League One: Battling for Promotion

With Sheffield United having won the league a while back, the only thing for them to worry about is whether they can reach a century of points. Standing in their way are MK Dons and the already relegated Chesterfield. For the next four teams though it’s fighting for that final automatic promotion place.

Bolton Wanderers missed a chance to make things a little less nervy as they were surprisingly held to a goalless draw at home to Bury. They should in theory be favourites for second, given that they play Port Vale this weekend, who not only are battling for League One survival but have failed to win in their last four games. If they fail that hurdle then they will hope that Gillingham who have been playing relegation chicken, will fail to add to their one win in the last seven. Fleetwood though might want to be aware that the only win in the barren run has come against playoff chasing Bristol Rovers, whose dreams of Wembley promotion are crushed. Fleetwood then on the final game of the season host Port Vale. You have to feel for the Vale in that two of the three remaining games come against Promotion chasing teams.

Either way Bolton and Fleetwood are at least assured of a playoff place if they don’t achieve automatic promotion. The only other team with a guaranteed playoff place are Scunthorpe Utd. Their 3-1 win over relegated Chesterfield meant that they could not drop out. For Bradford they in theory only need a point from their home game against Wimbledon. Southend are the only club that could reach 75 points but seeing that they have hit a one win in four game run, even though Southend travel to relegation threatened Shrewsbury, Bradford should be there. Bradford though face Rochdale who are within three points of Millwall who are in the fourth play off spot.

Whilst other teams can probably secure their playoff place with a point, Millwall unfortunately dont have that luxury, regardless of a struggling Southend below them. Both their remaining two opponents Oxford Utd and Bristol Rovers wont be pushovers although in the previous fixtures, they won both games. Things would be easy if that were the case, but at the same time the London club had lost to Port Vale, who as previously mentioned find themselves languishing at the wrong end of the table. Victory for Millwall and defeat for Southend will all but confirm their play off spot. Should Millwall drop points then not only will Southend still have a chance, but if Rochdale beat Oldham, then it could be an uncomfortable final 90 minutes in the last game of the season.

League One Plus

With the World Cup European qualifiers taking place this weekend (separate post to come on that) it meant no Premier League and Championship games taking place. This means a look at League One and below.

LEAGUE ONE

Bolton Wanderers missed the chance to open a four point gap when they were held at home to early season strugglers Southend United. Despite the gulf between the two, it was coastal side Southend that took the early advantage with a third minute goal. Unfortunately for the visitors, that was as good as it got. They had just two further goal attempts in the rest of the game and had to withstand a barrage of Bolton possession and shots on goal. It did seem though that at half time the visitors might pull it off. Three minutes into the second half Wanderers were level and then pushed on for the second goal to in the game, it never came and they had to settle for a point.

Bradford City faced fellow promotion hopefuls Millwall. The Bantams could have gone top and Millwall could have risen to second depending on other scores. A goal either side of half time was all that came in the game.

Fleetwood continued to keep in touch with the top two by grabbing a 2-0 home win over struggling Coventry City. For the home side they have only lost one game which came against the league leaders Bolton. Fleetwood will no doubt be serious contenders for promotion come the end of the season.

 LEAGUE TWO

Luton Town, having  finished eleventh last season, stormed to the top of League Two with a 4-1 win over Wycombe Wanderers.  Having only dropped points in a draw against Yeovil and an injury time defeat against rivals Stevenage, the league leaders have amassed a goal difference of plus nine in their 6 league games with thirteen points. Compare this to their rivals Morecambe and Plymouth close behind on twelve, neither of theirs is more than plus two.

Portsmouth looking to return to League One are hot on the trail and two points behind Luton. They are the closest in goal difference threat to Luton. They have plus four having had a slow start to the season. With Wycombe coming up, they will no doubt be looking to add to the goal difference and increase their chance of a top two place.

At the other end of the table Cambridge United find themselves propping up the table. Three points coming from three draws doesnt bode well for the club and have managed just three goals. A trip to third place Plymouth Argyle this weekend doesnt exactly bode well for them especially when the hosts have kept three clean sheets in a row.

