Heading into this weekend’s round of matches, most teams have 5 games remaining and most teams know their destiny for next season. The race for the automatic promotion seems to be over now, and barring a collapse from Bolton, you would expect the top two to remain as they are. Fleetwood and Bradford appear to have cemented their spots for the play offs; Scunthorpe and Southend will still have one eye on the chasing pack and be hopeful they can get over the line.
At the other end of the table, Swindon’s shock win away win at Fleetwood has dragged them back into contention to avoid the drop, and it means anybody realistically from Charlton in 16th, could still be dragged into the mix. Coventry and Chesterfield are destined for the drop, but anybody from Swindon in 22nd on 42 points and Charlton in 16th on 47 points will be sweating over their league one safety.
We’ll take a look at this weekends fixture’s and see if there could be any more twists and turns, as we reach the climax of the season.
AFC Wimbledon vs. Bristol Rovers
AFC Wimbledon must be wondering what might have been if they could have found some consistency this season, but instead they find themselves safely in mid-table, and guaranteed to be playing in League One next year. They are relatively solid at home and it will be a tough game for the Rovers, who still harbour a very slim hope of pinching 6th. Rover’s away form has cost them this season, but they know going into this weekend, nothing less than 3 points will do. Both teams have had great seasons in League One following promotion from League Two. I don’t see Rovers fortune away from home changing in this one, despite Wimbledon having nothing really left to play for. Rovers have failed to reach the levels they have set themselves at home and this has all the makings of being a typical end of season contest.
Prediction: 1-1, Rovers desire to win, despite their poor away form and Wimbledon having one eye on next season, will likely see these two cancel each other out.
Bury vs. Bradford
Two teams with plenty to play for meet at Gigg Lane this Saturday and has the potential to be one of the games of the weekend in League One. Bury have looked impressive under Lee Clark and they have now become a difficult side to beat. With them still being in the relegation picture, Bury will be scrapping for every point they can get to ensure they survive. It will be interesting to see how they bounce back from their 5-1 hammering at Oxford, but with promotion chasing Bradford being the visitors, Clark will know he has a tough game on his hands. A defeat on Saturday could see Bury back in deep trouble. Bradford will be looking to finish the season on a high to take some momentum into the play offs and get the second leg at home, where they will be well supported at Valley Parade.
Prediction: I’m going to go for Bradford to win this one 3-1. Bury will more than likely be low on confidence after the loss last week and with an in-form Bradford side being high on confidence, I can see this being a struggle for Bury, but they will make life difficult for Bradford.
Charlton vs. Southend
Both sides are coming into this one on the back of mid-week defeats. Charlton, suffering a 2-0 home defeat to the MK Dons has left them still looking over their shoulder and they need to probably pinch another win to guarantee safety. A visit from play-off chasing Southend won’t be a fixture Karl Robinson will want, as he tries to get those 3 points.
Southend come into this on the back of a defeat at home to Bolton, after conceding a last minute goal, Phil Brown will want his side to respond positively and get back on track to keep hold of that 6th spot. Southend can’t afford to slip up here, with Millwall breathing down their necks’ the onus is on Southend to keep their noses in front.
Prediction: I fancy Southend to bounce back with a win here and grab a comfortable 2-0 win. Charlton look to be short on confidence and will be hoping the sides below them struggle to put some form together; the Addicks have already done enough to stay up. I think Southend need the win more here and they will have the quality to get the 3 points and keep pushing for 6th place
Chesterfield vs. Port Vale
This is a huge game for Port Vale, after a heavy defeat to Rochdale on Tuesday night. They are in desperate need of 3 points and they come up against a Chesterfield side already destined to be in League Two next year. Port Vale have struggled away from home all season and with them in desperate need of points, they need to turn this around this weekend, otherwise they could find themselves in the bottom four after this round of games. Chesterfield should be looking to finish the season on a high so they can at least start next season on a positive, but they’ve found goals hard to come by. I wouldn’t expect too much quality from this game, but you would expect Port Vale to want this more and that could ultimately prove the difference.
Prediction: I can see Port Vale coming away with a scrappy 1-0 win, I think the fact they need the win more than Chesterfield could prove to be the difference. Chesterfield will be looking to plan for next season and give themselves the best chance of coming back up at the first time of asking so a few fresh faces in the line up may appear for this one.
