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      Middlesbrough 3-0 Brentford (agg: 5-1): Aitor Karanka's men to face Norwich or Ipswich
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      Middlesbrough 3-0 Brentford (agg: 5-1): Aitor Karanka's men to face Norwich or Ipswich
      Outgoing Brentford manager Mark Warburton proud of Bees' progress
      2015/05/17 16:35:23
      Outgoing Brentford manager Mark Warburton is confident he has overseen a period of progression at Griffin Park.

      Warburton watched the Bees lose 3-0 to Middlesbrough in their Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final second leg on Friday night in his final game in charge.

      The club decided in February to dispense with Warburton's services at the end of the season despite finishing in the play-off places.

      Brentford were promoted to the second tier of English football last season, the first time the club has been at that level for 21 years.

      Warburton is content with the role he has played in the progress of a club who plan to move to a 20,000-seat stadium in time for the 2016-17 campaign.

      “I am very proud of the players and staff,” he said. “I have spoken many times about the quality of our support staff, I watch them in awe sometimes.  

      “I joined the club four-and-a-half years agpo and the investment from (Brentford owner) Matthew Benham has been outstanding and I would never say anything else. 

      “I have done a lot of work and think I leave the club in a lot better place than when I arrived.” 

      Middlesbrough were comfortable winners in the second leg at the Riverside on Friday night - adding to the 2-1 advantage they had achieved at Griffin Park last week - a fact conceded by Warburton in his post-match assessment.

      But the Brentford boss made a point of waiting for the hosts’ celebrations at reaching Wembley to finish so he could thank the 1,500 travelling supporters.

      “We didn’t want to spoil Middlesbrough’s party at the end,” he said. "But, even though they were feeling so low, the players wanted to come out and thank the fans. 

      “I hope that shows our supporters how much we appreciate their support, it has been magnificent all season. 

      “On a Friday night to bring that many fans up here, signing as they did for the last 10 minutes, speaks volumes about the supporters of Brentford Football Club.”
      Mick McCarthy blames 'costly' red card for Ipswich play-off exit
      2015/05/17 16:33:15
      Mick McCarthy attributed Ipswich Town’s Championship play-off semi-final defeat at Norwich City to Christophe Berra’s second-half dismissal.

      With the second-leg of the semi-final delicately poised at 1-1 on aggregate, the Scotland international was shown a straight red by referee Roger East for blocking Nathan Redmond’s goal-bound effort with his arm.

      Wes Hoolahan converted the resulting spot kick and, despite equalising momentarily through Tommy Smith, the Canaries sealed their place at Wembley with further goals from Redmond and Cameron Jerome.

      And McCarthy, who felt his side may have been awarded a penalty themselves in the first half, was left unanimous as to what caused his side’s demise.

      “We’ve had a terrific season. I thought we played really well here today, certainly in the first half,” he told Sky Sports.

      “But games are won and lost on decisions, aren’t they? I thought we had a penalty in the first half when Teddy Bishop was brought down.

      “No complaints – he’s handled the ball on the goal line, it’s a red card. I have complaints about ours though; I think ours was a penalty. He doesn’t give it; he obviously doesn’t think it is a penalty but he’s got it wrong.

      “In the cold light of day, of course, Christophe should have let the ball go in, but we’re programmed not to let the ball into the net, it’s one of those things, it’s cost us but there’s not a lot we can do about it now.

      “We didn’t need to give a penalty away and get someone sent off and we needed to get our penalty. The game has hinged on a sending off and a penalty.”

      Despite failing to reach the Wembley showpiece, McCarthy was pleased with his side's performance at Carrow Road, and quickly refocused on mounting a successful promotion push next season.

      “I’m immensely proud of the team, we’ve had a great season and I look forward to next now,” he added.

      “We were cool at half time, we played really well and I thought we were the better side.

      “I’ve enjoyed the play-offs, I can’t say we’ve been beaten by a better side, we’ve played really well it’s just incidents and occurrences on the pitch, and the fact we had ten men, that have cost us.

      “This season proves to me what a good bunch of lads I’ve got, and the club is great – it has been terrific all season long.

      “There has been a great spirit about it and we’ve got to come back and keep that going next season.”
      Brentford appoint Rasmus Ankersen as co-director of football
      2015/05/17 16:31:06
      Ambitious Brentford have appointed the chairman of Danish league leaders FC Midtyjlland as a co-director of football as the latest step in their mission to earn Premier League status.

      Rasmus Ankersen will share duties with fellow incoming co-director of football Phil Giles, who is head of quantitative sports research at Smartodds, a company owned by Brentford chairman Matthew Benham.

