Sky Bet League One Game Of The Week: Colchester United v Leyton Orient

Only four games in and we’ve got a gap at the top. Leyton Orient and Peterborough are already two points ahead of Wolves but there’s already a three point gap between Kenny Jackett’s team and the last playoff spot, which is currently occupied by Bradford. Of course, there’s a long way to go until the end of the season, but over the last five seasons at least one of the clubs in the top six at the end of August have been promoted.

At the bottom, Coventry probably won’t occupy last place for much longer – the Sky Blues would currently occupy seventh place without the points deduction – but it’s the clubs immediately above them who ought to be worried. Of the six clubs currently without a league win, Carlisle and Notts County look especially vulnerable but as we mentioned before the season began, there’s usually one promoted club that finds the going heavy and Gillingham might fit that profile in 2013/14.

Last week’s game of the week finished in a narrow win for Brentford over Walsall: Clayton Donaldson’s goal just before half time settled the game and exactly 1000 more fans turned up at Griffin Park last week than for the corresponding game in February. Elsewhere, a dramatic extra time penalty from Leigh Griffiths earned Wolves three points against Crawley: Colchester only scored once against Carlisle, Peterborough scored five without reply at Tranmere and James Dunne scored a late winner for Stevenage at Notts County.

This weekend’s game of the week is an easy selection – Colchester United v Leyton Orient is the only game featuring two sides in the top six and could give us some clues about the long term prospects for both sides.

Colchester are causing a few raised eyebrows with their unbeaten start: since the start of April they’ve only lost once at the Weston Community Homes Stadium, which is their best run at home since last Autumn. Former West Ham striker Freddy Sears is the current top scorer with two goals, but the big improvement so far is defensive – right now, Colchester are conceding almost one goal a game less than they did last season. A bit of context is needed here: the back four is more or less the same and Colchester haven’t played anyone in the top half of the current table yet, so it’s a case of ‘wait and see’.

Leyton Orient weren’t supposed to do very well this season – if you look back at their pre-season odds for promotion, they’ve been cut from 13/1 to 4/1 – but we weren’t amongst those who held that opinion. Only Peterborough and Coventry have scored more goals so far, but the Os have only conceded one goal in four league games this season and have kept clean sheets in their last three games. Journeyman Irish striker Dave Mooney has already weighed in with four goals – he only needs one more to equal his total for last season – but there are goals throughout this team: midfielders Dean Cox and Moses Odubajo already have two each.

However, Orient have a big problem. They haven’t won a league game at Colchester since September 1951, they’ve not won four consecutive away games in League One since Spring 2009 – they are currently on a three game away winning streak – and their last away defeat was at tomorrow’s opponents in April.  At some point their 100% record has to go and I think that may happen. However, I wouldn’t rule out a draw.

Last meeting at Colchester: 6th April 2013

Colchester (2) 2 (Massey, Wright), Leyton Orient (1)1 (Lisbie) Att: 4704

Colchester: Walker, Wright, White, Wilson, Okuonghae, Thompson (Garmston), Massey, Clifford (O’Toole), Wright, Morrison (Smith), Ibehre

Leyton Orient: Jones, Clarke, McSweeney, Rowlands, Vincelot, Smith, James (Batt), Cox, Odubajo, Lisbie, MacDonald (Obafemi)

A valuable win for Colchester against playoff hopefuls Leyton Orient, who had only lost twice in their previous ten games: the Us moved six points clear of the relegation zone with four games left. Although Leyton Orient were still within striking distance of the playoffs, their form earlier in the season hadn’t been good enough and they missed out on the post season by three points.

Capital One Cup Round Up

A quick look at the midweek action in the second round of the Capital One Cup:

Through: Bristol City, Peterborough, Swindon and Tranmere

Bristol City are the only League One team through to the next round that defeated a Premier League side: they beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Ashton Gate. The other three sides joining them in the draw for the third round beat Championship teams: Peterborough battered Reading 6-0, whilst Swindon won 2-0 at QPR. Tranmere defeated Bolton in a penalty shoot out.

Out: Preston, Carlisle, Brentford, Leyton Orient, Notts County, MK Dons, Rotherham, Stevenage and Walsall.

Notts County, Leyton Orient and MK Dons all lost to Premier League opposition but all three games were close. Notts and the O’s were only defeated after extra time and at one point the Dons were 2-0 up at Sunderland: only a flurry of late goals meant the hosts qualified for the next round. Carlisle and – surprisingly – Brentford both conceded five goals against Championship opposition.

On Wednesday night, Rotherham, Stevenage and Walsall all lost to Premier League teams but Stevenage managed to take Everton to extra time at Goodison.

