Sky Bet League One Preview 28/29th September

Leyton Orient won at Brentford on Monday night to increase their lead at the top to five points, so whatever happens this weekend they cannot be overtaken. That may not be the last time you read that phrase in relation to the current leaders.

Almost inevitably all four League One clubs were knocked out of the Capital One Cup in midweek, but the biggest disappointment was that none of them managed to score.

There are two games of interest this weekend. The last time Wolves played at this level – 25 years ago – they were promoted as champions with Sheffield United finishing as runners up and before the season began this would have been one of the most anticipated games in League One. However, it already looks like a game the Blades won’t win: in the last 40 years they’ve played at Wolves in 20 league games and won just three – their last victory came eleven years ago. That doesn’t even take into account United’s recent away record: their last away win was at Tranmere in March and they’ve lost their last six regular season away games, scoring twice during that run.

Wolves were beaten at home by Walsall in their last home game but despite being relegated last season, the Old Golds haven’t lost consecutive league games at Molineux since just after last Christmas. Although they’re one of the clubs that are five points behind Leyton Orient, it’s worth remembering that Wolves didn’t take over at the top of Division 3 (as it was called then) until Bonfire Night 1988 – remarkably, the early pacesetters were Port Vale and Sheffield United!

Football in Yorkshire has been in the doldrums for a while now – Sheffield United were the last team to play in the Premier League and that was six seasons ago – and Leeds currently in the bottom half of the Sky Bet Championship, that means there’s just one club from Yorkshire amongst the top 30 clubs in the UK and that’s Huddersfield Town. That trend could change over the next couple of years if two of the promoted teams continue their progress over the last couple of years.

Remarkably, last season Bradford were the first Yorkshire team to reach a domestic cup final since Leeds were beaten in the 1996 League Cup final. The last time a Yorkshire side won the FA Cup: Leeds – in 1972.

One of the clubs I’ve hardly mentioned this season despite having a good start is Rotherham United. Just over a decade ago the Millers achieved their best finish in the football league since the mid 1950s but two relegations in three seasons combined with three spells in administration and having to play in Sheffield for four years have meant something of a lost decade for the club.

Things started picking up for Rotherham in January 2010, when plans for a return to the town based on a new stadium were announced. Before promotion last season, the Millers had three top ten finishes in League Two and so moving into the New York Stadium and appointing Steve Evans as manager looked like the end of a successful first transitional phase for the club.

On the pitch, the Milllers haven’t lost at home in the league since the start of March, which is a run that will be tested when Peterborough visit South Yorkshire tomorrow. By and large Evans has kept the faith with the players that earned promotion last season and although keeper Scott Shearer, defender Joe Skarz and midfielders Lee Frecklington and Ben Pringle are hardly household names, Rotherham are one of the three unbeaten teams left in League One this season and have a genuine candidate for this season’s leading goalscorer in Daniel Nardiello. Older readers may remember his father Donato, who was one of the bright young things at Coventry in the late 1970s before moving to the NASL.

Peterborough haven’t won at Rotherham since November 1977 (ten meetings in Yorkshire since then) but haven’t lost an away game in League One this season and no other team in the competition has scored as many goals on their travels as Posh have. When you compare that with Rotherham’s defensive record – the most goals conceded in the current top six – this looks like a game that could feature a few goals.

I’ll be back next Friday, so have a good weekend!

Monday Night Football: Brentford v Leyton Orient

A rare Monday Night Football game from League One and despite not even having played a quarter of the season, tonight’s game (Sky Sports 1, 7:45pm) is an important one for both teams.

Leyton Orient wil remain at the top of the table regardless of what happens tonight, but Brentford need a win to keep in touch with the top six. The Bees have only lost twice at home since January, but due to the way the fixtures have been scheduled this is their first home game since the end of August. Their last outing at Griffin Park – a goalless draw with Carlisle – was the first time that Uwe Rossler’s team had failed to score at home since ‘that’ game against Doncaster at the end of April.

Griffin Park has not been a happy hunting ground for Leyton Orient. This will be their 21st league game at the venue and they’ve only won twice – their last victory came just over 20 years ago – but you get the feeling that not only is another Orient win overdue but that this is the Os best team for a while. The one knock against their 100% record is that they’ve not played anyone in the current top half of the table whereas Brentford have already beaten Walsall at home.

Looking back at the weekend games, Wolves and Peterborough both won: there was a record crowd at Shrewsbury’s Greenhous Meadow and only a Bakary Sako penalty separared the teams after Jon Taylor had been dismissed for deliberate handball. Peterborough beat MK Dons despite have two men sent off: Nathaniel Knight-Percival and Mark Little displayed the rougher strategies Posh sometimes use.

