Last weekend was pretty typical of the direction League One has been going in over the past few seasons.
In the game of the week, 6818 watched Shrewsbury beat Southend at Roots Hall on Saturday:
The following day, Portsmouth won the EFL Trophy on penalties in front of a crowd of 85,021.
Now consider this: two of the top three clubs at this point in the season were relegated from the Championship at the end of the last campaign. Five of the top current top six have played in the second tier over the last decade and four of that group have played in the Premier League since it was created. As for Luton, they’ve had their wilderness years in the Conference but as recently as 2007 they were in the Championship.
At the bottom six, only Bradford City have played in the Premier League; Scunthorpe were last in the Championship more recently than Luton, while it’s been some time since either Southend (relegated with Luton in 2007) or Walsall (2004) played in the second tier. There are no less than eight teams who could drop into the bottom four this weekend if results don’t go there way – an exciting end to the season without a doubt, but nonetheless an indication that the polarisation of English senior football begins in League One rather than the Championship.
Bradford City v Doncaster Rovers
There was a faint glimpse of optimism at Valley Parade at the end of last year but the Bantams have only won three times in eight games in front of their own fans this year and it didn’t come as a great surprise when Jeff Hopkin left at the start of March and was replaced by former Blackpool boss Gary Bowyer – who might be regretting his decision to quit at the start of the season now that the Tangerines’ ownership problems are over. City are six points adrift at the bottom of the table and the bookies have practically taken them off the board in the relegation market.
43 miles to the South East, Donny seem to have overcome their seven game streak without a win, but despite being in the last playoff place they’ve yet to win on the road in 2019 and have lost three of their last four away matches including defeats at both Shrewsbury and Wimbledon. Manager Grant McCann is probably delighted that he’s got a five point cushion over his previous club (the perennially disappointing Peterborough United) but a Rovers win is vital this weekend if they’re to have any chance of automatic promotion.
There hasn’t been a draw between the clubs at Bradford since 1980 (!) and since the turn of the century Doncaster have only won once in six games, by the odd goal in three in November 2014. As it stands, this is Rovers’ last game against a team in the current bottom six this season and they’ve only dropped four points from 33 in those encounters. Bradford have lost all of their eleven games against the current top six this season.
Verdict: in the 33 games between the current top six and the current bottom six where the bottom team has been at home, the strugglers have won four and drawn six. I’d be very surprised if Doncaster lost.
One of the managerial changes I missed while I was away during March was the departure of Keith Hill after just over six years at Rochdale. After beating Blackpool on Boxing Day, Dale won only once in eleven games before Hill was dismissed: under new manager Brian Barry-Murphy their fortunes have improved, but they’re still in big trouble. Hardly the ideal time to play Sunderland then…
I’ll be back next week – although there’s a chance that I might be on another extended absence…