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Monday, May 10, 2010

League One Play Offs: Teams Preview

The League One play-offs kick off this weekend as four sides battle to join Norwich and Leeds in next term's Championship.

A dramatic final day eventually confirmed Millwall will face Huddersfield and Charlton and Swindon will meet one another.

takes a look at the four teams involved.

Final top of the table:

1. Norwich..............46.....42......95
2. Leeds.................46.....33......86

3. Millwall...............46.....32......85
4. Charlton.............46......23......84

5. Swindon.............46......16......82

6. Huddersfield.......46......26......80

7. Southampton......46......38......73


Story of the season:

Millwall were slow starters to the campaign after losing in last May's play-off final.

However, the Lions got things together in the New Year - putting together a run of just one defeat in 18 games in 2010.

That saw them in contention for an automatic promotion position as Leeds stumbled, but two defeats in their last four meant they eventually had to settle for 3rd.


Kenny Jackett is aiming to avoid a third loss in the League One play-off final. As well as last year's final with Millwall, the 48-year-old's Swansea team lost to Barnsley in the 2006 final.

A highly-rated coach who has worked with Graham Taylor and Ian Holloway, Jackett has a reputation for building teams who are high on organisation and defensive strength.

Has taken Millwall to a second consecutive play-off finish since his appointment in 2007.


That organisation at the back helped the Lions to the joint-best defensive record in League One this season. Just 44 goals were leaked in 46 games.

They also boasted the best home record in the division - unbeaten in 14, just one defeat all season, the fewest goals leaked, and 56 points collected.

Last year's failure has also given them good experience.


The Lions have shown a greater vulnerability on the road this term compared to their form at the New Den.

They failed to score in recent defeats at Tranmere and play-off opponents Huddersfield and had the worst scoring record away from home in the top six.

Their poor play-off record could also be a burden on the players - especially those with memories of last season's disappointment.

Key players:

A summer signing from Non League Stevenage, forward Steve Morison [left] has been a revelation for Jackett's men. He's notched 22 goals and been a key member of their promotion challenge.

Experienced striker Neil Harris - who won this division with the Lions in 2001 - has also been a important, scoring 18 goals in total.

Keeper David Forde has continued to establish his reputation as one of the best custodians in the lower divisions and has kept 16 clean sheets this term.

Play-off history:

This is Millwall's fifth appearance in the play-offs, and they've yet to win promotion via them.

Their first experience was in the Championship play-offs in 1991 where Bruce Rioch's men lost out to Brighton in the semis. Three years later, and
under Mick McCarthy, they fell at the same hurdle - this time to Derby.

Their next taste of the end of season lottery was in 2000. Joint-bosses Keith Stevens and Alan McLeary saw their Lions side beaten by Wigan in the League One play-off semis.

Finally, last year, they did manage to reach the play-off final. Jackett's men saw off Leeds over two legs, but threw away a 2-1 lead to lose to Scunthorpe at Wembley.

Championship pedigree:

It's twenty years since Millwall were relegated from the top flight of English football. Since then they've spent the majority of their time in the Championship.

That included top six finishes on three occasions, and generally solid mid table finishes. but have slipped down to League One

Charlton Athletic

Story of the season:

Raced out of the blocks. The Addicks won their opening six games and lost just one of their first 14 matches to keep pace with table topping Leeds.

Charlton held down a place in the top two for the first half of the season before a rocky start to 2010 saw them slip away.

However, they recovered and were in top two contention going into the final day, ultimately ending up in 4th.


Phil Parkinson has experience of promotion from this division - having gone up automatically with Colchester in 2006.

That was the high point of what has been a mixed managerial record. He endured a tough few months at Hull before being sacked and couldn't prevent Charlton's relegation last year.

However, has fashioned an Athletic team who have proved very resilient this term as well as playing positive, attacking football.


No side lost fewer games than the Addicks - just eight of their 46 matches. That always gives them a chance going into two play-off matches.

They also have the best away record of the teams in the play-offs, which will give them comfort they can go away from home and bring a result back to The Valley for the second leg.


There's probably the greatest sense of expectation, and therefore pressure, on the former Premier League team. They really need to bounce back from last season's relegation.

That could lead to a nervous atmosphere in the second leg in front of their own fans. Charlton have lost more home games than any other of their play-off rivals.

Key players:

Midfielder Nicky Bailey has been at the heart of Charlton's good play this term. He's scored 13 from the centre of the park and needs to be contained.

Experienced former Premier League striker Deon Burton has scored a similar total. He remains a dangerous attacking outlet.

Young keeper Darren Randolph has recently forced his way into the first team and made some key saves during the run-in.

Play-off history:

The Addicks have only featured once before in the play-offs, in 1998, winning promotion from the Championship in the most dramatic of circumstances.

Having seen off Ipswich over two legs in the semis, they faced Sunderland in the final at Wembley.

The two teams played out a rollercoaster 4-4 draw. Eventually, after extra time, the game went to penalties where Athletic triumphed 7-6.

Championship pedigree:

Charlton were Premier League regulars during the last decade, spending eight out of nine seasons in the top flight between 1998 and 2007.

When they weren't mixing it with the big boys, they were solidly in the second tier.

