League One Preview

Well here we are. Two games to play for the most of League One and there’s still plenty to at stake for at both ends of the league. Here we take a look at what will be a fantastic weekend of football.

Bradford vs. AFC Wimbledon

Bradford suffered a resounding 3-0 defeat away at Sheffield United on Easter Monday which all but ends any hopes of sneaking into 2nd place. The focus will now turn to generating some momentum going into the Play Offs, as the last thing they will want is to limp over the line as it will be a struggle to get promoted at Wembley. Bradford shouldn’t finish any lower than 5th, so they will be hoping to climb just one place to make sure they get the home second leg in the play offs.
This weekend they welcome AFC Wimbledon to Valley Parade, and they will be looking to get back on track with 3 points. Wimbledon’s season really has hit a brick wall and they have found themselves fixed to mid-table. They played out a typical end of season 0-0 with fellow mid-table side Peterborough and it seems that their foot has well and truly been taken off the gas. I wouldn’t be shocked to see some fringe or youth players getting a game in their last 2 fixtures.

Prediction: Bradford will win this all day long and I’m going to go for a 3-0 win for the home side. After the loss to Sheffield United they will be out to prove a point and pick themselves back up straight away. AFC Wimbledon seem to have their minds on the beach already and they will need to match the desire that Bradford will have in order to win this one, and I don’t see that being the case.

Bury vs. Northampton

Bury come into this fixture after a hard fought draw away to Bolton on Tuesday night, and they will be looking to take some confidence from that game into the last 2 games. They need to win this game as they face a tough final game away to Southend and they know this a must win, otherwise they could find themselves in the bottom four going into the final day. Bury have come through two tough local derbies over the Easter period and they will need to dig deep for this one.

They welcome a Northampton side to Gigg Lane this weekend, who have been out of sorts as of late. Their season has really fizzled out and after a promising start they will be disappointed to be finishing in the bottom half of the table. Their last 6 games have brought 3 draws and 3 losses and Bury will surely fancy their chances of getting a much needed win here.
Bury’s rivals at the bottom all have difficult fixtures this weekend, so they will need to seize the opportunity and could be safe going into the last game if they win here.

Prediction: I think Bury might edge this game 1-0. It all depends how they approach the game, if they let nerves and the pressure get to them, we could see a tense affair and a result which could plunge them into deeper trouble. This game needs to be treated like a cup final as if they lose, I really do think they will go down, as I don’t see them getting on the final day at Southend.

Chesterfield vs. Charlton

Already relegated Chesterfield will now be turning their attention to life in League Two next year, after their 3-1 loss away to Scunthorpe confirmed the inevitable relegation to the bottom tier. It will be quite hard for the team to pick themselves up for these last 2 games, but a lot of them will be playing for their futures and surely that’s the motivation to give everything in these final 2 games. On the other hand, Gary Caldwell must have a good idea which of the players figures in his future plans, so we could see them make a lot of changes this weekend.

Charlton come into this after a resounding 3-0 win at home to Gillingham which secured their survival for next season, but it’s their away form that has seen them struggle near the foot of the table. Karl Robinson must be looking forward to the summer so he can stamp his mark on the squad, and they need to improve next season.

Prediction: I don’t see much in terms of excitement coming out of this game, the result doesn’t matter to either team in terms of permutations for the league. I can see both managers experimenting in too. I think this will end up being a draw and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was 0-0. It’s a typical end of season fixture, and I’m pretty sure both fans will be glad when the season is over.

Coventry vs. Walsall

Coventry’s last stand came to an end over the Easter weekend and their relegation was finally confirmed after Friday’s draw with Charlton. Their misery was further compounded with a 2-0 loss at Rochdale. It’s always sad to see a club the size of Coventry fall so far from grace, especially when they’ve been run as poorly as they have, but it gives them the opportunity to rebuild and try and climb back up the leagues. They have a good manager in Mark Robins, who will be ready to start the rebuilding process and give them the best chance of mounting a promotion push next season.

Walsall face the relatively short trip to the Ricoh Arena on Saturday, looking to follow up a hard fought 1-0 win against Swindon. Walsall will be targeting a top half finish still with 2 games left, so they will go into this one looking for a the 3 points. They have been steady most of the season, but have not really ever looked like replicating the season they had last season, but I don’t think many will have expected that in all truth. Walsall have not been the greatest of sides away from home in 2017, they are still waiting to pick up their first away win of the year and they will need to perform to a high standard to change that here.

Prediction: I think this one will be a 1-1 draw. Both sides will want to end the season on a high for different reasons, but a mixture of Coventry’s poor season as a whole and Walsall’s poor away form, could see them cancel each other out. With this being Coventry’s final home game of the season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some protests from the fans against the clubs owners, but It will be down to the players to not get distracted and keep their focus on the pitch.