      Mark Warburton is leaving his post as manager of the Bees, despite having led them to the play-off semi-finals in their first year in the Championship, as the club puts a new structure in place.

      Brentford lost to Middlesbrough over two legs, missing out on a Wembley play-off final.

      The London club said in a statement that Ankersen and Giles will be responsible for bringing in players and staff, and searching for a new head coach.

      Benham said: "When changes to the football department were first announced, we were very clear that we wanted Brentford to be a club that could reach the Premier League and stay there.

      "We believe this can only be achieved sustainably with an innovative approach to player recruitment and the overall management of the club. Rasmus and Phil can help us achieve our aim.

      "The director of football role is a big one and splitting it means we can add the expertise of both of them to our management structure."

      New arrival Giles said: "Brentford aspire to, and will, I hope, become known as one of the most innovative and forward-thinking clubs in Europe and it is fantastic to be asked to contribute to the achievement of that ambition."

      Ankersen added: "I am convinced that this is the start of a journey to something special at Brentford Football Club. It is an honour for me to be asked to play a role in Brentford's bright future."

      Benham also owns FC Midtyjlland, and Ankersen will split his duties between the Danish champions elect and the English Championship side.

      "I have worked with Rasmus at FC Midtyjlland and many of the methods we will be using at Brentford are already showing much promise there," Benham said.

      "Phil is someone who has excellent football knowledge and the analytical skills to assess players, tactics and teams in the way we want to."
      Middlesbrough 3-0 Brentford (agg: 5-1): Aitor Karanka's men to face Norwich or Ipswich
      2015/05/17 16:27:22
      Middlesbrough are just one game away from a Premier League return after beating Brentford 3-0 in the Championship play-off semi-final second leg, winning 5-1 on aggregate to seal a clash with Norwich or Ipswich at Wembley on May 25.

      Boro were relegated from the top flight in 2009 and have taken their time to rally a serious promotion challenge but this could be their year after goals from Lee Tomlin, Kike and Albert Adomah sealed their place at Wembley.

      Meanwhile, Brentford ended a fantastic season with a whimper as manager Mark Warburton oversaw his last match in charge as he is leaving in the summer after a messy fallout with owner Matthew Benham.

      The Riverside Stadium was bouncing at kick-off as the sell-out crowd rekindled the spirit of the famous European nights under Steve McClaren in 2006.

      Boro went into battle without the Championship’s Player of the Year though with Patrick Bamford only fit enough for the bench after failing to recover from an ankle injury.

      A few eyebrows were raised that the 18-goal forward wasn’t risked, but that was soon forgotten as Boro put in a commanding performance from the first kick.

      Captain Grant Leadbitter and Adam Clayton provided the foundations for their side to control proceedings and they took the lead on 23 minutes.

      Clayton played a fantastic 40-yard cross-field pass into the feet of Adomah, who jinked inside and found Tomlin on the edge of the area. Boro’s creative chief looked up and perfectly curled the ball into the top corner via a slight deflection off Brentford defender Harlee Dean.

      Brentford’s response was limited but Andre Gray should have done better just before half-time when presented with a free header eight yards from goal, but he fluffed his lines. 

      Warburton’s last half-time team talk as Bees boss was perhaps the most important of his career but his words didn’t render the desired effect as Kike doubled the lead on 55 minutes.

      Tomlin again was at the heart of the move, releasing Jelle Vossen through on goal. He couldn’t quite muster a clear goalscoring opportunity but the ball broke to Kike eight yards from goal and he stepped inside and smashed the ball into the roof of the net.

      A third goal always looked likely on the break and it came on 76 minutes through Adomah, who was a constant source of imagination on the right wing.

      He played a lovely one-two with Tomlin inside the box and showed real class inside the area to shift the ball away from the goalkeeper and fire into the net via the underside of the bar.

      After his final match as Brentford manager, Mark Warburton says his players, fans and staff have all been outstanding
      It was Premier League quality from Boro. They are now just 90 minutes away from the promised land. 

      Player Ratings

      Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos (7), Friend (7), Ayala (7), Whitehead (7), Gibson (7), Adomah (8), Clayton (8), Leadbitter (8), Kike (7), Vossen (7), Tomlin (8).

      Subs: Woodgate (6), Reach (6), Forshaw (6)

      Brentford: Button (6), Bidwell (5), Dean (6), Tarkowski (6), Odubajo (7), Jota (5), Douglas (5), Judge (6), Diagouraga (5), Gray (5), Pritchard (6).

