Game Of The Evening: Bury v Coventry City

Only one game that will affect either end of the table this evening. I’ll have a round up of last weekend’s games in the Friday post.

Having only lost one of their last six games, Bury have won twice since Lee Clark was announced as permanent manager a couple of weeks ago – an odd decision, seeing as though Chris Brass had been given the job until the end of the season. The Shakers haven’t lost at home since the start of January with former Norwich, Birmingham and Huddersfield striker James Vaughan scoring six of Bury’s nine goals at Gigg Lane in that spell.

Despite the recent win over Gillingham, Coventry’s 1-3 home defeat against Swindon last weekend was their sixth defeat in the last ten and the bookies have all but taken them off the board in the relegation market. Although the Sky Blues have been finding the back of the net fairly regularly on the road, blown leads at Walsall, Peterborough and Wimbledon will probably come back to haunt them at the end of the season.

Head to head: going back to the Fifties, Bury have won half of the last ten meetings in the league between the clubs in Greater Manchester, but the 2-1 win in September 2015 was the first time the Shakers had beaten Coventry on their own patch since a 5-0 victory way back in November 1964.

I’ll be back on Friday.

Game Of The Week: Sheffield United v Bolton

Before we go any further, here are the highlights from both of last weekend’s FA Cup games:

A couple of points to make: Millwall v Leicester could be a game in the Championship next season, but as I wrote last week, those of us who know how formidable the Lions are at home won’t have been too surprised by that result – well done to Neil Harris and everyone at Millwall. I’ll stop there before I start commenting on the situation with their local council.

Oxford were very unlucky to lose at Middlesbrough, but that free kick from Chris McGuire was a beauty. United won at Charlton for the first time ever this week and they may very well be a force to be reckoned with next season.

There are three games in League One this weekend that are worth monitoring, so without further ado…

Sheffield United v Bolton Wanderers

The Blades have only won one of their eight games against the other teams in the top six at the moment, so it’s probably a good thing that as things stand at the moment they won’t have to face any of the chasing pack again until they entertain Bradford City in April. That being said, United have only won half of their last six matches at home and so the first league meeting between the clubs in Sheffield since they were both in the Premier League a decade ago is a vital one for both sides. Leading scorer Billy Sharp got a bit of extra motivation this week after Bolton’s Gary Madine was filmed making a daft comment in a bar about Sharp.

Wanderers haven’t won an away game since the end of November but have only lost once on the road in the same time frame: despite being seven points behind United, they’re still very much in the running for an automatic promotion place. A word of caution though is necessary here though – Bolton have still got to play at Fleetwood, Scunthorpe and Southend before the end of the season and could just as easily drop out of the top six if results don’t go their way.

A couple of others to look out for tomorrow:

Port Vale v Bradford City

The Valiants are in the bottom four for the first time this season after defeats in half of their last six matches but they’re also on a miserable streak of one win in fourteen games that dates back to to before Bruno Ribeiro resigned and that may be the reason he left.

City’s inability to win games they’ve drawn looks as if it might even cost them a playoff place. Their away form is underwhelming and with Millwall and Southend just behind them, their trip to Vale Park really is a must win.

Coventry City v Swindon Town

Neither club can escape the bottom four this weekend – the hosts are already twelve points adrift – but a win for Swindon would increase their chances of survival. The Sky Blues beat Gillingham last weekend but that was their first home win since the start of November; Swindon have lost eight of their last ten aways but haven’t lost a league game at Coventry since October 1964.

I’ll be back on Tuesday for a quick look at the midweek programme.

Massive Weekend In League One

I’d originally planned to concentrate on the FA Cup ties involving Millwall and Oxford United, but having seen this weekend’s league games I’ve had to change my mind. Let’s get the cup out the way first though: both of the League One survivors play at 3:00pm tomorrow and unfortunately neither tie is being broadcast on TV in Great Britain.

Middlesbrough v Oxford United

First meeting in the FA Cup – last meeting on Teeside was back in April 1992 and the last time Oxford won at Middlesbrough was New Year’s Day 1985. This is United’s first game in the Fifth Round since 1993/94 – although they were playing in the second tier when Chelsea knocked them out that season. They last time they reached the last eight was way back in 1964, when they beat Blackburn 3-1 in the Fifth Round before losing to eventual runners up Preston.

United have been in fine form away from home recently, having won four of their last five road trips. Former Sheffield Wednesday striker Chris McGuire and Rob Hall – who arrived on a free transfer from Bolton after a cameo role at MK Dons last season – have scored two goals each in that run but it’s arguably Oxford’s defence that is the key to this game.

Millwall v Leicester City

This game couldn’t have come at a better time for the hosts and a worse time for Leicester, who may very well be distracted by the prospect of a Champions League game next week. The Lions have only lost once in their last ten League One games at the New Den and have kept four clean sheets in the last six; then there’s Millwall’s recent record in the competition. In half of the last six seasons they’ve reached this stage and were semi finalists four years ago.

All four of their previous meetings in the FA Cup have been in South London and Millwall have won the last two of those games, although their last encounter in the competition was 26 years ago – when both sides were in the old Division 2 and Millwall finished the season 22 points and 17 places higher than Leicester.

Here are the important games in the league:

Sheffield United v Scunthorpe United

Would have been game of the week on any other weekend, but it’s clash between the current top two that should give some support to my theory that the Blades have had an easy schedule at home: after this one, they still have to entertain Bradford, Bolton and Millwall. Since the turn of the century, the clubs have met seven times at Bramall Lane and the hosts have only won three of those matches.

Result: 1-1.