Gillingham vs. Fleetwood

Gillingham have pretty much got themselves safe after their win against Bristol Rovers on Friday, they are now 4 points clear of the bottom four and, with 2 teams below them, it would take a freakish set of results to see them go down now. They’ll be glad when the final game has been played as it’s been a miserable campaign from the off, and they’ll want to put this season behind them.

This is a huge game for Fleetwood. After Bolton’s recent wobble, they’re now in the hunt for 2nd place again, something that didn’t seem possible a couple of weeks ago. Fleetwood are now assured of a Play Off spot, which is a great achievement in itself and they can really have a go at Gillingham in this game to keep the pressure on Bolton. Fleetwood come into this on the back of two impressive wins over the Easter period, against Peterborough and Millwall, and they’ll really fancy themselves to beat Gillingham on Saturday.

Prediction: Fleetwood should win this game and I’ll go for a 2-0 win to the away side. They have 2 free hits essentially. Win the game and they could see themselves in 2nd place by the end of the day. A draw or loss wouldn’t be disastrous as they’re definitely in the play offs regardless, so they might as well give these last two games a real good go and who knows where it could it take them. Gillingham will be in summer mode for this one and I can’t see them winning this one.

Millwall vs. Oxford

Millwall will really be needing an immediate response to their loss against Fleetwood on Monday, otherwise their Play Off hopes could be in tatters by the end of play. They’ll be glad to be at home this weekend, as their home form has been key into getting them in contention for 6th place. They’ve not lost a home game since December and they’ll need more of the same for one final push for the Play Offs.

Oxford are the visitors to The Den this weekend. They’ll be looking to build on the 2-0 win at home to Port Vale on Monday, so they can finish the season with one last flourish. Their superb away form has turned sour in the latter parts of the season and have now failed to win their last 5 games away from home. This game won’t be an away game where they will fancy turning around this run, but they will want to end that rut somewhere.

Prediction: I will be hoping for an Oxford win to help Rochdale’s Play Off chances, but I don’t see Millwall dropping points here and I think they will win 2-1. They are a very strong home side and Oxford will need to rediscover that early season form to pose a strong threat. Millwall know if they drop points Southend and Rochdale are waiting in the wings to pounce on any mistakes and, with them facing a tough trip to Bristol Rovers on the final day, they know they’ll need a result here.

MK Dons vs. Sheffield United

MK Dons come into this game on the back of a very impressive win away to Southend on Monday and, they will be looking to send their fans off into the summer on a real high in the final home game of the season, when the Champions are the visitors. Robbie Neilson has done a great job since taking over at the Dons and he’ll be looking to send out a statement of intent for next season by beating the Champions this weekend. This won’t be an easy task as Sheffield United have not lost in the league since January, but I am sure the Dons will be fired up for this one.

Sheffield United will still be targeting the 100 point mark and if they win this game they’ll more than likely achieve that, with Chesterfield being the visitors to Bramall Lane on the final day. They looked very impressive in their 3-0 win against Bradford on Monday and proved why they’ll be finishing top of the pile. Wilder will not allow his team to take the foot off the gas as long as there is something else they can achieve in this remarkable season, and the 100 point is the latest target he will have his eyes on.

Prediction: I think Sheffield United will continue their dominance here and win this one, but it will be a tough encounter against a strong MK Dons side. Sheffield United have deserved their success last year and it’s taken a long time of rebuilding the squad several times with several managers, but they have found the perfect fit across the board this year and it shows in their results. MK Dons on the other hand are looking to keep some momentum going, so they can install some belief in the camp that they can mount a promotion push next year.

Oldham vs. Rochdale

This game is huge for Rochdale this weekend. It really is do or die for their Play Off hopes and with it being a local derby too, it has the potential to be a great game, but Oldham would love nothing more than to end their neighbour’s hopes of sneaking in to the top 6.

Oldham all but secured their survival over the Easter weekend and only a freak set of results could see them go down now, so the pressure that comes with a relegation battle will have been lifted and they’ll be able to play with a lot more freedom this weekend. Their last home game saw them beat Bolton 1-0 and that will fill them with confidence for this one.
Rochdale know anything less than a win could see their (outside) Play Off hopes crumble if results go against them. They need to go for it from the first whistle and get at Oldham; treat it like a cup final and see what happens. Keith Hill will have the team fired up for this one and will go all out for the win. They had a rewarding Easter weekend, seeing off Bury and Coventry, to bring themselves back into contention and there won’t be any pressure on them and this should allow them to also play with a bit more freedom.

Prediction: I really can’t predict how this one is going to go. I think my heart is going to overrule on this one and I think Dale will edge this one 2-1. Even though this is a derby, I think Rochdale will want and need this more and I think that could give them the edge. Oldham have done amazingly well to get themselves into this position as they looked dead and buried around Christmas and the fans will want a derby win to top their season off.

