After 45 games and 9 months of football, the final day of the league season has arrived. There is still plenty to play for heading into this weekend at both ends of the table and every team kicks off at midday Sunday, I don’t understand why the football league felt the need to move all the games to such an early time on a Sunday as it makes life difficult for supporters but i am sure there will still be good turnouts across the grounds.
AFC Wimbledon vs Oldham
Wimbledon have really finished this at a canter. Since they secured League One status for next season they seem to have taken their foot off the gas and have had a mixed bag of results over the last couple of months and they will want to regroup over the summer to go again next season. Wimbledon come into this after a resounding 3-0 defeat at Bradford last weekend, but they will be looking to get a result here to send their fans off into the summer with something to cheer about.
Oldham guaranteed their safety last weekend with a hard fought draw at home to Rochdale in a game where they didn’t create many opportunities and they could potentially have their eyes on the beach before the end of this one. John Sheridan has done a fantastic job since returning to Oldham to guide them to safety after what seemed to be an inevitable relegation in January.
Prediction: I can see this having a pre-season friendly feel to it as both clubs would probably prefer to not have to play this final game. I can see this ending up in a 1-1 stalemate. Both teams have nothing to play for and both managers could use this fixture to try different players to assess their options for next season.
Bolton vs Peterborough
A few weeks ago, nobody would have thought the race for 2nd place would have gone to the final day as it seemed a formality as to when their promotion back to the Championship would be sealed. Up until last weekend they lost 2 of their previous 3 games and drew the other which saw Fleetwood close the gap on them again to leave the race for 2nd go down to the last game. Bolton would have started to think they were going to seal promotion last weekend when they were cruising to a 2-0 win at Port Vale as Fleetwood trailed in their game, but their late comeback made sure Bolton had to wait another week.
Bolton will know a draw should see them promoted unless Fleetwood win by 9 goals which seems unlikely. They will want an early goal to help settle the nerves and to avoid the FLeetwood result becoming a distraction.
Peterborough come into this knowing they will not finish any higher or lower than 11th place and they will be disappointed with that as they harbour ambitions to be playing in the Championship. They saw off Bristol Rovers last weekend in an entertaining 4-2 win and they will be looking to upset the promotion part at the Macron Stadium by getting a result in what will be a packed house .
Prediction: I think Bolton will do enough to get over the line and win this 2-0. They will be backed by a huge crowd and they will want to put on a show but if Fleetwood go in front early on in their game then the nerves from the crowd could find their way onto the pitch. I am sure Peterborough won’t just turn up and roll over so Bolton will need a good performance to earn their promotion.
Bristol Rovers vs. Millwall
First and foremost, it is no secret I am a Rochdale fan. So, i will be hoping for a Bristol Rovers win in this one to keep Rochdales play off hopes alive. Come on you Pirates!!!! Now i have had a moment, let’s get back to the preview.
Bristol Rovers come into this one on the back of a 4-2 loss at Peterborough last weekend, although their away form has been the reason they have not been able to finish a lot higher than they are. On the other hand their home form is superb and they will look to extend this into the final game to send their fans off happy after a very impressive return to football this level after only celebrating their return to the football league 2 years ago.
Millwall come into this huge game after a shock 3-0 loss at home to Oxford last week which has put their place in the play offs at a huge risk as their away form is far from being the best against one of the strongest home sides in the league. They know any slip ups here, Southend and Rochdale will be ready to pounce. Millwall will feel they will need to win this game as even a draw could see them quite easily overtaken.
Prediction: I think Bristol Rovers will win this one 2-0. They are fantastic at home and they won’t want to relent here and will look to carry this on into next season to go one better and get a top 6 place. Millwall are very questionable on the road. Only 2 wins from their last 10 away games won’t fill their fans with much confidence in hanging on to 6th place.
Charlton vs. Swindon
Charlton are enjoying a fine finish to the season and they will be aiming to extend that into the final game so Karl Robinson has something to build on over the summer. They have won 3 of their last 4 and won 2-1 away to Chesterfield last week to extend their good run. A couple of weeks ago they were still outside bets for the drop but they could now finish in the top half with a win here and that would be a great achievement considering where they were a month ago.
Swindon visit The Valley on Sunday knowing they will be in League Two next season. Their mini rival came to a huge stop and they couldn’t find the results they needed to climb out of the bottom four. They have now failed to win in their previous 4 games and the fans will be wanting to see something this weekend to give them some hope they will be able to bounce back next season.
Prediction: I think Charlton will continue their recent good form and win this one 2-0. Karl Robinson is doing a good job at Charlton and he won’t allow his players an off day here. Swindon have really lost their momentum that they created after the wins against Fleetwood and Millwall. Their fans have every right to be concerned for next season as i am sure many clubs will come in for their prized assets and they will want to keep hold of them to give themselves the best chance of promotion next season.
