The regular season in Italy’s third and fourth tiers came to an exciting climax last weekend and while some players can pack their Louis Vuitton wash bags and head to the beach, others are left to sweat it out in the end of season play-offs and play-outs – where survival could mean the difference between professional football next season and disappearance into the abyss of the amateur ranks.
In C1A, Ternana had the league wrapped up with a couple of games to spare as they return to Serie B for the first time in six years. Last weekend the Rossoverdi were given another boost when coach Domenico Toscano hinted that he was prepared to sign a two year extension to his contract despite rumours about internal fighting within the club.
Taranto finished the campaign as runners up but Davide Dionigi’s side will feel that they should be the ones celebrating promotion to the ‘cadetti’. Over the season, the Puglian side has had a total of seven points deducted from them due to financial issues the last of which, a four point penalty inflicted at the end of 2011, could well have made the difference with Dioinigi’s team finishing just two points behind the side from Umbria. The coach now has to galvanize his players for the semi-final play-off against Pro Vercelli in just under two weeks time, but they will be start as clear favourites to join Ternana in Italy’s second tier next season.
The other play-off contenders are Sorrento and Carpi. The side from Campania, under the tutelage of former Genoa favourite Genaro Ruotolo will fancy their chances of making it to Serie B and confidence is high, especially in attack, where they boast the division’s top scorer in Ciro Ginestra.
Down at the bottom, Foligno said farewell to third division football before Easter and the relegation play-out matches pitch Viareggio against Monza and Pavia against Spal. Monza, who only survived in tier three last season thanks to Alessandria’s fall from grace, have bizarrely sacked coach Gianfranco Motta on the eve of their big head-to-head against the side from Tuscany. Riccardo Monguzzi has been given the task of saving the club from the drop.
If final day excitement is what you were looking for then C1B was the place to be last Sunday. Going into the final day of the season both Spezia and Trapani were looking to secure automatic promotion to Serie B. The Tuscan side had the advantage of the superior head to head between the two clubs and looked to have an easy game at home to struggling Latina. Trapani knew they had to win against already relegated Virtus Bassano and hope that the side from Lazio could do them a huge favour.
Within 15 minutes of the games kicking off, it seemed as though the Sicilians were going to leapfrog the league leaders and claim the automatic place as they led 2-0 in their game and Latina were holding Spezia at the Stadio Alberto Picco. But just after the half hour mark, Antimo Iunco’s wonderful strike broke the visitors resolve and when top scorer Felice Evacuo doubled the home sides lead just before the break, the 11 thousand fans inside the stadium could start to celebrate a return to Serie B after relegation in 2008 forced the club into bankruptcy. However, the club’s immediate future was thrown into uncertainty this week after being implicated in the latest Calcioscommesse investigation. Coach Michele Serena and his players must try to put this to the back of their minds as they prepare for the end of season Supercup double-header against C1A champions Ternana
Trapani will now play Cremonese in the play-off semi-final but for a long time on Sunday it looked as though Barletta would claim the all important fifth place in the table. With injury time looming in Piacenza, the side from Puglia led 2-1 but a late late equaliser from the hosts elevated Oscar Brevi’s side into the play-off zone and left Barletta fans absolutely crestfallen. Sicily’s other representative in the division, Siracusa, will play Virtus Lanciano in the other play-off semi-final.
The relegation play-out matches sees Prato taking on crisis club Triestina who they hammered 5-0 in their final league fixture on Sunday, whilst Piacenza do battle with Latina who will be desperate to consolidate their place in the division having only gained promotion 12 months ago.
Congratulations to Treviso, San Marino, Perugia and Catanzaro who were all promoted to C1 next season. In C2A it was a dramatic final day with San Marino edging out Cuneo for the second automatic spot by just one point. The team from the principality have been outstanding this season thanks largely to the incredible goalscoring form of on loan Parma youngster Gianluca Lapadula. The 22-year-old has been devastating in front of goal finishing with an astonishing 24 goals from 35 games – a bright future lies ahead for the boy from Turin. The professional ranks bid farewell to Valenzana and Sambonifacese from C2A with the play-out games seeing Mantova play Lecco and Montichiari versus Bellaria Igea Marina.
In C2B, over 10 thousand expectant fans crammed into the Stadio Nicola Ceravolo in Catanzaro to see if Francesco Cozza’s side could claim the point they needed against Giulianova and join Perugia in C1 next term. The Calabrians looked on course to achieve their goal after going 3-1 up before the interval, but within 20 minutes of the restart the visitors had leveled things to leave Cozza’s side with an agonising season finale. As the final whistle went, the sheer relief was there for all to see as the stadium exploded into celebration. The play-offs from this division pit Vigor Lamezia against Paganese whilst Chieti lock horns with Aprilia. At the bottom, Celano and Ebolitana head for the amateur ranks whilst Melfi, Isola Liri, Vibonese and Neapolis all see their seasons extended into a play-out lottery.
A full preview of all the end of season promotion and relegation games will appear here next week
Follow Steve on twitter (@barafundler) for further insight throughout the week.