Peterborough vs. Bristol Rovers

Bristol Rovers come into this one mathematically still in with a chance of the Play Offs, but realistically it’s unlikely to happen, as they would need to win both games and hope the 3 teams above them lose their remaining 2 games. They’ve had a fantastic season, especially considering this time last year they were just finishing their first season back in the football league.

Peterborough have been the definition of inconsistency this season and as a result they’ve been rooted to a season of mid-table obscurity. They picked up one point over the Easter fixtures with a 0-0 draw at Wimbledon, which was a typical mid table end of season clash. The Posh will feel they should’ve done better this season and they are usually one of the divisions leading sides, so they will have a lot of work to do over the summer to get back on track for next season.

Prediction: I think this game won’t be a great spectacle and I think it will end up finishing up 1-1. Bristol Rovers have been poor away all season and I don’t see that changing here and Peterborough have not set the league alight at all this season. Bristol Rovers, like Rochdale, should just leave it all on the pitch at the weekend just in case the teams above them slip up and you never know what may happen.

Port Vale vs. Bolton

I didn’t think a couple of weeks ago, I would be writing, with 2 games left, that Bolton would be hanging on to 2nd spot with 2 games to go. 2 defeats and a disappointing draw at home to Bury on Tuesday has seen Fleetwood creep back up on them and left them under immense pressure with 2 games left. Bolton would feel that if they win this game, they should be able to see it through and finish in the top 2, with them being at home to Peterborough on the final day, but nothing is a guarantee at present with their current form.

They face a trip to Port Vale this weekend to face a side who need to win this game. Vale face trips to Walsall and Fleetwood next week and with their away form being abysmal, they’ll know they need 3 points here. I think if Port Vale lose this game then they will be down. Walsall away is a fixture they could get something from but their lack of points on the road so far doesn’t inspire much confidence for their fans, and Fleetwood away on the final day when they could snatch 2nd will be the worst game they could hope for on the last day.

Prediction: I think Port Vale’s home form, matched with the need to win this game, will see them get something from this game. Bolton’s recent wobble has left many wondering if they’re going to blow it so close to the line and, after 2 consecutive away losses, there will be some nerves amongst the fans for this one. I would not be shocked to see this one end up as a draw.

Shrewsbury vs. Southend United

Another game where both teams still have something to play for with 2 games left, but at different ends of the table. Shrewsbury know a win here would put them in a fantastic position to secure safety, but a defeat could see them pulled back ever so close to the drop again. They picked up 2 points over Easter weekend, but at this stage of the season and with the situation they are in its better to keep the points tally ticking over whilst other teams struggle for form.

Southend come into this one with 3 defeats in their last 4 games, which has seen Millwall and Rochdale creep up on them and leave their play off hopes hanging in the balance and their fate now being out of their hands. They suffered a shock 2-1 loss at home to the MK Dons last week and they’ll come into this game knowing it’ll be a tough game against a side still scrapping for their lives. Southend will think if they can win this game, they’ll head into the final game as favourites. Plus, with Millwall facing a trip to Bristol Rovers and Rochdale hosting Bradford, they’ll be hopeful both teams will drop points and end up pinching 6th spot.

Prediction: Like the Millwall game, I will be hoping for Southend to drop points, so I’ll be hoping for a Shrewsbury win. But if Southend can shake off the loss from last week and get their heads back on their game then they will fancy coming away from Shrewsbury with all 3 points. I can see Shrewsbury battling for a 1-1 draw to make sure they are not involved in a nervy final day, and a home game is the ideal opportunity to go for it. Southend know full well a defeat here could end their play off hopes for this season if results went against them so they will be ensuring they can do their bit to take it to the final day.

Swindon vs. Scunthorpe

This really is last chance saloon for Swindon to claw their way out of the drop zone. They really won’t want to rely on goal difference being their saviour on the final day, so a win here is so important to their survival hopes to put pressure on those above them going into next week. Their momentum seems to have slowed in the last couple of weeks after their back to back wins against Millwall and Fleetwood, they have followed this up with 2 draws and a defeat in kinder fixtures. The loss on Monday to Walsall could potentially knock the last bit of fight out of them and it will be interesting to see how they respond this weekend.

Scunthorpe will be arriving to the County Ground with their play off spot already in the bag. But, like their rivals, they will want to come into the Play Offs with momentum so they’ll be looking for the 3 points to raise the confidence and to also ensure they get the second leg at home. They come into this one on the back of a 3-1 win against Chesterfield which condemned to relegation and they could do the same to Swindon this weekend.

Prediction: I think this game will end up as a 2-2 draw, Swindon will know they can not afford to lose this game and I think they will be looking to get on the front foot early doors and make life difficult for a strong Scunthorpe side. Scunthorpe on the other hand will be looking to send out a message to their rivals as many might see them as the team they will want to play in the play offs due to their poor 2nd half of the season form which has seen them fall away form the top two spots.

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