Capital One Cup Third Round Draw (League One teams only – all games scheduled for 24/25th September)

Southampton v Bristol City

Sunderland v Peterborough

Swindon v Chelsea

Tranmere v Stoke

Game Of The Week: Brentford v Walsall

After last week’s games the average goals per game dropped down to 3.08 (it was 2.48 last season), but Coventry clearly didn’t get the memo at Carlisle last week and scored three in half an hour. The Sky Blues eventually won 4-0 and are now only four points adrift at the bottom.

At the top we’ve got two sides with 100% records: Leyton Orient – who won at Stevenage – lead Peterborough by goal difference, but with only four points separating the top eight clubs it would be premature to read too much into the current league table.

Last weekend’s game of the week ended with another Wolves win at Ashton Gate: Matt Doherty scored the winner with five minutes left, although it could have easily been credited as an own goal to Aiden Flint. Wolves moved up to fourth after the win and could go top by beating Crawley tomorrow night (Sky Sports 1, 7:45pm KO). Despite a number of arrivals and departures, Bristol City don’t seem to have changed much from last season: able to score goals (only Wolves and Coventry have scored more) but poor at the back (only Carlisle have conceded more).

There were a number of contenders for game of the week: Colchester have been a pleasant surprise so far and it’s their turn to see how many goals they can score against Carlisle this weekend. Another ‘pacesetters v strugglers’ match sees Peterborough visit Tranmere and at the bottom Notts County entertain Stevenage.

Ultimately I couldn’t see past Walsall‘s trip to Brentford. Neither team has lost so far this season and the Bees have only lost two of their last 20 regular season games at Griffin Park. Seven of the starters from May’s playoff defeat played at Gillingham last weekend, but it’s former Walsall striker Will Grigg who has caught the eye so far. Grigg – drafted in to replace the departed Marcelo Trotta – has scored twice so far.

Walsall don’t lose many games away from home: two in the last ten, which is a credit to their defensive abilities. The Saddlers kept clean sheets in half of those games and began this season by shutting out Oldham at Boundary Park. Dean Smith isn’t a manager who makes changes for the sake of it: ten of the side that drew with Notts County last weekend had started all three league games this season, with the only change being Romaine Sawyers replacing Chelsea loanee Milan Lalkovic – and Sawyers had made substitute appearances in both the previous games.

It’s been seven and a half years since Brenford beat Walsall in the league at Griffin Park, but Walsall finished bottom at the end of the season whilst Brentford finished third but lost in the playoffs to Swansea (I wonder what happened to them?). The Saddlers have only won once in their last ten trips to Middlesex (by the odd goal in three almost exactly three years ago) and you have to go back to March 1987 for their previous league success.

My educated guess is that this looks like a game that Walsall probably won’t win, but it’s worth remembering that Dean Smith’s side only lost two of their away games against clubs that finished in the top six last season and they drew both games against Uwe Rosler’s team in 2012/13.

Last meeting at Griffin Park: 23rd February 2013

Brentford 0, Walsall 0 (att. 4781)

Brentford: Moore, Craig, Bidwell, Douglas, Adeyemi (Diagouraga), Dean, Forshaw (Saunders), Donaldson, Wright-Phillips (Forrester), Trotta

Walsall: McCarey, Taylor, Butler, Downing, George, Chambers, Mantom, Baxendale (Westcarr), Brandy (Featherstone), Patterson

Despite both clubs being in the top ten and Brentford being within four points within the automatic promotion places, one of the smaller crowds at Griffin Park last season braved the almost freezing weather in west London and were rewarded with a goalless draw.

Johnstone’s Paint Trophy First Round Draw

All games scheduled for the week beginning 2nd September 2013, although we can confirm that Sky Sports will be showing the Bristol derby on Wednesday 4th September. The teams in bold type are members of League One this season.

Northern Section

Crewe Alexandra (last season’s winners) v Accrington Stanley

Hartlepool United v Bradford City

Notts County v Burton Albion

Port Vale v Bury

Scunthorpe United v Sheffield United

Shrewsbury Town v Oldham Athletic

Tranmere Rovers v Fleetwood Town

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Walsall


Southern Section

Bristol City v Bristol Rovers

Cheltenham Town v Plymouth Argyle

Dagenham & Redbridge v Colchester United

Exeter City v Wycombe Wanderers

Gillingham v Leyton Orient

Milton Keynes Dons v Northampton Town

Torquay United v Portsmouth

Interestingly, those games mean there’ll be three guaranteed places for third tier sides in the second round – along with the eight League One teams that received byes in the first round. We’ll bring you any further alterations to the dates/times when we receive them.

Sky Bet League One Preview 17th August 2013

We’ve only had two rounds of matches so far but one thing is abundantly clear: the current rate of goalscoring is unsustainable. Of the 24 games so far, 14 have finished with more than 2.5 goals, with Sunday’s game between Coventry City and Bristol City – the first 5-4 scoreline in League One since Peterborough United beat Swindon Town by the same score in October 2010.