      Subs: Toral (6), Long (6), Dallas (6)

      Man of the Match: Albert Adomah
      Aitor Karanka thanks his Middlesbrough players for sealing play-off final date
      2015/05/17 16:25:54
      Aitor Karanka thanked his Middlesbrough team for earning him a Wembley date after beating Brentford to reach the Championship play-off final.

      Goals from Lee Tomlin, Kike and Albert Adomah earned a 3-0 second-leg win over Brentford at the Riverside, and a 5-1 aggregate success to set up a clash with either Norwich or Ipswich on May 25, with a Premier League place on the line.

      The former Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid defender will be able to tick off one of his great wishes, with his only previous trip to Wembley being for a disciplinary hearing earlier this season which resulted in a one-match touchline ban.

      "I told the players 'thank you', I achieved a lot of things as a player but I never played at Wembley.

      "I have achieved a lot of things as a player - the Champions League and leagues and everything - but I didn't have the opportunity to play at Wembley and they have given me that opportunity.

      "But the first one is Steve Gibson. When I came here, I told him that he deserved the best and for him, for the crowd, for the club, for everybody, it's very good."

      Captain Grant Leadbitter was one of the stars as Boro eased into the final.

      He and Adam Clayton in the midfield stifled Brentford from the first minute to the last and that proved crucial in Boro’s commanding performance.

      "We went down to Brentford and came back with the result we wanted, and tonight we outclassed Brentford," Leadbitter added.
      Middlesbrough have work to do against Brentford, says Aitor Karanka
      2015/05/17 16:22:48
      Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka is determined to qualify for the play-off final by beating Brentford in the second leg.

      Boro secured a 2-1 win over the Bees at Griffin Park in the first leg but Karanka will resist the temptation to try and secure a clash at Wembley against either Norwich or Ipswich by shutting the visitors out.

      The Spaniard said: "I said after the first game that we have done nothing. We have to go to the pitch thinking it will be a difficult game. They are a very good team and we have to be focused from the first minute.

      "This kind of game anything can happen, we could score, they could score, we are one goal up but we have to play as though the score is 0-0.

      "I don't know how to arrange a draw, we have to go to the pitch thinking that we have to win the game."

      The mind games have been in full swing after Brentford's Harlee Dean insisted they were they better team and dismissed Boro by saying: "Set pieces and counter-attacks is all they have got."

      Responding to Dean's statement, Karanka added: "That's his point of view, I have to respect that.

      "If we are winning the games it is because this team has an amazing spirit. If he thinks that we score from counter-attacks and set pieces, I prefer to say that the team is in this position because they have a great spirit and they are very good lads.

      "I've said so many times there were a lot of squads better than ours, but we have the best team. They are friends and they support each other.

      "Maybe they (Brentford) don't know that spirit. If he thinks that, I have to respect it."
      QPR will not be barred from the Championship despite a dispute regarding Financial Fair Play rules
      2015/05/17 16:21:23
      A Football League spokesman says QPR are not going to be barred from competing in the Championship next season.

      The London club’s relegation from the Premier League was confirmed last Sunday when they suffered a 6-0 defeat at Manchester City.

      And they may now be facing a fine from the Football League for breaching Financial Fair Play regulations when they were last in the Championship two seasons ago.

      The club are challenging the rules legally and the process may not be concluded by the start of the 2015/16 season but a Football League spokesman says the dispute will not have any impact on them returning to the second tier.

      He said: "The club will be welcomed back into The Football League this summer ahead of it competing in the Sky Bet Championship season." 

      QPR and the Football League issued a joint-statement earlier this week, which said: “Legal proceedings are ongoing between Queens Park Rangers and the Football League.

      “QPR challenges the legality of the Football League’s Championship Financial Fair Play Rules and any charge against QPR (if any) for breach of FFP Rules shall not be commenced pending the outcome of that challenge. 

      “The proceedings are confidential in nature and neither party is entitled to comment upon the proceedings until the independent arbitral panel has delivered its decision.”
      Ipswich Town: Cole Skuse set for career high
      2015/05/17 16:20:00
      Ipswich midfielder Cole Skuse's career will reach its highest point so far on Saturday when his side take on East Anglia rivals Norwich in the second leg of their Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final.

      There is nothing to separate the two fierce East Anglia rivals heading into their Carrow Road showdown following the 1-1 draw at Portman Road last week.

      The prize at stake is not merely the local bragging rights. A place at Wembley awaits the winners - a game now reckoned to be worth ?150million - and that is not lost on Skuse.

