Lambert delighted at avoiding playoffs

Chris LakeyFans love them, managers love them - but if you fail in the play-offs there can be few crueler ways to see a promotion challenge ended. City boss Paul Lambert is just relieved he's not a part of it.Chris Lakey

Fans love them, managers love them - but if you fail in the play-offs there can be few crueler ways to see a promotion challenge ended.

City boss Paul Lambert is just relieved he's not a part of it. When Michael Nelson's header clinched City's return to the Championship a fortnight ago, Lambert was in the enviable position of being able to watch the rest fight for the scraps.

The second automatic promotion spot is still up for grabs, with Leeds the current occupiers, and Millwall and Swindon in the hottest of pursuits.

The play-off final means a Wembley appearance and a healthy end-of-season pay day. For one team it's sheer joy; for the other, it's huge disappointment.


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Lambert knows what failure feels like and knows City are best out of them.

'I've been beaten in them, in the semi-finals with Wycombe,' he said. 'They must be brilliant to win, I must admit that. If you win it and you go to Wembley and do do it, I'm pretty sure that is a terrific feeling, but believe me, getting knocked out in the semi-finals is galling really.'

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The argument against the play-offs is that they are unfair.

'If you ask a manager that finishes sixth or seventh who are in the play-off and so many points behind the teams that are above them, and they go up, you think, 'dear oh dear', but it can work both ways, to be honest.

'When you finish third, for example, and you're 18 points ahead of sixth place or whatever it is, and they end up overtaking you, you might think it's not fair. But if you are the sixth team and you've done it you think it's the best thing that's ever happened.

'It can work both ways - I'm definitely glad I'm not in it.'

Leeds are odds on to claim second place, but they have a trip to Charlton today and if they lose they could be overtaken by Millwall - who are away to struggling Tranmere. Swindon are at home to Brentford and Huddersfield at home to Colchester.

Lambert isn't about to pick a winner.

'I think it's too close to call, I really do,' he said. 'I know Leeds have got a really hard one on Saturday. Millwall are only a point behind them. It could go right to the wire that one, it really could.I think Leeds know that if they stumble, Millwall will overtake them. And then you have Millwall v Swindon on the last day. I think it's a close one. I think there's a number of them that can, especially between Millwall and Leeds.'

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