Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Monday, May 23, 2011
In truth, the race for the title, convincingly won by Nobes once again, wouldn't win any prizes for its drama. The defending champion led from the front throughout - spending a remarkable 37 out of 41 weeks on top.
However, it was the second half of the season form from Lakes - which saw the perennial wooden spoon winner put pressure on the leader which was arguably the story of the season.
Here's the story of how the race transpired.
Turls topped the first table, but it wasn't long before Nobes got into his stride, scoring four points and then three points in successive weeks to build up a four point advantage over Lakes at the top.
1. Nobes - 14
2. Lakes - 10
3. Turls - 8
At the top, Nobes was determined to stay there with ten points in the next five rounds seeing him pull further away at the top. He now had a seven point margin over his rivals.
Turls moved into second with ten points of his own, but Lakes wasn't far behind. The two would continue to run one another close all season.
1. Nobes - 24
2. Turls - 18
3. Lakes - 17
The fightback begins. After his blistering start, Nobes continued at a decent pace, but found himself outgunned by his rivals.
Lakes had a sensational period, collecting 15 points - and Turls with 14 also had an impressive run of predictions. The pair were separated by just the number of spot-on predictions, and Nobes' lead at the top was down to three.
1. Nobes - 35
2. Turls - 32
3. Lakes - 32
After the feast came the famine, with low scoring all round between Weeks 16 and 20. However, it produced a dramatic finish.
Nobes went three weeks without scoring, which allowed Turls and Lakes to catch up with the defending champion and leave them all locked on the same number of points at the end of Week 20.
It was unprecedented, and they had to be separated by the number of spot on predictions they each had. However, Turls and Lakes found themselves equal on both that score as well as the number of points won from their own team.
1. Nobes - 38
2. Lakes - 38
= Turls - 38
What he had been threatening to do finally came to fruition in Week 22, as Lakes topped the Prediction League table for the first time in the season.
Week 21 had seen him bottom, with Nobes and Turls joint top, but Lakes hit back with seven points in Week 22. Turls bagged four points himself, as Nobes was dumped to the bottom.
By the end of Week 23, Lakes sat six points ahead of Nobes and had a three point advantage at the top. He was the man in form at the mid point of the campaign.
However, like all good champions, Nobes responded in emphatic fashion. He was back up to second by Week 24 and then an amazing Week 25 saw him collect ten points.
Now he was back on top and held a four point lead over Lakes - who could barely believe the turnaround. Little did he know Nobes wouldn't relinquish top spot again.
1. Nobes - 59
2. Lakes - 55
3. Turls - 50
After the drama of recent weeks, the next phase saw little action. Nine points saw Nobes cement his position at the top. A second successive crown was looking ominous.
Having led the table for a few weeks, Lakes suddenly found himself in familiar territory in rock bottom spot at the end of Week 30 though. Turls having found some form to edge ahead by a point.
1. Nobes - 68
2. Turls - 63
3. Lakes - 62
Lakes soon picked himself off the bottom, dumping Turls into third - where he'd remain for the rest of the season.
He then set about closing in on Nobes at the top and reduced a nine point deficit at the end of Week 34 to just four by the end of Week 35. He was hitting form as the season reached its climax.
1. Nobes - 78
2. Lakes - 74
3. Turls - 70
It seemed the story of the season was Nobes saving his best form for whenever his position at the top came under the greatest threat.
The defending champion racked up six points in Week 36 to re-establish a healthy nine point lead over Lakes in second. The title looked destined to go his way.
Lakes cut it back to six the next week, but by the end of Week 38 Nobes sat ten clear at the summit - with Lakes conceding the title only to remember the play off matches still to take place.
Given fresh hope, he scored six points in Week 39 and now was closing in on Nobes - just five points behind.
However, it was to prove too much and five more points in the final two rounds were enough to secure Nobes a healthy win over his rivals.
Lakes managed to hold off a late rally from Turls, who ended up just three points behind in.
1. Nobes - 97
2. Lakes - 89
3. Turls - 87
In the end, an eight point margin gave Nobes a comfortable win in the Prediction League.