Fleetwood vs. Port Vale
This is arguable the biggest game of the day in League One. Both teams needs the result for very different reasons and both clubs could be in different leagues at the end of the game.
Fleetwood have had a fantastic season and regardless of where they finish after this game everybody connected with the club can be extremely proud of themselves. Their automatic promotion hopes looked over after 80 mins at Gillingham but a late show from Fleetwood saw them turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory to take the race for 2nd into the final day. 4 wins from the last 5 has created a lot of great momentum for Fleetwood and they would be a huge danger in the playoffs should they be unable to catch Bolton.
Port Vale managed to keep their survival hopes alive by winning their game in hand on Tuesday night with a rare away win at Walsall. They could not have picked a worse game to finish the season with, coming up against an in form promotion chasing side away from home when they have struggled on the road all season. In order to survive they will need to win back to back away games for the first time this season.
Prediction: Fleetwood should win this one and i think I will go for a 3-0 win. Port Vale have only won twice away from home all season and with this being a must win I don’t see them improving that record here. Fleetwood could do with an early goal in this one to put the pressure on Bolton as much as possible but to create as much momentum going into the playoffs as possible.
Northampton vs Gillingham
Northampton must be glad they had such a strong start to the season as they have really gone off the boil since the turn of the year and they could have been in similar position to this weekend’s opponents. With only 2 points from their last 5 games, the Cobblers are really in decline. They suffered an emphatic 3-0 loss away to a struggling Bury side to further compound their recent woes.
Gillingham will really be feeling the pressure coming into this fixture. They will be breathing a huge sigh of relief that Bury and Fleetwood have tough away games too so they could lose and still stay up. They come into this game with only one away win this year so they know they will be up against it this weekend. The Gills will have felt they were close to safety last week before Fleetwoods late show and this could have a huge psychological effect on the players.
Prediction: I can see this finishing up as a 0-0 stalemate. Both sides are really struggling for form as of late and despite Gillingham needing a win to guarantee survival i can’t see that giving them the edge here. Gillingham fans will have their eyes on results elsewhere for the afternoon in case their side don’t get the 3 points here.
Oxford vs. Shrewsbury
Both of these sides pulled off shock wins last weekend whixh has contributed to the 3 way batle for 6th spot.
Oxford managed a 3-0 win away to Millwall and i dont think many people saw that result coming at all. Oxford have been out of sorts ltely but they they showed everybody why they were play off cotenders for most off the season. They will be feeling if they would not have had the rut around their trip to Wembley would they have been u#in the playoff race too. Regardless of that though, they have had a terrific season in their return to the third tier of English football and it gives them plenty to build on for next sason.
Shrewsbury all but secured safety with their 1-0 win at home to Southend, barring there being a couple of rugby scores this weekend Shrewsbury will be in League One next season. Their form in the secind half of the season has been the catalyst ti their survival and they will be breathing a huge sigh of relief that this has been enough to keep them up.
Prediction: I think this will end up as a 1-1 draw, i think Shrewsbury will still be playing for the point to make sure they dont somehow end up in the bottom four. Oxford will have plenty to ponder over the summer in order to not miss out on the top 6 next season. Oxford will know their home form has no been the greatest this year and they will want to put that right and this game would be an ideal opportunity to strt putting that right.
Rochdale vs Bradford
Rochdale will feel like they missed a huge opportunity last weekend when they surrendered their 1-0 lead at Oldham. At one point last weekend they were in the top 6 and their destiny was firmly in their hands until they conceded the equaliser and they know nothing less than a win will do on Sunday. The dale have had a great season regardless of the outcome Sunday but they still have a huge chance to get into the top 6 so they might as well go all out for the win and leave it all on the pitch. The fans will have one eye on results at Southend and Millwall and I’m sure if results are going in Dales favour the atmosphere will help spur the team on.
Bradford know regardless of the result on Sunday they will be in the play offs, their approach will largely come down to how much they value the second leg being at home. If they don’t care which leg is the home leg we could see a few players rested for the play offs. Bradford fans were quick to snap up tickets for this one selling out their 3500 allocation and they will play their part in creating a cracking atmosphere. They bounced back well from their 3-0 loss to Sheffield United to beat AFC Wimbledon by the same score line last weekend so I am sure they will come into this in confident spirits.
Prediction: I can’t go for anything else but a Rochdale win here. I am in no doubt Keith Hill will get the lads fired up for this one and with it being the final game and only a win being the result that could get them in the top 6 they have nothing to lose so they need to take the game to Bradford and not come off the field having any regrets and thinking what might have been.
I think a lot depends on how Bradford approach this game. If they choose to go for the win to get the home playoff as the second leg we could see a tightly contested affair, if they rest a few then I think Rochdale could win the game a bit easier.