      "It's the biggest game of my career and I'm looking forward to it," Skuse told the club's official website. "We all are.

      "There is a massive prize at stake for the winner.

      "If I was offered automatic promotion at the start of the season, I obviously would have taken it but the next best thing is to go up via the play-offs at Wembley in front of a big crowd and millions watching on TV and we have a chance of doing that."

      Norwich have experienced the highs and lows of promotion from League One to the Barclays Premier League and back down again in recent seasons, while Ipswich have become entrenched in the Championship.

      The Suffolk club have spent the last 15 years there - the longest spell of sides currently in the division - and Skuse insists the pressure is still on their rivals from Norfolk.

      "Norwich will be favourites and the pressure will be on them," he said.

      "They were favourites before we kicked off last weekend and their fans will be expecting them to beat us again."

      Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy has lost five of the six play-offs in which he has been manager in, but Skuse feels that will have no bearing on the outcome in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off.

      "We're confident we can go there and get the result we need," he added.

      "It was a fantastic atmosphere at Portman Road last week. There was a moment after we scored and we got a corner and a massive roar went up and it took me back a bit. I've not experienced that before.

      "The game last week had something extra over the two league meetings we've had.

      "There was that extra spice to the occasion. I'm sure it will be the same on Saturday.

      "They will have their fans right behind them but we will have our own Barmy Army and they will be making plenty of noise."
      Norwich v Ipswich: Alex Neil relishing pre-match hype
      2015/05/17 16:18:18
      Norwich manager Alex Neil believes anyone who cannot take the expected flak from the terraces in Saturday's all-or-nothing Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final second leg against local rivals Ipswich at Carrow Road is "probably in the wrong sport".

      Town midfielder Cole Skuse is preparing himself for a red-hot reception in the 99th East Anglia derby, which is delicately poised at 1-1 and will see the winners go onto Wembley and the shot at a #120million promotion jackpot to the Barclays Premier League.
      The pre-match hype is already reaching fever pitch across both borders, and Skuse, 29, revealed he does not "relish being called all sorts of names and having abuse thrown my way" and would "rather they shouted nice things, but I know that's not going to happen".

      Neil, though, feels having to run the gauntlet is what makes such games so appealing.

      "The first thing which has come into my head (hearing him say that), is I might call him a name in the tunnel and see if that upsets him," Neil said at a press conference.

      "It is part and parcel of the game. If he is going to get upset by people calling him names or heckling, he is probably in the wrong sport.

      "That is (a) relatively surprising (comment). I am sure he probably said it tongue in cheek, I would like to think.

      "(Last week) I was signing things at Ipswich for Ipswich fans and the ones behind them were booing me while I was doing it, so that is all part of the game, it is that whole sort of pantomime villain type thing.

      "But the good thing is (these games) are played in the right spirit by both teams but equally are still really, really determined to beat each other and that is what makes it such a great game."

      Neil is, though, keen for Norwich to make the most of home advantage, having been pegged back after taking a first-half lead at Portman Road last weekend.

      "I am hoping we can create some noise for the players to get them fired up - they won't necessarily need that, but every little bit helps," Neil said on Norwich City TV.

      "The more noise we can create, to hopefully put a doubt in the Ipswich players' minds, the better.

      "If they get the real backing of the fans, who desperately want it as much as the players are, then we are all in it together, and certainly if we go down that route we have got a better chance."

      Norwich beat Ipswich 2-0 at Carrow Road in March, with Neil's side narrowly missing out on automatic promotion, just three points behind Watford, despite a superb run of form under the Scot, who took over in January.

      The 33-year-old added: "We know exactly what is coming and we know exactly how we are going to go about trying to win the game.

      "Now it is just about performing on the day and making sure we are completely focused.

      "We are really determined and just can't wait for it come."

      Forward Lewis Grabban completes a three-match suspension, but otherwise Norwich have no fresh injury concerns from last weekend's first leg, with playmaker Wes Hoolahan pressing for a place in the starting XI.
      Jonathan Spector agrees new contract with Birmingham
      2015/05/17 15:51:50
      Jonathan Spector has agreed a new two-year deal with Birmingham.

      The versatile former Manchester United trainee's new contract will give him the chance to add to his 127 appearances for the Blues.

      The 29-year-old played 26 times for the club last term, having missed four months with a thigh injury.

      Birmingham have also announced young goalkeeper Nick Townsend has been awarded a new two-year deal.

      The 20-year-old has yet to make his Blues debut and spent the early parts of last season on loan at Conference side Lincoln, where he made 17 appearances.

      Townsend's deal comes with the option of a further year.
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