Bradford City v Bolton Wanderers

City remain unbeaten at home this season, but have only won three of their last ten at Valley Parade and could easily fall out of the top six if that run of form continues tomorrow. This is the first time the clubs have met in a league game in Yorkshire since August 1998; City haven’t beaten Wanderers at home since April 1993, but Bolton haven’t won an away game since the end of November and it wouldn’t come as huge surprise if this ended all square.

Result: 2-2, but Bradford were 2-0 up after 16 minutes and this has to be seen as another point lost by the hosts.

At the bottom, neither Chesterfield nor Coventry will be able to escape the bottom four this weekend, but if Oldham can continue their recent good form with a win over Swindon they should be well on their way to preserving their status in League One. Only four points separate Chesterfield and Bury, but if the Spirerites can exploit Bury’s diabolical away record that margin will be reduced to a point.

Update: Bury won at Chesterfield and Oldham picked up a useful point at Swindon.

I’ll update this post over the weekend, otherwise I’ll see you next Friday.

Update: Millwall did it again with a 1-0 win over Leicester and will face Spurs in the quarter finals. Oxford were unlucky not to get anything at Middlesbrough: despite overturning a 2-0 deficit, they were beaten by a goal five minutes from time.

 

Shots Fired In The Relegation Battle

Shrewsbury continued their efforts to avoid relegation with a 2-1 win over Bury at Greenhous Meadow, but Chesterfield lost at home to Oldham – a result that leaves both clubs in the bottom four but gives the Latics some hope for survival.

At the top of the table, Southend came from behind to beat Scunthorpe 3-1 at Roots Hall to move back into the top six for the first time since Christmas. The Shrimpers are only ahead of Rochdale on goal difference going into this weekend’s games.

We’re going to stay with the battle to avoid relegation this weekend as there are two more games featuring sides that are in the thick of it.

Bury v Swindon

After a run of seven straight defeats at Gigg Lane, there seems to be something in the water off the M66. After a genuinely shocking 5-1 win over Peterborough, the Shakers blew a two goal lead against Walsall before a late Tom Soares equaliser earned them a share of the points a fortnight ago. That’s the first time since September that Bury have managed to avoid losing two games in a row on their own patch, but is it a case of too little, too late to save them from the drop?

Swindon’s surprise win at Bolton in the middle of last month was only their second away triumph this season but since the start of December they’ve lost four of their last five roadtrips and they’ve not kept an away clean sheet since October, when they drew at Wimbledon.

Bury haven’t beaten Swindon at Gigg Lane for just over 16 years, although last season’s 2-2 draw was the first time the hosts hadn’t lost to Swindon since then.

Oldham Athletic v Coventry City

Oldham’s recent home defeat at the hands of Bradford City was their first home reverse since before Christmas and although the Latics lost at MK Dons earlier this week, their recent sequence of results indicates that they should probably beat Coventry tomorrow – although that would mean a tenth straight away defeat for the Sky Blues.

Coventry reached the final of the EFL Trophy (you may remember that’s what the JPT turned int0) this week with a 2-1 win over Wycombe Wanderers, but that success cannot disguise the mess the club are in. They’re currently five points adrift at the bottom of the table, haven’t won since the start of November (thirteen games since) and the ongoing saga involving the club’s owners shows no sign of being resolved any time soon.

The Sky Blues won the corresponding game last season with goals from Roman Vincelot and Adam Armstrong, but neither player is with the club this season – and that is a pretty good indication of why Coventry are where they are.

One thing to note about the games between the sides in the current bottom six is how few games they have to play against each other -just ten before the end of the season. Coventry and Swindon have already won at Port Vale and Oldham this season, but there have only been three other away wins in matches between the strugglers in 2016/17 and Oldham account for two of them.

I’ll be back next weekend – whoever programmes the fixture computer should be fired: a full slate of league games on Valentine’s Day? Are you kidding?

Back To The League

Before I go any further, it’s just a quick post this week as I’m off to a town with a team in League Two to celebrate my sister in law’s 40th birthday.

Millwall and Oxford did League One proud in the FA Cup last weekend, so here are their respective highlights from the Fourth Round. I know a lot has been made of the amount of changes that Watford and Newcastle made last weekend, but even though it’s a dreadful old cliche you’ve still got to beat what’s in front of you. I watched the Millwall game on BBC1 and to be honest it could have been a game in the Championship.

In the Fifth Round, Millwall will entertain either Derby or Leicester. Oxford travel to Middlesbrough and I’ll do some in depth analysis that weekend.

After all that excitement, it’s back to league action – albeit focusing on the bottom of the table.

Chesterfield v Oldham

After a shocking run at home during the autumn, The Spirerites are now on a five game unbeaten run at the Proact Stadium and it’s been over six hours since they conceded a goal in front of their own fans. They’ve not lost at home to any of the other teams currently in the bottom half of the League One table and they’ve only lost three of the last ten games against Oldham in Derbyshire: they could escape the bottom three with a win tomorrow.

Oldham’s away form remains terrible:  one win in the last ten and three goals in their last eight outings – or to put it another way, they’ve not scored an away goal since before Christmas. The Latics are currently marooned in 23rd place – four points ahead of last placed Coventry and four points behind Chesterfield.

Shrewsbury v Bury

The Shrews have been as impressive at home as Chesterfield have been: one defeat in the last six at Greenhous Meadow with clean sheets in the other five. It’s fair to say that Bury are improving away from home – they’ve only lost won of their last four away days – but they need to start turning draws into wins if they’re going to stand any chance of avoiding relegation. In order to do that, Bury will have to score at Shrewsbury: something they’ve not done in four games over the last six years.

Bonus facts: so far in the 17 games between the clubs currently in the bottom six, there have only been four away wins, with Bury and Oldham accounting for one each. However, neither Chesterfield or Shrewsbury have lost at home to any of the other strugglers.

I’ll be back next weekend.