Scunthorpe vs. Coventry
Like Bradford, Scunthorpes approach to this game will depend on how much they want the second leg of the playoffs at home. The iron have been great at home all season and they will feel pretty confident of getting the 3 points here. Their form is peaking again at just the right time, winning their last 4 games and that momentum could be key when it comes to the playoffs. Last week they won 2-1 at Swindon, an impressive result given Swindon will have been fighting hard to avoid the drop.
Coventry on the other hand have known for some time they will be in league two next season. Mark Robins has steadied the ship since his arrival and they will hope they can have a stable summer as far as stable can be with Coventry these days to look to come straight back up.
They come into this one on the back of a 1-0 win against Walsall last week and they will be looking to build on this and ruin Svunthorpes momentum.
Prediction: Scunthorpe will continue their good form here with a 3-1 win. Their dip on form seems to be behind them now and they are starting to look more like the team we saw before Christmas. Coventry won’t offer much resistance i feel and they will just be wanting to get this season out of the way and focus on promotion next year.
Sheffield United vs. Chesterfield
Top vs bottom to finish the season at Bramall Lane. Sheffield United have not relented at all since winning promotion, and as I mentioned in my preview a couple of weeks back, Chris Wilder seems hell bent on getting to the 100 point mark. United have won their last 5 games at home with relative ease and have only conceded one goal in the process. Last week they got a very impressive 3-0 win at the MK Dons to further emphasise why they are the best in this division.
Chesterfield look destined to finish bottom of the pile and there’s nothing much you can say about their season apart from it being an endless disaster. They have only won 1 game in their last 10 and they will need a huge overhaul in the summer to come back stronger next year.
Prediction: I can see this being a drubbing and the blades running out 4-0 winners. They’ve been superb all season and worthy champions and they will want to put on a show in the final match. Chesterfield would rather not bother with this one as their fans have been out through enough this season but I can’t see them putting up much of a fight here.
Southend vs. Bury
It pains me to type this but I will be right behind Bury this week to help Rochdale. Come on the shakers (i hope I never have to write that again).
Southend have really fallen off the wagon as of late, 4 defeats in their last 5 games has seen them fall from the top 6 when they looked well placed to finish 6th with ease. Now they come onto this game against a team who can still go down knowing they need to better whatever Millwall do. In this situation, I am sure they would much rather be playing a team with nothing to play for but they’ll know they’ll need to be on top form to win this one. Last week they suffered a loss away to relegation threatened Shrewsbury and they will need a vast improvement if they want to get into the playoffs
Bury picked up a good win last Saturday at home to Northampton and that should fill them with confidence in a game where a point would realistically see them safe. If they lose this one they will face an anxious wait to see how the teams below do. I think Bury will be fine but you can’t count your chickens until it’s a mathematical certainty that you’re safe.
Prediction: I think Bury will get the point they need to stay up here. Southend have really struggled in recent weeks and it’s hard to lock yourselves up for a game like this when you’re on such poor form but they’ll know that Millwall have a tough game and the onus will be on them to take advantage should Millwall slip up.
Walsall vs MK Dons
This is a true mid table clash today. Both teams are safe in mid table after steady season’s.
Walsall suffered a poor loss to Port Vale on Tuesday but I doubt that’ll bother them too much at this stage. They will have expected a more exciting season given the season they had last season but the sale of Tom Bradshaw last summer was always going to have an impact.
The MK Dons will be wanting a response to last week’s poor showing against Sheffield United. They have looked like a much improved side the last couple of months and they will want one last flourish so they can go into the summer break with fresh optimism for next season when they will be expecting to push for a top 6 place.
Like some of the other games on Sunday there will be a preseason friendly like feel to this game so I would not expect a classic.
Prediction: I can see this being a 1-1 draw. There won’t be much in terms of intensity in this one and it will be interesting to see what kind of pace the game is played at. Both sides will be looking for better seasons next year especially the Dons so a strong finish here could be the catalyst for better times next season.
Sunday has the making of being a great finale to what has been a great season.
I can’t see Bolton losing their match to drop out of 2nd place and they should be celebrating promotion by the end of Sunday afternoon.
The play off race is anybody’s guess really. I can’t decide between Southend or Rochdale for 6th but that could be my dale tinted glasses talking there, I’ll be at the game tomorrow so I’ll just enjoy the day and what will be will be.
Sadly for Port Vale I can’t see them escaping the drop, I don’t see them getting anything at all at Fleetwood and that will confirm their spot in league two for next season.
Hope you have enjoyed reading my previews in recent weeks. Keep an eye out during the close season for my end of season review on all 24 clubs and a preview to the new season where we will see a host of new faces in league one for 2017/18.