Last week’s game of the week finished 3-1 in favour to Brentford: although the game was finely poised after an hour, two goals from ex-Walsall striker Will Grigg opened his account for the season and meant a long journey home for Sheffield United fans.

At the other end of the goalscoring scale, there have been three goalless draws – Preston North End have been involved in two of them and are one of the three clubs yet to score in the league. The others are Shrewsbury Town and Gillingham: last season’s League Two Champions have started poorly.

It’s too early to start analysing the table, but it may or may not be significant that two of the four clubs I mentioned in this post as potential competition winners currently have 100% records.

There are a few games worth looking out for this weekend: Leyton Orient‘s trip to Stevenage and the game at the Banks’s Stadium between Walsall and Notts County are matches between clubs in the top and bottom six. Taken at face value Coventry City’s trip to Carlisle United is technically speaking a clash between the bottom two clubs, but with the Sky Blues having already put a dent in their points deduction that game looks more of a worry for the hosts.

However, game of the week is between two of the new arrivals when Wolves visit Bristol City.

The Black Country side won both of the games against their opponents in the Championship last season and it’s been almost 20 years since the Robins beat Wolves at Ashton Gate, but this weekend’s game is an early test for the promotion credentials for both sides. The visitors only won three of their last ten away games in last season’s Championship and have only scored once in their last five competitive games – which seems to have carried over into this season. However, scoring at Ashton Gate is not something that Wolves have had a problem with in recent meetings. Between November 1994 and last December, Wolves have scored a total of seventeen goals in five league games, including six in the game that featured the infamous ‘Battle Of The Mascots’ in November 1998.

City have also carried over some of last season’s form – they conceded the most goals in the entire football league last season and only Carlisle have conceded more than Sean O’Driscoll’s side in League One so far. Bradford City scored twice in the season opener at Ashton Gate and although the Robins score more often than not at home, they need to produce a convincing defensive display on Saturday: the City back four has been unchanged in both league games so far, but you’ve got to wonder if that might not be the case on Saturday. It’s not often you score four goals away from home and come away with nothing.

Kenny Jackett made a couple of changes from the Wolves side that drew with Preston on opening day and the result was a 4-0 win over Gillingham with new signing Leigh Griffiths scoring twice. That result may not be the most reliable guide to recent form, as Bristol City had won at Gillingham in the Capital One Cup a few days before – those games may be a guide to how weak the Gills are rather than the relative strengths of the teams that play each other at Ashton Gate tomorrow.

In 1999 Manchester City was in the third tier of English football

In the 1990’s Manchester City went through a period of decline, culminating in relegation to the third tier of English football for the first time in their history in 1998. Since then they have returned to the Premier League, and with the financial help of a wealthy Saudi family are now one of the richest football clubs in the world. In 2012 they won the FA Cup and the Premier League title.  But that seems a lifetime away for fans who remember the second division play-off final at the old Wembley Stadium against Gillingham in 1999 where Paul Dickov saved the day with a last minute equalizer to take the match to extra time & penalties.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tge11NHJ0U

From Balti Pies to the Biggest Prize - The Transformation of Manchester City
From Balti Pies to the Biggest Prize - The Transformation of Manchester City

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Game Of The Week: Brentford v Sheffield United

Both teams suffered at the end of last season: the Bees were denied automatic promotion on the last day of 2012/13 before a sensational ending to their playoff semi final against Swindon gave them the opportunity to win promotion at Wembley in May.

Despite having never been lower than eighth place in the weekly tables since they were relegated from the Championship in 2011, the Blades have now blown promotion in consecutive seasons. To put it bluntly, if either side can win this game they may have a huge advantage at the end of 2013/14.

The head to head record between the sides at Griffin Park tells an interesting story. First half goals from Clayton Donaldson and Harry Forrester earned three points for Brentford in the corresponding game last season, but that was the first win for the Bees over the Blades since April 1983. United had won the three games in West London in between.

Uwe Rosler has chopped and changed his starting XI since the playoff defeat at Wembley – only five of the team that lost to Yeovil started at Port Vale last weekend and none of them played against Dagenham & Redbridge in the Capital One cup in midweek. Building a team around Shaleum Logan, Jake Bidwell, Harlee Dean, Adam Forshaw and Clayton Donaldson looks like a good decision and could pay off this season.

David Weir only took over at Bramall Lane in June, but has largely kept faith with the side that lost to Yeovil in the playoff semi final – so far. Seven of the players that took the field against Burton Albion in the Capital One Cup had played in the second leg of the Yeovil game but the results were the same: two defeats. Although nothing has been confirmed yet, influential midfielder Kevin McDonald could be on his way to Wolves, which could give Weir a major headache, as would a defeat at Brentford tomorrow.