Preston won at Bramall Lane for the first time since the late 1970s: Stuart Beavon’s goal condemned the Blades to their fifth consecutive defeat. United’s playoff hangover may be far more serious than anyone may have anticipated. Despite twice taking the lead, Coventry lost at Port Vale and Notts County finally won their first game of the season when they defeated Tranmere at Meadow Lane for their first win at home since April.

With only four League One clubs left in the Capital One Cup and all of them playing Premier League clubs this week, it would be a big surprise if even one of them reached the last sixteen. It’s been over a decade since both Bristol City (at Southampton tomorrow) and Tranmere (at home to Stoke on Wednesday) got this far in the competition: the last time Swindon played  Chelsea (Sky Sports 2, 7:45pm tomorrow) in the League Cup 50 years ago the Wiltshire Robins won 3-0 but following Paolo di Canio’s sacking by Sunderland it looks as if Peterborough might have the best chance of getting to the next round.

Unless anything dramatic happens during the week, the next scheduled post is on Friday, when I’ll be taking a closer look at Rotherham United and wondering if Sheffield United can get anything at Wolves.

Sky Bet League One Game Of The Week: Sheffield United v Preston

Everyone else’s dark horses Leyton Orient remain top of the table going into this weekend’s games. The Os demolished hapless Notts County 5-1 at the Matchroom Stadium on Tuesday with Kevin Lisbie bagging a brace.

Peterborough moved up into second place after winning 3-0 at Bristol City on Saturday but Wolves failed to overtake Darren Ferguson’s side after losing at home to Walsall on Tuesday, a victory that prompted a swiftly deleted outburst from the Saddlers’ social media department!

Elsewhere, Bradford dropped out of the play off places after coming from behind to draw with ColchesterPreston and MK Dons took advantage of the Bantams setback with wins.

At the bottom of the table, it’s hats off to Steven Pressley and his band of nomads as Coventry finally moved out of the bottom four when they beat Gillingham on Sunday. Bristol City, Gillingham and Notts County remain the only clubs without a win this season, with Notts in real danger of being cast adrift if they don’t win soon.

There’s only one game this week that features two clubs in the top six: the clash at London Road between Peterborough v MK Dons. Posh have only lost two of the six meetings between the clubs at Peterborough in the Football League but seem to be more adventurous on the road, where they’ve scored eleven more goals in 2013/14. MK Dons haven’t lost away from home this season and are pretty tight defensively so this might not be the goalfest we normally associate with Peterborough.

Game of the week is between clubs that were playing in the Championship not that long ago and should be doing better. To be fair to Preston they look like a team prepared for the long haul, but Sheffield United have been a disappointment in the first few weeks of the season.

I wondered if the Blades were destined for a playoff hangover before the season started, but the truth is they weren’t winning that many games at home towards the end of last season – seven in the last 20, they hadn’t won consecutive games at Bramall Lane since last October/November and three of those wins came against strugglers or teams that were relegated – the win over Notts in the first game of the season reflects that. Furthermore, you can’t win if you’re not scoring – United have failed to score in six of last of their last ten and haven’t scored more than two since mid February. They recruited troubled veteran striker Marlon King this week, but it’s fair to say that his best days are well behind him and this looks like a risky short term measure to me.

Preston won at Walsall in their last away game but haven’t won consecutive games away from Deepdale for almost two years. That being said they’ve only lost six of their last road trips since last October and have found their shooting boots away from Deepdale recently: the seven goals they’ve scored in the last couple of games is more than the total they managed in their last 13 away matches before that.

However, before anyone gets carried away with the idea that the visitors just have to turn up in South Yorkshire, there’s a big catch: Preston haven’t won a league game at Bramall Lane since November 1978 despite having 15 attempts since. I think it’s fair to say that this game should provide a useful yardstick for how this season might develop for both teams.

There’ll be a special Monday post for the televised game between Brentford and Leyton Orient (Sky Sports 1, 7:45pm) as well as quick look at next week’s games in the Capital One Cup – have a good weekend!

Sky Bet League One Game Of The Week: Coventry v Gillingham

It could be one of those ‘all change’ weekends with four of the top five at home (only Peterborough have to travel) and four of the bottom six playing each other. As the game of the week is Coventry v Gillingham, let’s look at the bottom of the table.

As I mentioned earlier this week, Carlisle have already taken action to stop their season turning into a disaster. Notts County may be the next club to get rid of their manager if Chris Kiwomya doesn’t start getting results: the former Arsenal, Ipswich and QPR striker is the sixth manager in charge at Meadow Lane in the last three years.

