Before I go any further, the draw for the next round of the Capital One cup was made immediately after Wednesday night’s games and – rather incredibly – the two remaining League One clubs will play each other. One of them (MK Dons) features in this weekend’s game of the week.
Bristol City v MK Dons
I mentioned before the season began that if Bristol City were going to be successful, the key was defensive improvement. Incredibly, the Robins have kept six clean sheets in their last ten games at Ashton Gate – where they haven’t lost since Boxing Day. Central defender Aden Flint was the only member of team that came from two goals down to draw with MK Dons in February who started last weekend at Fleetwood although Scott Wagstaff, Marlon Pack and Greg Cunningham all made substitute appearances against the Cod Army. Leading scorer Sam Baldock was sold to Brighton before the end of the most recent transfer window but his replacement- former Rotherham striker Kieran Agard – had already joined the club. This is undoubtedly Steve Cotterill’s side now.
The Dons are more or less recognisable from their last trip to Bristol but it’s two newcomers who have made a huge impact so far this season. Teenage striker Dele Alli has already scored as many goals as he did in 33 games last season and is reported attracting attention from some very interesting quarters whilst Arsenal loanee Benik Afobe is leading scorer in the Capital One Cup – a competition his parent club are no longer taking part in after they were eliminated by Southampton this week. I’m already regretting my preview piece for the Buckinghamshire club (‘probably the most damning thing about last season was that I don’t remember writing anything much about them’) and on paper, this game looks as if it’s going to be a stern test of Bristol City’s new found defensive prowess.
Dig a bit deeper though and an interesting angle emerges. MK Dons have never beaten Bristol City in any competition, which means that there’s a possibility that the record could go this weekend, especially considering City’s fantastic home form over the last nine months. A home defeat wouldn’t be the end of the world as the Robins would still have a two point lead, but MK Dons would still have a vital game in hand: based on last year’s games between the top final top six there’s only a 36% chance that City will win so I wouldn’t be too surprised if this ends all square.
As well as the top of the table clash at Ashton Gate, there are three other matches that caught my eye:
Barnsley v Swindon Town
Swindon have only won once in last ten trips to Oakwell (Dec 98) but Barnsley have only won four of those ten matches. The Tykes thumped Gillingham at Oakwell at the end of August, but losing 3-5 to MK Dons last time out may be a truer reflection of Danny Wilson’s side. The last time the Wiltshire Robins won consecutive away games was in February/March 2013: make of that what you will.
Bradford City v Port Vale
A weird one. Despite their current position, Bradford’s home form in 2014/15 has been wonky and their home form against Port Vale has been a mess: one win (last season) in the last five league meetings. The midweek defeat at MK Dons in the Capital One cup may have been a blow to the Bantams’ morale: Vale ended their six game winless streak last weekend and could take advantage.
Crewe Alexandra v Colchester United
The only game between the strugglers this weekend but Gresty Road has not been a happy hunting ground for the Us. They’ve won one of their last ten visits – and you’ve got to go back to April 1986 for that – and were battered 7-1 in April ’93. That being said, Gresty Road hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Crewe either: two wins since March is proof of that.
I’ll be back next week.