EFL: Subs sent off and a 13-team relegation battle among things you may have missed

Blackpool fan with cool glasses
Did you have your eyes fixes on the EFL this weekend? If not, here's what you may have missed...

Supporters flocking back in their droves for a new era at their club, teams tripping up in their push for promotion and others getting drawn into a relegation scrap.

Add a Championship managerial departure into the equation and that's just scratching the surface of some of Saturday's stories from across the English Football League.

Allow BBC Sport to guide you through some of the quirky tales you might have missed.

A surreal extra 13 minutes at Adams Park

For Wycombe's Matt Bloomfield, his 500th appearance for the club was all set to end in fairly flawless fashion.

When the veteran midfielder was substituted in the 92nd minute, Wanderers were 1-0 up and seemingly heading for a victory, after which commentators may reflect on his longevity.

But the 35-year-old's 92nd-minute withdrawal would prove to have come at an embryonic stage of an extraordinary period of stoppage time, which was initially signalled as a minimum of six minutes.

Wycombe and Sunderland players clash
Despite being substituted, Bloomfield wasn't exactly withdrawn from the action...
  • Firstly, the Black Cats equalised through Duncan Watmore's 94th-minute strike, sending the away fans into raptures.
  • Then a melee broke out on the touchline involving both squads.
  • It was an incident that saw both sides have a player who had already been substituted sent off, as Nathan Tyson and George Honeyman were shown straight red cards in the 98th minute.
  • Then, back on the field, Wycombe's Marcus Bean was shown a second yellow for a foul Lee Cattermole in the 100th minute.

Referee Lee Swabey eventually brought the hot-headed finale to a conclusion after 13 minutes of additional time, leaving Sunderland four points off the automatic promotion places.

Is it now a three-horse promotion race?

There are 10 games left to play in the regular Championship season and it would appear we have a three-horse race for the two automatic promotion places.

Norwich City, Leeds United and Sheffield United all picked up wins to keep themselves in the top three spots, while those chasing behind lost further ground with a series of poor results on home turf.

West Bromwich Albion, in fourth, are now seven points behind Sheffield United after bottom-placed Ipswich held them to a 1-1 draw at home.

The result, which could have been even worse for the Baggies with Ipswich almost snatching a rare win, proved to be Darren Moore's last match in charge.

It was confirmed just hours after the final whistle that head coach Moore had parted company with the club after failing to win their past three league games.

Championship top six

That dramatic twist came as Middlesbrough, in fifth, fell to a surprising defeat as two Brentford goals in the space of three second-half minutes handed the Bees just their second away win of the season.

On top of that, it ended a run of three consecutive clean sheets for Tony Pulis' side, who despite having a game in hand are 12 points adrift of Leeds in second.

On the subject of failing to hang on to leads, Derby County missed the opportunity to make their return to the play-off places more emphatic. The Rams led Sheffield Wednesday after Bradley Johnson's opener but a Dominic Iorfa header and a succession of Kieren Westwood saves denied them all three points.

Derby's climb to sixth came courtesy of Leeds beating Bristol City, a result which not only ensured Marcelo Bielsa's team kept within two points of leaders Norwich, but extended the Robins' winless run to four games.

Vale fans protest as Blackpool fans rejoice

Port Vale fans protest
Port Vale fans have not seen their side finish a season in the top half of a division since 2014

While all eyes were on Blackpool as their fans returned after the departure of an unpopular owner, 85 miles south Port Vale supporters were venting their fury at the man at the helm of their club.

Scores of fans held up red cards in protest at the leadership of Vale owner Norman Smurthwaite - around 3,000 were distributed outside the ground ahead of their game with Mansfield Town.

Vale followers have grown increasingly unhappy with their owner, with relegation from League One in 2017 followed by a 20th-place finish in the fourth tier last season.

Before Saturday's kick-off the club were one place off the League Two relegation places and with the worst form in the division, having won just two league games since the end of October and lost six and drawn two of their last eight games in all competitions.

But in the face of all those protests Vale only went and won - their 2-1 victory over Mansfield was inspired by Ricky Miller's two goals in two minutes soon after the second half began.

"It's been coming and I'm really pleased we got a result," manager John Askey told BBC Radio Stoke. "It's the way we won as well, it wasn't just a fortuitous win, we could have scored more goals.

"I don't know what to do now as I'm not used to winning."

Blackpool fans
Blackpool supporters returned in their numbers to Bloomfield Road after a near four-year boycott

Happy return for Southend's Kiernan

Sticking with that landmark match in League One at Blackpool, it was also a special afternoon for one member of the visiting team.

Southend United centre-back Rob Kiernan was making his first appearance since August 2017 after surgery on both knees forced the 28-year-old to miss nearly 18 months of action.

Just 20 minutes into his return, the former Rangers player headed his side into the lead to mark a memorable comeback.

His lengthy spell on the sidelines came after just two appearances for the Shrimpers and shortly after he had agreed a three-year deal at Roots Hall.

Rob Kiernan celebrates his goal for Southend at Blackpool
Rob Kiernan joined Southend from Rangers on a three-year deal in August 2017

"I just had a feeling for him to come in and do a job today," manager Chris Powell told BBC Essex. "It's a great story, really.

"To score against the backdrop of today, where everything really was about us being guests at Blackpool's occasion, just tells you about his kind of character.

"We're going to need players like Rob between now and the end of the season where every point will be vital."

Sadly for the visitors, Kiernan's opening goal couldn't secure all three points as Blackpool snatched a 2-2 draw courtesy of an own goal in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

League One's bottom half tightens up

If you're a neutral that enjoys a wide-open relegation battle, then sit back, relax, and enjoy the drama that may well await us in League One.

However, if you support any of the clubs in the bottom half of the third tier, you may well need new fingernails by the first weekend of May.

Each of the teams who started the day in the bottom four picked up vital wins, causing more and more sides to look over their shoulders in the table.

And, with 10 rounds of games to go, just five points separate Wycombe in 12th and Oxford United in 21st.

Perhaps most significantly, 22nd-placed Rochdale's 2-1 win over Shrewsbury Town brought them to within three points of the Shrews and safety, and to within two wins of nine sides.

Additionally, the bottom two, AFC Wimbledon and Bradford City, also enjoyed victories, while Bristol Rovers climbed out of the drop zone as they won at struggling Scunthorpe United.

So who goes down? It could well be any four of 13 teams.

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