Coventry vs. Peterborough
Fresh from their heroics at Wembley on Sunday, Coventry return to the league this weekend knowing they could very well be relegated by the end of the day. Their league form has taken an upward turn in recent weeks; winning their last 2 league games and they’ll be hoping they can give their fans hope of an instant return next season by finishing this season strongly. They suffered a midweek defeat at Sheffield United, but they join a long list of teams who have suffered defeats at Bramall Lane this season. They held the blades for 70 minutes before their resolve was broken, but their performance will give them hope still going into the weekend.
Peterborough are the visitors this weekend and like many others in the league, they only have pride left to play for, but like those teams, they’ll want to finish the season on a high. Given the chairman’s ambitions for the club to be playing in the Championship they wont be taking the foot off the gas. Peterborough also come into this game on the back of 2 league wins and they will be hoping to make this 3 against the sky blues. However, the Ricoh Arena has not been a happy hunting ground for the Posh, as they have only won once on their last 5 visits.
Prediction: I can see Coventry continuing their recent upturn in form and winning this game 2-1. The confidence and buzz of a Wembley win can create a lot of momentum and they will want to continue to give their fans fresh hope of being contenders to come back up at the first time of asking. Peterborough have struggled for consistency all season and that has ultimately kept them rooted to the middle of the table.
Gillingham vs. Millwall
Two more teams with plenty left to play for at both ends of the table. Gillingham who had a poor finish to last season has carried that into this season and are now scrapping to stay up. Four straight defeats with the latest being a 3-2 loss away at the MK Dons have plunged Gillingham down to 18th. It doesn’t get any easier for Gillingham, as play off chasing Millwall are the latest visitors to Priestfield this weekend.
Millwall have come into this on the back of two good wins at home to Scunthorpe and then away to Shrewsbury, they are well placed for one final push to get into the top 6. Neil Harris’s side look well placed to finish in the top 6 again after being in imperious form since the turn of the year.
Prediction: I can only see one winner here and that is Millwall, I am going to go for a 3-0 win. Gillingham have really struggled this season and I think their battle to stay up will go down to the wire. Millwall are finishing strong and their confidence and quality will see them win this comfortably. With Scunthorpe playing Bolton this weekend and a strong possibility they could drop points the incentive is there for Millwall to pounce.
Northampton vs. Sheffield United
Sheffield United could very well seal their promotion back to the Championship with a win on Saturday. Chris Wilder has done a fantastic job at Bramall Lane, where many bigger names have failed in recent seasons, to leave them within touching distance of promotion. There will be no slowing down from the Blades as I am sure Wilder will want them to seal promotion at the earliest opportunity so they can concentrate on winning the title. A midweek win at home against Coventry has tightened their grip on the top spot and are looking like worthy winners of the league title.
Northampton have had a solid return to league one and will be looking to build on this for next season. Question marks were raised as to how Northampton would adapt to league one after Chris Wilder left for Sheffield United and they’ve responded to those doubters by having a solid season. Justin Edinburgh was appointed in January and he must surely now be looking to next season and getting his team more in line with what he wants moving forward and assessing the squad.
Prediction: I’m going 2-0 Sheffield United, they will want to get the promotion wrapped up at the earliest opportunity and they are on great form and I fancy them to get it done this weekend. Northampton have done enough to stay up and all eyes will slowly be turning to next season and Edinburgh will be looking over the squad and many of them will be playing for their futures over the last 5 games.
Oldham vs. Fleetwood
Fleetwood come into this one on the back of a very good 3-1 win away at Oxford on Tuesday, which ended their mini blip and keeps their season on track. Before Tuesfay’s win they’d not won in their previous 3 and doubts will have started creeping into the Fleetwood camp. This weekend they face a trip to struggling Oldham, who have had a resurgence under John Sheridan, and they will be looking to keep the points tally ticking over to keep their heads above water. Sheridan has made them very tough to beat at home, suffering only 1 home defeat since taking over.
Both teams will want to get the 3 points for very different seasons and this makes it a very interesting contest. Oldham will need to keep their home form up to make sure they stay up and this is a huge test for them.
Prediction: I’m going for a 2-2 draw here, both sides will be going all out for the 3 points and I can see them cancelling each other out, but it will be a very entertaining game at Boundary Park and we should see a few goals. I think the 3 points would mean more to Oldham to keep themselves above the drop zone but Fleetwood are a very good side and are 3rd in the table for a reason but there play-off spot is secure and extremely unlikely to get near 2nd so that could potentially have an impact on the approach Fleetwood take to this game.
Scunthorpe vs. Bolton
This is arguably the game of the day in League One. Bolton can take another huge step towards an instant return to the championship, and Scunthorpe need the 3 points to hang on to a play off spot which appeared to be a certainty not so long ago.
