Easter Weekend brings a whole lot of football to League One with games Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Monday! Here we preview Thursday’s derby game between Bury & Rochdale, the Good Friday games & Saturday’s only game, Oldham against Bolton.
Bury vs. Rochdale
Bury entertain Rochdale on Thursday evening in what will be a hotly contested derby at Gigg Lane. After last Saturdays home defeat to Bradford, and teams below managing to add to their points tally, Bury now find themselves only one point above the drop zone and without a win in their last 4 games they will be eyeing this game up as a must win against their local rivals. Bury know anything less than a win could see them in the bottom four before their next game away to Bolton.
Rochdale come into this on the back of a disappointing result against Shrewsbury at the weekend, which ultimately ended any lingering play off hopes they had left. Keith Hill must surely be looking back at the season with a huge sense of “if only” with the amount of injuries to his squad and missed opportunities they have had.
The derby game at Gigg Lane is usually a tense affair. The last 3 trips to Bury have ended in a draw and the Shakers know they are going to have to go one better to boost their survival hopes. Rochdale having nothing left to play for but Hill will be bringing his team to win and get the local bragging rights again following the 2-0 success at Spotland earlier in the season.
Prediction: Derby games are usually hard to call and this one is no different. Bury will need the win a lot more than Rochdale but Rochdale will be coming for the result. I initially was going to predict a tense 0-0 but Rochdale can not defend but I can’t see them losing either. Bury know they need to find a win from somewhere and they will have marked this game as one they will need to go all out for the 3 points.
Bradford vs. Oxford
Bradford had a very good result on Saturday at Bury, and they will be looking to keep the momentum going so they can go in to the play offs on a real high. They will be very well fancied to see off an out of sorts Oxford side at home and will be hoping to get Valley Parade bouncing for the last few home games to ensure they finish in 3rd or 4th to ensure they get the 2nd leg of the play-off fixture at home.
Oxford have really gone off the boil as of late, they played out a 1-1 draw last weekend away at Walsall and it seems like they just want the season to finish now so they can put their poor end to the season behind them. Their poor recent form can be put down to tiredness from having played so many games recently or being distracted by the trip to Wembley.
Prediction: I can only see one winner here and that’s Bradford, ill go for a 2-0 home win. They are playing with a lot of confidence they will take some stopping here as they look to go into the play-offs as the form team. Oxford will just be glad for the last game to be played and build on this season to go again next year, they have played a lot of games lately because of the run in the FA Cup and their Check-A-Trade Trophy heroics and it appears its taking its toll on the squad.
Chesterfield vs. Southend
Both sides had shock results last weekend but for different reasons. Chesterfield got a very rare win at home to Port Vale to prolong the inevitable relegation for another week. They will be looking to get back to back wins for the first time this year when Southend are the visitors. Charlton won’t feel safe yet even with a 5 point gap at this stage of the season and they will want to achieve safety through their own results rather than relying on slip ups below them.
Southend suffered a shock loss away at Charlton last week, which saw them fall out of the top 6 and they will be looking to get back up there at the earliest opportunity. They will have seen Saturday as a missed opportunity following Millwall failing to win at Gillingham. Phil Brown will be demanding a response following two consecutive defeats, and he will know it will need to come this weekend or risk falling further behind Millwall.
Prediction: I think this is a tough one to call, but I can see Southend pinching this 2-1. Chesterfield will be playing with a bit more freedom as they are expected to get relegated they having nothing left to lose and the win against Port Vale could restore a bit of belief. Southend seem to behaving a wobble at the worst time imaginable. They need to stop the mini dip in form this week or they could find themselves out of the hunt after Easter. Southend have been very impressive this year and their fans will be upset at potentially throwing it away so close to the finishing line. I think they will edge a win this weekend as they will know they cant afford any more slip ups or their play off dream is likely to be over if Millwall capitalise on anymore slip ups.
Coventry vs. Charlton
The resurgence of Coventry City continued at the weekend with a win over Peterborough. They are at home again on Good Friday to Charlton who come into this one on the back of a surprising win against Southend.
Coventry fans must be wondering why their team couldn’t produce this form all season rather than waiting till relegation was a near certainty before picking up some much needed points. For pride more than anything else now, they will want to try and avoid collecting the wooden spoon and try and over take chesterfield, and their recent form has given them a huge chance of doing so, when only a few weeks ago they were cut adrift from everybody at the bottom.
Charlton will probably feel they need one more win to guarantee survival after they reached the 50 point mark at the weekend, this milestone usually keeps you up but with it being very tight at the bottom this will probably not be enough this season.
Prediction: I am going to go for Coventry to win this one 2-0 and continue their recent good run. Coventry have become one of the divisions form teams in recent weeks, whilst Charlton struggle at the other end of the form table at the worst time of the season for a run like theirs. A win for Coventry here will keep Charlton sweating over the Easter weekend especially if the teams below pick up points and drag them back into the relegation fight.