Capital One Cup 2nd Round Draw

Sky Bet League One teams only – ties to be played during the week of 26th August:

Aston Villa v Rotherham United

Bristol City v Crystal Palace

Burnley v Preston North End

Carlisle United v Leicester City

Derby County v Brentford

Everton v Stevenage

Leyton Orient v Hull City

Liverpool v Notts County

Peterborough United v Reading

QPR v Swindon Town

Stoke City v Walsall

Sunderland v Milton Keynes Dons

Tranmere Rovers v Bolton Wanderers

I suppose an all League One tie was too much to ask for, but with both Bristol City and Leyton Orient being drawn at home to newly promoted Premier League teams that they’ve played within the last year, those ties may be the ones to keep an eye on at the end of the month. The all-Lancashire derby at Turf Moor will be hotly contested too.

The Villa/Rotherham game is an interesting one – the teams contested the very first League Cup final in 1961, with the midlands side winning 5-0 on aggregate. They haven’t met in any competition for over four decades.

Capital One Cup First Round: A Qualified Success

Considering that there were only four guaranteed places in the second round of the Capital One Cup, the fact that nine other teams qualified for today’s draw can’t really be seen as anything other than a success.

Four clubs – Carlisle, Preston, Rotherham and Stevenage – all beat Championship opposition and with the majority of Premier League teams joining the competition in the second round, the thirteen successful Sky Bet League One clubs will all be looking forward to a favourable draw.

At the other end of the scale, Crawley, Crewe, Sheffield United and Wolves were all beaten by League Two opposition, with the Blades losing at home to Burton Albion courtesy of a last minute goal by former Coventry City striker Chris Hussey. Last season’s finalists Bradford City were also beaten.

We’ll have news of the draw later on today.

Sky Bet League One: What Can We Expect In 2013/14?

Just before the start of the season, I normally post an article about some of the long term trends in the Championship at our companion blog buzzin’ championship football and so it seems fitting to do the same for League One this season…so here goes!

Winners

Eight of the 20 teams that won the ‘third tier’ since Stoke City were crowned Champions of the old Division Two in 1993 have come from clubs that had played at least one season in the competition and had finished in the top ten during the previous season.

However, since the competition became League One in 2004, four of the nine winners have come from teams that were new to the competition – and three of those sides had been relegated from the Championship at the end of the previous season. It’s also worth noting that only one of the teams that won League One since 2004/05 had managed a top ten finish in the previous season (Swansea City in 2006/07)

Possible ‘Best Fit’: Peterborough United (from the relegated teams, last title in 1974 – the old Fourth Division), Leyton Orient (from the teams that finished in the top ten – last title in 1970, when they won the old Third Division). Bristol City backers beware – the Robins last won a divisional title in 1955.

Automatic Promotion

There are some similarities with the profile of the winners. Sixteen of the last 20 runners up had played in the third tier during the previous season, with ten of those clubs having finished in the top nine positions.

Since the third tier became League One only two of the teams relegated from the Championship and none of the clubs promoted from League Two have won automatic promotion, therefore effectively ruling out Bradford, Gillingham, Port Vale and Rotherham. This is potentially where a surprise candidate could emerge: Preston and Notts County may be worth keeping an eye on. Both clubs drew more games than they won last season so even a small shift in the right direction could make a big difference.

Playoffs

We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it! It’s worth pointing out immediately that in the last 20 years none of the promoted teams have won promotion to the Championship via the playoffs and since League One was ‘born’ seven of the nine playoff winners had played at least two seasons in the competition.

Relegation

(The following section was originally written before the news concerning Coventry City’s possible points deduction broke earlier today – if the Sky Blues suffer that fate, the situation at the bottom of the table could change dramatically)

It’s extremely unlikely that any of the clubs that were relegated from the Championship will be relegated this season – in the past two decades only five clubs have suffered consecutive relegations and three of those teams had been in severe financial problems (Portsmouth, Plymouth and Luton).

The type of team to look out for here are those that finished between 11th and 20th last season but in particular those that finished below 15th. Colchester, Oldham, Shrewsbury and Stevenage look particularly vulnerable in this respect, but we’ll see what happens.

However, last season was the first campaign since 2007/08 where all of the newly promoted clubs escaped relegation – which implies that at least one of the new arrivals from League Two could be one season wonders. Furthermore, it’s the teams that win automatic promotion rather than the Champions or playoff winners that seem to struggle the most – Port Vale could fit the bill.

It may also be worth keeping an eye on any teams that were defeated in the playoffs or just missed out on the post season that are struggling in the first couple of months. In the last decade three sides that had reached the playoffs at the end of the previous season have been relegated, the last club to do that was Swindon at the end of 2010/11.

Could history repeat itself? We’ll find out over the next nine months.