However, the biggest surprise amongst the strugglers so far this season is the appearance of Sheffield United in the bottom six. The Blades have lost four of their last five games and look as if they’re suffering from the classic ‘playoff hangover’. The long term problem is a lack of goals: including last season’s playoffs, United have failed to score in half of their last ten games and they’ve not scored more than two goals in the league since February. That may change when they travel to Brunton Park tomorrow but it can’t be guaranteed.

Bristol City are another team who were supposed to be doing better than their current position – they’d be in the bottom four if Coventry hadn’t had those points deducted but are notoriously slow starters. At least City are a bit of a bogey team for Peterborough: Posh have only won once in their last ten league games at Ashton Gate and were beaten twice by the Robins in the Championship last season.

All of which leads us nicely on to this weekend’s game of the week. Without the points deduction, Coventry would be in the last playoff position but considering the Sky Blues had one of the best away records in League One last season, it’s not a particularly big suprise that they’re doing so well. 21 year old leading scorer Callum Wilson is a local lad who has scored more goals this season than he has in the rest of his professional career but if he continues at this rate, the real star of the team is manager Steven Pressley – who must be a candidate for Manager Of The Year at this point.

It’s probably not a good time to remind Gillingham fans that they’ve not won an away game in League One since January 2008 despite have almost forty games to do so. At least the Kent club are managing to score on their travels, but Martin Allen must be tearing his hair out over their habit of not being able to hang on to leads – something they’ve done in half of their league games this season. Part of the reason for that is their defensive record: the Gills have conceded the same number of goals as Coventry and Bristol City, but only seven other clubs have scored fewer. Veteran strikers Danny Kedwell and Adebayo Akinfenwa have scored most of Gillingham’s goals this season, you get the feeling that if either of them have a barren patch the Gills might struggle.

Last meeting (statistics proved by 11v11.com and statto.com)

15th September 2004 in the Championship

Coventry (1 )2 (Morrell, John pen.) Gillingham (0) 2 (Agyemang 2) Att 11966

Coventry: Steele, Staunton, Shaw, Leacock, Whing, Sherwood, Hughes (Gudjonsson), Doyle, Barrett (Suffo), John, Morrell

Gillingham: Banks, Cox, Hope, Hills, Southall, Perpetuini, Smith, Spiller, Roberts (Crofts), Agyemang, Byfield (Sidibe)

The Gills overturned a two goal deficit in the second half to earn a point at Highfield Road. Patrick Agyemang (now with Portsmouth) scored twice in ten minutes after goals from Andy Morrell and Stern John had given the hosts the lead. However, that was as good as it got for Gillingham: they lost their next seven games and despite staging a late escape bid from the bottom three they were relegated at the end of the season. Coventry almost joined them: the Sky Blues were in the bottom three as late as the end of March.

Carlisle United Part Company With Greg Abbott

The first managerial casualty of the season was announced this morning when Greg Abbott was dismissed from his post at Carlisle United.

It didn’t come as much of a surprise – back in July we noted that he might face an uphill struggle – and with United having been in the bottom four since the season and currently having the worst goal difference in League One it was time for the powers that be to make the move.

Last week’s game of the week was almost a carbon copy of the last time Crewe met Peterborough, although this time Crewe looked to have all three points wrapped up. A late Michael Bostwick goal earned a draw for the Posh, who are now level on points with Wolves despite having played one game more.

The draw for the second round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy was made on Saturday morning and here are the games featuring sides from Sky Bet League One – the matches will be during the week commencing October 7th.

Northern Section

Fleetwood v Crewe

Morecambe v Carlisle

Port Vale v Rochdale

Preston v Oldham

Sheffield United v Hartlepool

Wolves v Notts County

York v Rotherham

Southern Section

Peterborough v Brentford

Stevenage v MK Dons

Leyton Orient v Coventry

Swindon v Plymouth

Wycombe v Bristol City

Crawley v Newport

I’ll be back on Friday with a preview of this weekend’s games – the game of the week will probably be Gillingham’s turn to visit Sixfields to visit Coventry City.

Sky Bet League One Game Of The Week: Crewe v Peterborough

Leyton Orient broke their sixty year streak without a win at Colchester United last weekend to take over at the top of Sky Bet League 1; Wolves won at Port Vale but Peterborough surprisingly lost at home to Crawley and Brentford could only draw with Carlisle.

At the bottom only Crewe and Notts County lost – Coventry‘s point at Shrewsbury means that the Sky Blues have taken another step towards wiping out their points deduction. If they beat Colchester on Sunday, they’ll go above Notts.

Ten clubs from League One qualified for the next round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, but the major talking point from that competition was the pitch invasion at Ashton Gate following Bristol City‘s win over Bristol Rovers. I was at that game and the incidents were nowhere near as bad as the media would have you believe they were. Both clubs have idiots who have attached themselves to them, but to claim that this was a return to the dark days of yesteryear is frankly laughable.