Gillingham vs. Bristol Rovers
What a huge Easter weekend this is for Gillingham. One point separates them and the bottom four and like so many sides at the bottom they need to start picking up points or they could very well be in League Two next year. They earned a good point at home to an in-form Millwall which stopped a run of four successive defeats but they know they need to be converting those draws into wins to ensure survival.
Good Friday sees them welcome Bristol Rovers to Priestfield and their fans will be expecting them to build on last weekends draw. Rovers on the other hand, come into this one on the back of a very rare away win at AFC Wimbledon to keep their faint play off hopes alive. In order to stay in the hunt they will need to do something they have struggled with all season, get back to back league wins. This wont be an easy game against a side scrapping for their lives at the bottom of the table, but Rovers can approach this game with a lot less pressure on them than Gillingham and try to pinch the 3 points and hope results above them go their way.
Prediction: I think this will end up as a 1-1 draw. Gillingham are really struggling to find a win and they will need to go all out for the 3 points here against a very good Bristol Rovers side who know anything less than a win will end their play off hopes. I think Rovers poor away form will again come into play in this one along with the fact Gillingham will be fighting to get the win will ultimately lead to them cancelling each other out.
Millwall vs. Northampton
Millwall moved up into the play off spots on Saturday despite only picking up a point at Gillingham Saturday after Southend lost to Charlton, and they will be looking to capitalise on that slip up and make sure they remain in the top 6. The Den is a very tough place to go and Millwall will certainly fancy their chances in this one against a Northampton side who have struggled to find consistency this season.
The Cobblers come into this on the back of a defeat to Sheffield United, but they matched them for large parts of the game and they will take confidence from their performance against the promoted side. Millwall will be up for this one now they are in the top 6 and they will have a good backing at The Den and it will be up to Northampton to show they are up to the task.
Prediction: I can only see one winner here and that’s Millwall, and I am going to go for a 2-0 win. Millwall are a force at home and the home crowd will be getting right behind the team to make sure they remain in the top 6 until the end of the season.
MK Dons vs. Scunthorpe
An intriguing game at Stadium MK takes place on Easter Friday between two sides who have had very contrasting second halves to the season.
In January the MK Dons were struggling near the foot of the table and couldn’t buy a win, whilst Scunthorpe were looking destined for the Championship. Fast forward to April the Dons are now safely in mid-table and have had a strong second half to the season, whilst Scunthorpe have thrown away their automatic promotion chances and are clinging on to a place on the top 6.
Scunthorpe have been struggling away from home since the turn of the year, registering only 1 away win so far in 2017 and failure to win this game could put them under huge pressure to hang onto their top 6 spot with 3 games left.
MK Dons are really gaining some momentum going into these final few games and they’ll be looking to finish on a high to send them into the summer with renewed optimism. The Dons have only suffered 2 defeats in their last 10 games so they will be full of confidence and will want to test themselves against the Iron to see how far they have come in the past few months.
Prediction: I am going to go for the MK Dons to win this 1-0. Scunthorpe have really struggled away from home and they have not shown much on their travels lately to suggest this is soon to change. MK Dons are really playing with confidence at present and they will be looking to make a statement of intent for next season in these last few games.
Peterborough vs. Fleetwood
Both sides come into this game on the back of away defeats to relegation threatened sides and will both want to bounce back in this one. Peterborough suffered a 1-0 loss away at Coventry last week and they will be another side who will be glad to get their final games out of the way so they refresh ready for next season. The Posh have really struggled for consistency this season and their last 6 games is proof of this, 2 wins 2 draws 2 losses and its no surprise they are currently in mid-table.
Fleetwood on the other hand have struggled to gain any momentum since their 4-1 loss against Bolton in March and they have the same record in their last 6 as Peterborough. They need to start winning again quickly as they will not want to limp into the play offs struggling for form. This game is far more important for Fleetwood as they will want to make sure they get back to winning ways before the play offs. Their away form has not suffered though, they have only suffered one away defeat away from home in 2017 and that bodes well for them in this game.
Prediction: I think Fleetwood will get back to winning ways here and win this 2-1. They need this win a lot more than the posh and Uwe Rosler really needs to fire his men up for one last push. The Peterborough chairman has very high standards and a lot of ambition for the club and he won’t allow the team to switch off for the final 4 games but Fleetwood needing the win more edges this one for me.
Port Vale vs. Sheffield United
Firstly, congratulations to Sheffield United on their promotion to the Championship. Chris Wilder has done a fantastic job in getting them promoted and they will now turn their attention to winning the league. They can claim the league title this weekend, if they win on Friday and Bolton fail to beat Oldham on Saturday they will be champions. They had to grind out a tough 2-1 win away at Northampton at the weekend to confirm promotion, and they should expect another tough game on Friday against a Port Vale side who seem to play at their best at Vale Park.