However, they were relegated from the Championship last season - ending a run of almost 30 years outside the bottom two tiers of the Football League.

Swindon Town

Story of the season:

An inconsistent beginning to the campaign, Swindon were on the fringes of the top six before stringing together a 13-match unbeaten run at the turn of the year.

That put that firmly in play-off contention and another unbeaten run of six saw them force their way into the automatic promotion places.

However, just one win in their remaining six games meant they had to settle for 4th.


The vastly experienced Danny Wilson has been the mastermind behind Town's top six challenge.

With some astute summer signings and a commitment to playing the attractive brand of football that is his trademark, Swindon have been a surprise challenger at the very top.

He took Bristol City into the League One play-offs twice, once losing in the semi final and once in the final.


Swindon's eight defeats means that, along with play-off opponents Charlton, they were the hardest team to beat in the division.

Their record against the top teams is also good. They lost just one of their six games against the other three play-off teams, held Norwich, and beat Leeds 3-0 twice.

The experience of Wilson in play-off situations may also work in their favour.


Swindon have the leakiest defence of any of the top six teams, as well as the smallest goal difference.

Their end of season form was also not clever - they failed to capitalise on a favourable run-in against teams they should have beaten.

Despite his experience in them, too, the manager has never managed to get a team promoted via the play-offs.

Key players:

Billy Paynter has been a revelation for the Robins this season - scoring 29 goals in all competitions. His goals could again be vital.

As could those of strike partner Charlie Austin [left]. The find of the season - the former Poole Town forward has scored 19 in his League One debut campaign.

Wide man Jon-Paul McGovern has been a vital creative influence and has experience of winning the League One play-offs with Sheffield Wednesday.

Play-off history:

Swindon have appeared in the play-offs on numerous occasions. They won promotion from the third tier play-offs in 1987 under Lou Macari.

In 1989, they missed out on promotion to the top flight after losing in the play-off semis to Crystal Palace.

Twelve months later, despite beating Sunderland in the play-off final, they were denied promotion due to financial irregularities.

They made up for that disappointment by winning the Championship play-offs in 1993 after Glenn Hoddle's side's thrilling 4-3 final win over Leicester.

Their most recent appearance came in the League One play-offs in 2004 under Andy King. However, they lost out to eventual winners Brighton in the semis.

Championship pedigree:

Promotion to the Championship would end a decade spent outside the top two tiers following relegation in 2000.

That followed a successful period in the '90s where they spent a season in the top flight and, despite relegation from the Championship in 1995, they immediately bounced back as third tier winners.

Huddersfield Town

Story of the season:

Strongly tipped before a ball had been kicked, Huddersfield began with a bang and were firmly in the top six throughout the first few months.

That good form continued until three successive defeats at the start of March left them five points off the play-offs with ten games to go.

Six wins and a draw later, and they had secured their spot in the play-offs with two games to spare. A last day loss at Exeter saw them end up 6th.


Rookie Lee Clark joined the club in 2008 and is in his first managerial job at the Galpharm Stadium.

The former Norwich coach has been backed in the transfer market and recruited several impressive young players during the summer.

Has encouraged his team to play in an adventurous, enterprising style that has led to plenty of goals at both ends.


The Terriers are an attacking force to be reckoned with. Only Champions Norwich and Southampton scored more goals than Town's 82.

They scored more goals at home than any other side, and lost just once at the Galpharm - to Norwich - all season.

Having looked like they had blown their chance a couple of months back, Huddersfield also come into the play-offs happy to be there and in good form. Their young team has nothing to fear.


In contrast to their home form, Huddersfield's away record is the weakest of the top six. They lost 11 of their 23 games, conceding more than away other team.

This is also a very young and largely inexperienced team, and Clark is similarly a managerial novice. Will they be able to handle the situation?

The truth is also that, had Southampton not been deducted ten points, Huddersfield wouldn't be competing in the play-offs.

Key players:

Unsurprisingly for such an attacking team, the form of top scorer Jordan Rhodes [left] will be key for Town. He's found the back of net 23 times this term.

Left winger Gary Roberts is a threat from the wide positions with his pace and direct running. He's also chipped in with nine goals.

Young keeper Alex Smithies is always likely to be busy in such an attacking team. His performances have reportedly caught the eye of Premier League scouts.

Play-off history:

Huddersfield have competed in the play-offs on five occasions - emerging as winners twice.

Their first taste of the end of season lottery was in 1992, where they were beaten by Peterborough in the League One semis.

However, they were victors against Bristol Rovers in the 1995 play-off final to earn promotion to the Championship.

Their next play-off experience was in 2002, where Lou Macari's Town were beaten by Brentford in the League One semis.

They were more successful in the 2004 League Two play-offs. Under Peter Jackson they saw off Lincoln in the semis and beat Mansfield on penalties in the final to win promotion.

Two years later, and Jackson's men lost out in the League One play-offs to county rivals Barnsley in the semi finals.

Championship pedigree:

Huddersfield were relegated on the final day of the Championship season in 2001. That ended a run of six consecutive seasons in the second tier.

Since then they've plummeted all the way down to the basement division - although they instantly bounced back.

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