However, it's a sign of how poor the lads were this season compared to last that Lakes, who finished bottom in 2009/10, actually scored 108 points last season.
All three of the lads struggled to match their previous form, with Turls in particular struggling to predict games spot on - he got just seven scorelines all season correct.
He was also the most reliant on his own team for points, with 35 of his total coming from matches involving Forest.
It's probably to be expected that Nobes, with 17, secured the most spot on predictions, but he also picked up the fewest number of points from his own side's games.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Enter our paradoxical world as we pose the questions as to how things in the footballing world could have turned out very differently when we ask: What if...
What if Stevenage hadn't been denied promotion in 1996 because of their ground? Nobes considers how different the Football League they enter this season is to the one 14 years ago.
What if ITV Digital hadn't left so many Football League clubs in the lurch when they went bust and withdrew their funding? Turls looks at the momentous events of 2002.
What if automatic promotion and relegation between the Football and Non Leagues had never been introduced? Nobes looks at the watershed moment of 1987.
Question One - In Common
At the time of writing, seven Championship clubs have these, seven have them in League One, and there's seven in League Two. What?
Solution: They all have the same managers in charge who began the previous campaign with them.
Question Two - Odd One Out
Which of these clubs is the odd one out?
Bury, Hereford, Norwich, Peterborough, Sheffield United, Tranmere, Watford.
Solution: Tranmere are the odd one out. While they play at Prenton Park, all the other sides play at grounds named after the street, lane, or road they're situated on.
Question Three - Where's Nobes?
Which Football League ground is Nobes at?
This ground was constructed copying a design from a stadium in Italy.
Outside the stadium is a statue which features running water.
It is notable for having three stands with faces of some of the club's most successful players picked out in the seating.
Solution: Nobes was at Preston North End's Deepdale ground.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
We call him Doctor Lakes, and he gives his expert diagnosis on the health and well-being of football clubs up and down the Football League.
Championship 2009/10 review
Looking at how the campaign went for the 24 Championship sides. Who's in good condition and who needs a summer off to rest?
League One 2009/10 review
Assessing how the season panned out for the teams in League One. Are they fully fit or a cause for concern?
League Two 2009/10 review
What kind of shaoe are the sides of League Two in? Did they pass their physical or did they pick up a prescription on their way home?
Relegated from the Premier League last term, are the Clarets in good enough health to quickly recover their lost status?
Top of the Championship and starting the season unbeaten in 19 games, are Rangers the real deal when it comes to promotion?
With Sven at the helm and money being pumped in, are Leicester in rude health for a second half of the season push for the play offs?
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Contrary to what some people say, football did actually exist before 1992 and the inception of the Premier League.
We often like to take a trip into the past here at Soccer AM/MW. Here are our walks down Memory Lane.
Where are they now?
What happened to the clubs who were once members of the Football League?
What happened to the Cumbrian side once managed by Bill Shankley?
The smallest town to ever have a top flight club, but where are the Hillmen now?
In the shadow of so many other Lancashire clubs, what happened to the Admirals when they dropped out of the Football League?
Once among England's elite, what happened afterwards for Bradford's other football club?
In the Football League for over 50 years, what happened to the club from one of Lancashire's coastal resorts?
The Football League campaigns which, for one reason or another, live long in the memory.
A year of runaway champions, but one of the most dramatic relegation battles in Championship history.
Differing fortunes for two of Lancashire's traditional clubs, and the part one dog called Bryn played in deciding the basement division's first relegation battle.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Throughout the season we talk to the real fans of football - folk who follow their local club up and down the country. From Rushden to Reading, and Cambridge to Coventry, we get to the heart of what it's like to be a lower league supporter.
Here you can read all our interviews from the Fan Files.
Dale fan Jon tells us what it's like supporting a side who haven't been promoted or relegated in over 30 years.
City supporter John discusses the current problems surrounding the troubled Conference club on and off the pitch.
The difficulties in making the step-up from League Two to League One, as Chairboys fan Tim explains.
