All Change At The Top

Isn’t it amazing how quickly things can turn round in a few weeks?

Liverpool and Leeds have both been caught from behind in the Premier League and the Championship, but arguably the biggest transformation has been at the top of League One.

Exactly a month ago Luton were five points behind Portsmouth with Barnsley in fifth place: now the Hatters are six points clear of the Tykes with Pompey now in the first of the playoff spots.

Portsmouth’s recent decline in form needn’t be fatal but considering something similar happened to them last season – they were in the playoffs in January but were mid-table in mid-March – it remains to be seen if Kenny Jackett’s team has learned from that experience. Having been knocked out of the FA Cup earlier this week, the only other competition they’re involved in is the EFL Trophy but with the semi finals at the end of the month, should Pompey be concentrating on the league?

Barnsley and Luton have been on fire recently – the Hatters unbeaten streak goes back to October when (ironically) they lost at Barnsley – and the Tykes haven’t lost since before Christmas and haven’t been beaten at Oakwell in the league since last March.

There aren’t any obvious candidates for the Game of the Week this weekend, but there are three where the outcome could change the landscape at the the bottom of the table. Bristol Rovers host Shrewsbury: the Gas have only lost twice since Darrell Clarke left in December but haven’t won at home since Graham Coughlan took over. Despite their recent FA Cup heroics, Shrewsbury haven’t won a game since beating Coventry before Christmas.

Barnsley travel to Gillingham, where they’ve only lost twice in seven visits since 1980 – knowing that both Portsmouth and Sunderland could overtake them with wins at Plymouth and Oxford respectively. Gillingham haven’t won a league match at Priestfield since  beating Portsmouth on Boxing Day – the only time so far this season that they’ve beaten any of the top six at home. Oxford are currently on a run of four games without defeat but are still paying for a poor start to the season and they haven’t beaten Sunderland at home since December 1991.

Following the FA Cup replays earlier this week, AFC Wimbledon and Doncaster will be the only clubs from League One left in the competition and although I’ll return to the competition in next weekend’s post, it’s fair to say that home ties in the Fifth Round would have been something that both sides would have probably been happy with when they entered the competition back in November.

Back next week!