Wolves back in top flight

LONDON - Wolves will play in the Premier League for the first time in five years after Saturday's 1-0 win over QPR sealed promotion from the Championship.

LONDON - Wolves will play in the Premier League for the first time in five years after Saturday's 1-0 win over QPR sealed promotion from the Championship.

Mick McCarthy's side have held one of the two automatic promotion places since the third match of the season and they finally crossed the finish line with two games to play.

It was leading scorer Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, a former Manchester United trainee, who got the goal that sent Wolves up in front of a sell-out 27000 crowd at Molineux.

Ebanks-Blake's winner puts Wolves within touching distance of the league title. They are now six points clear of second placed Birmingham, with their goal difference 10 better than the Blues.

Wolves finally went ahead in the 46th minute when Andy Keogh's hustling forced a mistake from the Rangers defence and he crossed for Ebanks-Blake to fire home.

Cameron Jerome came off the bench to score the goal that kept Birmingham on course for promotion. Jerome's late strike sealed a 1-0 win at Watford and left Alex McLeish's team four points ahead of third-placed Sheffield United.

The Blades have a game in hand against Burnley today, but Birmingham will seal promotion by winning their last two matches.

Jerome won it in the 73rd minute at Vicarage Road. He had only replaced Garry O'Connor three minutes earlier when he smashed a shot into the top corner. Fourth-placed Cardiff's automatic promotion hopes were hit for six by Preston as the Bluebirds crashed 6-0 at Deepdale.

Neil Mellor opened the scoring in the 17th minute and the former Liverpool striker added a second in the 41st minute with a low shot from distance. Cardiff missed a penalty on the stroke of half-time when Ross McCormack's effort was saved by Andy Lonergan.

Preston, who are one point outside the play-off places, struck again after the break through Jon Parkin, an own-goal from Mark Kennedy and further goals from substitute Chris Brown and Lee Williamson.

At the other end of the table, Charlton were relegated to the third tier of English football for the first time since 1981 after drawing 2-2 against Blackpool.

Phil Parkinson's side looked like they would go down fighting after taking a two-goal lead, but Blackpool scored twice in the second half.

Southampton remain second bottom, three points from safety, after losing 2-0 at Sheffield Wednesday.

Elsewhere, Reading drew 0-0 with Barnsley, Nottingham Forest beat Coventry 1-0, Crystal Palace defeated Derby 1-0, Doncaster won 3-0 at Plymouth and Swansea beat Bristol City 1-0. - Sapa-AFP

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