Di Matteo savours career highlight as Albion seal promotion

LONDON, April 11, 2010 (AFP) - West Bromwich Albion manager Roberto Di Matteo savoured the best moment of his illustrious career after the Baggies secured a quick return to the Premier League with a 3-2 win at Doncaster Rovers.

Di Matteo's team, relegated to the Championship last year, completed their escape from English football's second tier after moving 11 points clear of third-place Nottingham Forest with only three matches left for both teams.

The former Italy midfielder won the FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup-Winners' Cup with Chelsea, but he rated this achievement his best.

"This is probably the highlight of my career, an achievement based on the last year of hard work," he said.

"It's a credit to the players who have worked very hard. Their attitude and effort has been the key to this season and we have been promoted with three games left, it's an amazing achievement.

"It's different to what I achieved when I was a player, but as a manager promotion is a good thing to have on your track record."

Graham Dorrans' superb free-kick in the 31st minute put Albion ahead on Saturday and Chris Brunt's strike increased the visitors' lead just before half-time.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas pulled one back for Rovers two minutes into the second half, only for Roman Bednar's 73rd-minute finish to restore the Baggies' two-goal advantage.

James Hayter added a second for Doncaster in the 85th minute to ensure a nervous finale, but the visitors held on.

Newcastle boss Chris Hughton is eyeing the Championship title as the already-promoted leaders thrashed Blackpool 4-1 at St James' Park to stay six points clear of Albion.

The Magpies need a maximum of four more points from as many games to ensure they finish on top of the pile but Hughton wants them to finish the job as soon as possible.

"The best time to do anything is the first opportunity, we are aware that a win on Tuesday at Reading makes it almost there," he said.

"Irrespective of what happens on Tuesday, I am quite sure I won't see a group of lads looking to tail off towards the end of the season."

First-half goals from Jonas Gutierrez and Andy Carroll put Hughton's team in command before half-time and Kevin Nolan and Wayne Routledge extended their advantage after the break.

Brett Ormerod's goal after 85 minutes for Blackpool was scant consolation for the play-off hopefuls.

Forest strolled to a 3-0 win over Ipswich at the City Ground thanks to goals in the second period from Luke Chambers, Guy Moussi and Robert Earnshaw.

Neil Warnock tipped Crystal Palace to avoid relegation as his QPR side won 2-0 against his former club at Selhurst Park.

"We got the points but I haven't really enjoyed anything about it," said Warnock, who left Palace to take charge at QPR earlier this year.

"I was amazed with the reception I got - I expected a lot more boos so I was quite emotional. I worked my socks off while I was here so that meant a lot."

Akos Buzsaky's 11th-minute goal put Rangers in front and a Kaspars Gorkss header after an hour sealed a win that boosts QPR's survival bid and leaves Palace just one point above the relegation zone.

Fellow strugglers Sheffield Wednesday remain third from bottom after going down 1-0 at Middlesbrough.

Swansea's play-off hopes suffered a blow as they went down 1-0 at Bristol City, with Leicester moving above the Swans with a 2-1 win at Peterborough.

Elsewhere, Cardiff were held to a goalless draw by Reading and Watford clinched a vital 1-0 win over Plymouth to move three points clear of the relegation zone.

Preston scored twice in the last five minutes to beat Scunthorpe 3-2 at Deepdale, while Sheffield United beat Coventry 1-0 and Barnsley's clash with Derby ended goalless.

Other news