There’s not a great deal to chose from this weekend but Crewe v Peterborough would have been the favourite regardless of whether the three postponed games had gone ahead or not: it’s the only game that fits the ‘bottom six against top six’ scenario and should be far more interesting that Milton Keynes Dons v Swindon (Sky Sports 1, 12:15pm), which looks like a low scoring game to  me.

A quick glance at the table gives the impression that Crewe will be up against it tomorrow, but at this stage in the season appearances can be deceptive. Going back to last season, the Alex have only lost three of their last ten home games – with two of those defeats coming against Brentford and Doncaster Rovers. Steve Davis’ squad is also good for at least one goal in front of their own fans, having only failed to score twice since the start of last October.

In true Crewe tradition, the average age of the ten players who have featured in all five league games this season isn’t even 22: the veterans of the side are a pair of 26 year olds. Ghanaian defender Abdul Osman and midfielder Anthony Grant have plenty of experience in the leagues one and two, but it’s leading scorer Ryan Colclough who is the one to watch – he’s scored two of Crewe’s five goals this season.

Crewe’s problem area this season is defence – only Tranmere and Carlisle have conceded more goals so far – and that’s a major worry whenever you face Peterborough. Having suffered their first defeat of the season last week, Posh will be looking to extend their 100% away record: it won’t come as much of a surprise to many people that the familiar attacking style that’s worked in the past is still being used by Darren Ferguson. Six different players have scored so far with record signing Brett Assombalonga leading the charge with four, but Tyrone Barnett is also making the most of his current opportunities.

Peterborough are also a bit of bogey team for Crewe. In the last ten games between them at the Alexandra Stadium, the Posh have only lost twice with their last defeat coming in April 1996. My guess would be that Posh win this one, but it’ll be far more competitive than the current table suggests.

Last meeting: 28th October 2008

Crewe (0)1 (Pope 88), Peterborough (1)1 (McLean 14). Att: 3699

Crewe: Collis, Abbey (Carrington), Brayford, Lawrence, O’Donnell, Bailey, O’Connor (Schumacher), Moore, Grant, Miller (Pope), Donaldson

Posh: Lewis, Morgan, Zakuani, Martin, Williams, Lee (Hyde), Whelpdale (Batt), Coutts, Boyd, Mackail-Smith, McLean (Torres)

Tom Pope – now at Port Vale – earned a point for Crewe after Peterborough had taken an early lead. Alex were bottom of the table after having only won two of their first thirteen games whilst the visitors were in the middle of a sixteen game unbeaten run that served as a springboard for their successful promotion campaign. Crewe’s miserable start to the season continued until after Christmas, but even though they improved late on, it wasn’t enough to prevent them from being relegated.

Johnstone’s Paint Trophy First Round

As promised, here’s the revised list of games in the first round of ‘our’ cup competition – note the early kick offs if you’re planning on going!

Tuesday 3rd September

7:00pm

Brentford v Wimbledon 5-3 (the Bees were leading 5-1 with 20 minutes left)

Dagenham & Redbridge v Colchester United 4-1 (Wilson gave Colchester the lead, but Okounghae was sent off with the game at 1-1 and Colchester collapsed after that)

Gillingham v Leyton Orient 1-3 (Leyton Orient were three goals up after an hour – a hattrick by Shaun Batt)

Hartlepool United v Bradford City 5-0 (only 1-0 at half time)

Tranmere Rovers v Fleetwood Town 1-2 (Rovers took the lead but couldn’t hang on)

7:15pm

Port Vale v Bury (the visitors took the lead, but two goals from Tom Pope meant the Valiants go into the next round)

7:30pm

Crewe Alexandra v Accrington Stanley 1-0 (a goal from Arsenal loanee Chuks Aneke was enough to see the holders into the draw for the second round)

Notts County v Burton Albion 1-0

Shrewsbury Town v Oldham Athletic 1-4 (the Latics stormed into a three goal lead before half time and never looked like losing)

7:45pm

Milton Keynes Dons v Northampton Town 2-0 (two second half goals after the visitors had been reduced to ten men)

Scunthorpe United v Sheffield United 0-0 (the Blades won 5-3 on penalties)

Wolves v Walsall 2-2 (Wolves won 4-2 on penalties after Walsall equalised with five minutes left)

Wednesday September 4th

7:45pm

Bristol City v Bristol Rovers (live on Sky Sports 2) 2-1 (in front of a crowd of almost 18,000 City won the first Bristol derby for seven years)

It’s also worth noting that the weekend games at Bristol City, Leyton Orient and Wolves have been postponed due to international callups.