London (AFP) – Bournemouth stayed ahead of Nottingham Forest in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League with a 3-0 win at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.
Former Liverpool and Chelsea forward Dominic Solanke struck his 30th goal of the season before Philip Billing was twice on target in the second half at Ewood Park.
Victory left second-placed Bournemouth three points clear of Forest with two games to play — including next week’s clash between the two clubs.
Only the top two at the end of the regular season are guaranteed a place in English football’s lucrative top flight, with Championship leaders Fulham already assured of one of those coveted spots.
“It was definitely a high-pressure game,” said Bournemouth manager Scott Parker. “That’s where you get to at this point at the season when you’re competing for what we’re competing for.”
The teams that finish third to sixth, currently led by Forest, will then compete for the other promotion place in a series of play-off games.
Forest, twice the champions of Europe, remained in contention thanks to a 5-1 thrashing of Swansea that delayed Fulham being crowned champions, although the London club will take the second-tier title with victory over Luton on Monday.
Sam Surridge’s hat-trick, including two goals in four minutes, provided the backbone of Forest’s win.
Cyrus Christie’s own goal sent the Midlands side in their way before Rovers equalised through Michael Obafemi.
But then came Surridge’s treble and a late goal from Alex Mighton to leave Forest well-placed for Thursday’s crunch encounter.
“It was obviously a brilliant win,” said Forest boss Steve Cooper. “I am very grateful to the players for sticking to the game plan.
“It was a different one because we were very happy for Swansea to have the ball — because that is what they do. But they also concede a lot of chances and give away a lot of goals.”
Huddersfield remain fourth, but with automatic promotion effectively beyond them, due to their inferior goal difference, following a 2-1 win at Coventry.
Middlesbrough maintained their play-off hope with a 3-1 win at home to Stoke.
Millwall, however, will need a remarkable last day to improve their goal difference and get into the top six despite a 3-0 win over Peterborough on Saturday.
The Lions remain three points behind sixth-placed Sheffield United with one match to play but are six goals worse off.
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