Scunthorpe have really struggled since the start of February winning only 2 games, and their play off spot was left in the balance after a 3-1 defeat away at Millwall last week. Although their spot in the play offs remains in their hands they need to start picking up results otherwise they could slip out of the top 6 which would be a disaster considering where they were in February.
Bolton, on the other hand, are finishing the season very strong, winning 6 of their last 7 league games to take a commanding hold on 2nd place, and leaving the challengers for that last automatic spot a mountain to climb. Bolton snatched a late victory away at Southend on Tuesday night, which opened up a 7 point gap back to 3rd, and with 5 games to go, they’re only a couple of wins away from promotion.
Prediction: I’m going to go for Bolton to extend their great form and record a 3-1 win here. Scunthorpe are really struggling for form at present and they will be under immense pressure to win this game against a strong Bolton side who will be looking to extend the gap further, and keep close to Sheffield United in case there is any last minute collapse from the Blades.
Shrewsbury vs. Rochdale
Shrewsbury are no strangers to this position, they will be looking to pull off another great escape and keep their League One status for another season. Four straight defeats, with the latest being a 2-1 home defeat to Millwall, has left them in the bottom four heading into the final 5 games. The onus is on Shrewsbury to take the game to Rochdale as they need to find some wins to climb out of trouble and time is not on their side.
Rochdale on the other hand still hold very faint play off hopes alive and they will know nothing short of a win here will do. The gap to 6th is 5 points, but they will be keeping an eye on the struggles of Scunthorpe and will be thinking there is still 2 play off spots up for grabs. Rochdale come into this on the back of a comfortable 3-0 home win against struggling Port Vale on Tuesday night, and they will be coming into this game with no pressure and will be going all out for the win. Rochdale have not been great away from home this season, but Shrewsbury have not been strong at home either, so this game could go either way.
Prediction: I’m going to go for Rochdale to win this game 2-1. Rochdale have already performed above expectations this season and they will still feel they can pinch a top 6 spot, but they will need to do there bit on the pitch first of all. The onus is on Shrewsbury to take the game to Rochdale, as they’re running out of games to find a win and Rochdale will benefit from this and be able them on the break. It could all be very interesting around the play off spots by the end of play on Saturday.
Swindon vs. MK Dons
Swindon come into this game on the back of 2 very impressive wins against teams at the top. Last weekend they pulled off a 1-0 win away to Fleetwood to follow up their 1-0 home win against Millwall. They will go into this game full of confidence and will be hoping they can make it 3 on the bounce to give them hope of escaping the drop, despite being written off by most fans just a couple of weeks ago. They come up against an MK Dons side who are finishing the season strongly under Robbie Neilson.
After relegation from the Championship last season, most Dons fans will have been looking to be challenging the top end of the table, but they struggled to adapt back to life in League One and that ultimately cost long serving manager Karl Robinson his job. Neilson has got them winning again and got them to safe mid-table and they will be looking to finish strong so they can take some momentum into the summer and go into next season with renewed optimism. The Dons won 2-0 in midweek away to Charlton and they will come into this game knowing they will need to be at their best to beat a resurgent Swindon Town.
Prediction: I’m going to go for Swindon to win this game 1-0 as they will be battling for their lives to ensure they can stay in the mix to survive the drop. They will need to be at their best though as the MK Dons are going to provide a stern test and will be looking to extend their good run too. I am sure the MK Dons fans wont want their side relenting going into the final stretch so they can make sure they finish above Wimbledon.
Walsall vs. Oxford
Both sides are coming into this game in poor form. Walsall have lost their last 3, albeit against teams fighting to go up, they will be looking to ensure they don’t finish the season with a whimper and give their fans something to shout about before the season finishes. Walsall have not been able to get anywhere near the heights of last seasons 3rd place finish and will surely want to put this season behind them.
Oxford, up until a couple of weeks ago, were looking like play off contenders after a strong season following on from their promotion from league two last year. In recent weeks they have fallen away, this could be put down to the distraction of their trip to Wembley or the sheer amount of fixtures they have ended up playing due to their run in the FA Cup. Even so, Oxford fans can be very proud of the season they have had. Oxford took a beating at the hands of Fleetwood on Tuesday night and Appleton will want a response from his players so their impressive doesn’t just fizzle out.
Prediction: I can see this being a bit of a drab affair and a 1-1 draw, two teams who will definitely be in league one next year and nothing else to play for except pride. Walsall have failed to hit the heights of last season and Oxford have appeared to have ran out of steam at the final stages and this could make this game difficult to watch.