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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

League One Focus

We turn our attentions to League One today, where issues are still tight at both ends of the table.

The top and bottom places are almost sewn up, but the matters of who will be promoted, who will make the play-offs, and who will drop down are still up in the air.


Norwich are comfortably ahead in their bid for an instant return to the Championship - and they should return there as League One winners.

After looking so assured for so long though, Leeds have crumbled over the past couple of months and a battle for second has developed between four teams.

In-form Millwall and Swindon are in the fight, as are long-term challengers Charlton.

As it stands:

1. Norwich.........41...39....86
4. Swindon........42...16....77
5. Charlton........41....20...74


Leyton Orient (a), Charlton (a), Gillingham (h), Bristol Rovers (a), Carlisle (h)

Yeovil (a) Huddersfield (a), Leyton Orient (h), Tranmere (a), Swindon (h)

Walsall (h), Wycombe (a), Brentford (h), Millwall (a)

Carlisle (a), Gillingham (a), Milton Keynes (h), Charlton (a), Bristol Rovers (h)

Colchester (h), Norwich (h), Exeter (a), Leeds (h), Oldham (a)

Norwich are champions. I don't care if it's not a mathematical certainty yet, they are starting next season in the Championship as the 2009/10 champions of League One.

Who will join them in the automatic promotions spots? I'd be more confident predicting the exact date of when humans colonise the Moon. But I'm a trooper so I'm going to give it a whirl.

Millwall have a very tough run-in. They play two teams fighting for promotion - home and away - and two teams fighting to avoid the drop - home and away. They looked extremely comfortable against Gillingham but I see them dropping points from here until the end.

Leeds are playing a few teams who have nothing to play for but face a tough away tie against Charlton.

Swindon look to have the easiest run. Home bankers - Walsall and Brentford - with an easy away victory against a team who should be relegated by the time they face them in Wycombe.

Charlton? Nightmare run-in. Plan for the play-offs Addicks fans. I think Swindon will finish second but it could very well come down the the final day encounter between the Swindon and Millwall.

Summary: Norwich (Champions), Swindon, and May 17th, 2134 (Moon colonisation)

Paul Lambert has done a terrific job at Norwich since joining early in the season, and they should go up as Champions. Their home form is almost unstoppable.

Looking at the run-ins, I would agree with Turls that Swindon have by far the easiest. Just that final day at Millwall might cause them problems - and it could yet be pivotal.

Leeds too have a nice last few matches, barring Charlton - who I don't think have any kind of chance and will have to settle for the play-offs.

I just wonder whether we're going to see Leeds sneak up on the final day after all, with Millwall and Swindon ending one another's chances in the last game.

I'm no expert on anything to do with the moon and space though, so can't give any thoughts on that.

Norwich, (Champions) Leeds.


With the top five having a solid cushion on 6th spot, the race for the final play-off spot has intensified.

It now appears a straight fight between big-spending duo Huddersfield and Colchester.

The Essex side currently trail on goal difference after a poor run of form, but the pair still have to play one another in the run-in.

As it stands:

6. Huddersfield........41....18....68


Walsall (h), Millwall (h), Stockport County (a), Colchester (h), Exeter (a)

Charlton (a), Hartlepool United (a), Tranmere (h), Huddersfield (a), Leyton Orient (h),

Again, here is another contest that could be decided by an end of season game between the two. The only difference is that this game is the penultimate fixture for both teams.

Both teams have pretty similar run-ins so it should be tight. Huddersfield have four home games — including the game with Colchester — and for this reason, they should cement their position in the top six.

However, if Colchester can hang in there 'til the last two games, they know that beating Huddersfield should do it for them.

Millwall, Leeds, Charlton, Huddersfield.

It's impossibly tight to predict. Both sides have had good spells during the season where the top two looked on. Both sides have also dips where they seemed to be only good enough for the top six.

Now, one of them is going to miss out altogether. I will go as far as saying that if Colchester don't win at Huddersfield, then they won't make the play-offs. My gut feeling is they won't.

Millwall, Swindon, Charlton, Huddersfield.


Stockport's relegation was confirmed at the weekend after they lost to 3-1 to Yeovil. Wycombe are set to join them in League Two next season.

It's still tight between a clutch of sides in the race to avoid joining them though. Leyton Orient are the notable new side in the mix after a poor recent run.

As it stands:

18. Hartlepool........41....-11.....45
19. Gillingham........41....-13.....43
20. Leyton Orient....41...-13......42
22. Southend..........41...-19......38
23. Wycombe..........41...-25......35
24. Stockport..........41....-45.....25

Tranmere (a), Milton Keynes (a), Swindon (h), Leyton Orient (a), Gillingham (h)

Brentford (h), Brighton (h), Oldham (a), Stockport (h), Southampton (a)

Wycombe (h), Exeter (h), Brentford (a), Colchester (a), Millwall (h), Stockport (a)

Norwich (h), Stockport (h), Millwall (a), Wycombe (h), Colchester (a)

Brighton (h), Leeds (h), Norwich (a), Southampton (h), Wycombe (a)

Stockport (h), Colchester (a), Walsall (a), Exeter (h), Brentford (a)

Stockport haven't enjoyed their spell in League One, but it should put them in good stead for any future promotions.

Wycombe are doomed, although they at least had the courtesy of making it last as long as possible. Maybe Stockport took the right approach. Treat relegation like a plaster. Get it over and done with as quickly as possible. With two spots to fight over, it's extremely tight. The good news is that they all play a relegation candidate from now until the end of the season.

Gillingham have a very tough run and I think they will go down, despite their ridiculously good home defence.

Joining them are Leyton Orient. Southend are playing a lot of teams with nothing to play for and should pick up some easy points.

Leyton Orient on the other hand have got Norwich - gunning for the title, Millwall - going for 2nd, Colchester - aiming for the play-offs, and Wycombe - fighting for survival.

Wycombe, Gillingham, Leyton Orient

Survival has been lost on the pitch for Stockport then, hopefully they can win their one off the field of play.

Wycombe's relegation battle has been brave, but will prove futile in the end. They have paid the price for not strengthening enough after winning promotion last term.

I like the look of Southend's home games - they could be crucial to their salvation. Leyton Orient's run-in looks tricky though. This may well be a challenge too far for Russell Slade.

The last place could go down to the wire. Sides who don't win a game away from home rarely avoid the drop - and given Gillingham haven't yet, and have two tricky home games, their brief League One spell could well end abruptly.

Summary: Wycombe, Gillingham, Leyton Orient

Tomorrow, the spotlight falls on the runners and riders in League Two.

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