones to drop.