Vale slumped into the bottom 4 after a disappointing loss away to Chesterfield and they will see their home form as key to surviving. Unfortunately for them their last 2 home games are Sheffield United and Bolton and they have a tough away trip to come at Fleetwood. For them to stay up I think they need to win both of their final 2 home games as they have been appalling away from home all season. We should see a Port Vale side full of fight on Friday knowing their League One status is in serious jeopardy.
Prediction: I think this game will finish a 2-2 draw. Port Vale are a different team when they are at home and if their away form could only be half as good as their home form they wouldn’t be in this situation. This good home form plus their absolute need to get something from this game could lead them to giving the blades a really good game. A lot will come down to how United approach this game too, will they want to get the title sewn up this weekend and chase the 100 point mark, to do this they would need to win their last 4 games, or will they take the foot off the gas knowing it would take a miracle for Bolton to catch them. It all makes for an interesting encounter at Vale Park.
Shrewsbury vs. Walsall
Shrewsbury came away with a huge win against Rochdale on Saturday which has pulled them out of the bottom four. Psychologically this will be a huge boost for them to get out of the drop zone so close to the finishing line and their survival hopes are back in their hands. They are still only 1 point above Port Vale who currently occupy the last relegation spot and 3 points ahead of Swindon in 22nd, so they know one slip up could put them back in the bottom four.
This weekend, Walsall are the visitors and the Shrews will be fancying their chances of registering back to back wins against an out of sorts Walsall side. The saddlers are yet to win away from home in the league in 2017 and their form as a whole leaves a lot to be desired. All you could put this down to is the team losing their drive and focus after hitting the 50 point mark and knowing they would not be going up or down and it appears there is a degree of complacency within the Walsall camp.
Prediction: I am going to go for Shrewsbury to follow up last week’s success with another 1-0 win in this one. They will be itching to get back out on the pitch and try and create some momentum and climb further away from the bottom four. I think this is an ideal game for them to do this, coming up against an out of form side with nothing else to play for, Shrewsbury will have their tails up and look to get at Walsall from the off. A defeat for Shrewsbury could see them drop back into the bottom four and this time of the season that could cause morale to drop in the camp and it would be hard to pick them up again with 3 games left.
Swindon vs. AFC Wimbledon
Easter weekend well and truly is crunch time for Swindon. Even though the gap is only 3 points that could quite easily become a much bigger margin after the Easter fixtures and leave them facing the drop into league two. They will have been disappointed with the draw at home to the MK Dons on Saturday given recent results, but that point could prove vital as it keeps them within 3 points of the teams just outside the relegation zone.
They welcome AFC Wimbledon to the County Ground on Friday, and they will have targeted this fixture as one where they will have a huge chance to get the 3 points. AFC Wimbledon come into this one on the back of a home defeat to Bristol Rovers, and with them only registering only one away win in 2017 they won’t be fancying their chances here. Wimbledon will safely finish in mid-table and that is a great achievement for them considering most people will have backed them to go down this year, but their fans will want them to finish above their bitter rivals, the MK Dons.
Swindon will be looking at their two Easter fixtures and be very optimistic of getting a few points to help their battle for safety, if they can win this one it will take them into their Monday fixture at Walsall on a massive high and they will surely fancy their chances there.
Prediction: I’m going for Swindon to win this one 3-1. Swindon know they need to start winning games and quick and this will be one of the games Swindon know they have a very good chance of winning. If they fail to win this one they could be as good as down before a ball is kicked on Monday. Wimbledon are finishing with a whimper but the fans will be wanting to finish above the MK Dons so they be demanding everything from the players in the final few games. The fact Swindon have to win this game gives them an edge in this one and they are looking more like the side people were expecting at the start of the season.
Oldham vs. Bolton
A local derby finishes the first round of Easter fixtures at Boundary Park. Bolton could go into this knowing they could get promoted if Fleetwood fail to win their game on Friday. On the other hand, Oldham still have to keep picking up points to keep their heads above water, so it should be an interesting fixture.
Oldham have done a great job of pulling themselves away from what looked like certain relegation. This is mainly down to their strong home form, only losing once since the turn of the year, this has allowed them to claw their way out of trouble. They claimed the scalp of Fleetwood last week with a convincing 2-0; this will no doubt give them the belief to get a result against Bolton.
Bolton have been on a fantastic run as of late, although they were stopped in their tracks last week at Scunthorpe, and they will be looking to get back on track this weekend to finish the job off with regards to promotion. They will have their work cut out as Oldham are a strong home side and they will have to be at their best to come away from Boundary Park with a win.
Prediction: I am going to go for a 1-1 draw here. Oldham are very good at home and have had some good results in recent weeks against Fleetwood and Sheffield United and this will give them the belief they can give Bolton a good run for their money. Oldham will be relying on their home form to keep them up but with the last 2 home games being against Bolton and Rochdale they know they will have be at their best in those 2 games. Bolton on the other hand have two local derbies over Easter, as they host Bury on Tuesday night. They will know that they will be in for a tough few days against local rivals who are both fighting for their lives and these are 2 games Bolton ideally would not have chosen to have at this stage of the season.