There seems no escape for Yeovil Town either. Having started with four points in the first two games, that’s as good as it got. They shipped seven goals in the last two games. Their only hope is that this weekend they face Hartlepool who have leakier defence. They have shipped fifteen in six games including a 6-1 pasting by Stevenage.

It may still be a long way to go, but looking at League One and Two it would seem they are the leagues to keep a look at.

The League One and Two play offs – Goals for glory

With the playoffs being the final opportunity to take the final promotion spots, teams will do their best to ensure their fans see that day of glory at Wembley and a chance of seeing their team go up to the next division and big games to play.

In League One, Wycombe Wanderers who had missed out on automatic promotion by a point, faced a tie against Plymouth Argyle, who finished thirteen points below. The league game between the two at Home Park had produced just a solitary goal. It certainly wasnt going to be the case in the first leg. Plymouth who hadn’t beaten Wycombe in the league at home since 2004, had looked dead and buried. Two goals in the first twenty-two minutes from the visitors left Plymouth rocking and a third goal not long into the second half looked like seeing a possible rout. With Wycombe only losing once away from home in the previous eighteen games, things were looking very bleak for the Argyle. As the game was heading to an end, the tie was wide open again. The final five minutes though saw goals from Ansah and Banton.

Hopes for a Plymouth day out at Wembley were killed off early in the first half of the second league. A goal in the first and final ten minutes of the first half virtually ended the tie. At 5-2 on aggregate with a whole second half to play, it would have taken a lot to come back with. The visitors did manage one reply, but that was as far as it went. Plymouth would be destined to another season in League Two, whilst Wycombe gave themselves an opportunity of promotion that would come just a season after avoiding relegation out of the Football League.

The other tie saw Stevenage and Southend battling for a promotion place, as Southend looked to bounce back into League one after last seasons relegation. A much quieter affair saw a 1-1 draw in a game that was held up due to a nasty head collision. Both goals came within the opening fifteen minutes of the second half. The Stevenage substitutes bench saw a familiar face to football fans in the form of Dave Beasant at the wise age of 56.

The second leg saw another 1-1 affair. Southend who had lost out on automatic promotion on the final game of the season, missed a stoppage time penalty which sent the game into extra time. The home side who were hoping to avoid three play off semi final defeats in fours seasons, broke through in the second half of extra time and then sealed the victory in the final minute of extra time.

Southend and Wycombe do battle once more in a tie that saw nine goals scored between them over the home and away league ties. The two sides have only met once in a tie to be decided over 90 minutes. The Auto Windscreens Shield back in 1997 saw Wycombe win by a single goal.

Having avoided the defeat that could have seen them miss out on the Play Offs, the luck seemed to be deserting Sheffield United. A first half lead turned into a second half defeat when Swindon grabbed an injury time winner. If they had thought that was bad, the Blades found themselves being battered two goals in the first ten became three in the first twenty. Swindon were 5-1 up on aggregate. The visiting fans suddenly wondered if the luck was coming back, as an own goal a minute later and a second in the 38th minute pulled the score to 3-2 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate. Could United end their dismal play off run or was there still another sting in the tail.

Swindon were back in control with a penalty on the hour mark, it was 4-2 on the night and 6-3 on aggregate,  but it seemed that the visitors were not giving up. Davies pulled a goal back. Sheffield United had 25 minutes to grab three goals. A doable task but Obika scored a 5th in the 84th minute to surely put the nail in the coffin and make it 5-3 and 7-4 on aggregate. Not only was the score against them, but the time was against them. Three goals needed to level the tie and take it to extra time. They came close by getting two to close the aggregate score to 7-6. The defeat condemned Sheffield United to their eighth play off campaign defeat.

Swindon will face Preston North End, who beat Chesterfield in a one-sided affair. Preston scored a solitary 1-0 win in the first leg and a 3-0 win in the second. Preston will be hoping to repeat the score of the home game from this season, that saw them beat Swindon 3-0.

Whatever happens in the Wembley finals, I’m sure the fans will be hoping for respective wins and the neutrals for some more goals.