The Gulls have returned to the Football League and Torquay fan Shaun tells us what it's like to be back.
They're the League Two side everyone is talking about and County fan Keith gives us the lowdown on what life is like now at Notts County.
Rushden are surprise challengers for promotion to the Football League, Diamonds fan James tells us about the former 'moneybag's' revival.
Ahead of their appearance in the JPT Final, Cumbrians supporter Dave tells us about his love of the competition and the excitement of following Carlisle.
Oxford supporter Clive and York fan David talk to us about their sides clash in the Conference Play Off Final and a potential return to the Football League.
A good start to the season has Shrewsbury towards the top of League Two, Salop fan Matt talks about trying to bring back the good times at Town.
Glovers supporter Ben talks to us about happier times for the Somerset club as they battle to stay in League One.
The views expressed in these interviews are those of the individual and not Soccer AM/MW.
Last year's winner has led from the front all year, and held off a brave challenge from Lakes towards the end.
Turls can still prevent himself from finishing bottom though, but needs Forest to progress from their play off semi final this evening.
Turls: Swansea City 0-1 Forest
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Can you identify Nobes' link? Solution
Another link for you to try and identify. Solution
Can you work out where Nobes is? Solution
What do Nobes' teams have in common? Solution
Nobes is on his travels again - but where is he this time? Solution
Another football teaser to get you thinking. Solution
Where's Nobes this week? Solution
Three questions - one common theme. Solution
A footballing rarity - but what's Nobes referring to? Solution
Which clubs' Noughties managerial chains are being described? Solution
Christmas Trivia Quiz
Nobes is the question master as Lakes and Turls go head-to-head in a mammoth football trivia face-off. Can you beat their scores?
Nobes in on his travels once more, where is he this time? Solution
Find the connection - and the missing team. Solution
Plenty of clubs but what links them all? Solution
Can you work out which ground Nobes is at? Solution
Which footballing occurrence is being described? Solution
What have the three clubs been unable to do? Solution
He's at a ground - can you work out where Nobes is? Solution
Only four teams have ever done it - but what? Solution
He's on his travels again - where is Nobes though? Solution
The last question of the season - and a final link. Solution
Lakes and Turls face questions from Nobes on the past nine months of the Football League season. Who will emerge as the winner?
Nobes with a special question themed on the FIFA World Cup. Solution
A new season and a new format. Three questions every month to get you thinking.
Can you spot the odd-one-out, the link, and the rare occurrence? Solutions
A cryptic connection, important numbers, plus Where's Nobes? Solutions
Travelling Nobes, the odd-one-out, and a mystery achievement. Solutions
It's that time of year again - Turls vs. Lakes in the big trivia quiz.
Two connections and where's Nobes this week? Solutions
Similarites, differences, and another ground for Nobes to visit. Solutions
Connecting, isolating, and travelling Nobes. SolutionsThings in common, odd ones out, and a final trip for Nobes. Solutions
Friday, May 13, 2011
All the big match previews and reviews from the 2010/11 season:
Including: Preston vs. Portsmouth; Coventry vs. Leicester City; Doncaster vs. Nottingham Forest; Watford vs. Scunthorpe United; Norwich vs. Leeds; Derby vs. Reading; Swansea vs. Crystal Palace; Ipswich Town vs. Sheffield Utd; Middlesbrough vs. Queens Park Rangers; Hull City vs. Norwich; Nottingham Forest vs. Reading; Leeds vs. Burnley.
Including: Colchester vs. Sheff Wed; Huddersfield vs. Bournemouth; Peterborough United vs. MK Dons; Dagenham & Redbridge vs. Walsall; Tranmere Rovers vs. Plymouth Argyle; Southampton vs. Brentford; Colchester United vs. Charlton Athletic; Walsall vs. Bristol Rovers; Bournemouth vs. Huddersfield Town; Swindon Town vs. Dagenham; Southampton vs. MK Dons; Leyton Orient vs. Peterborough.
Including: Stevenage vs. Macclesfield Town; Port Vale vs. Torquay; Burton vs. Crewe; Bury vs. Accrington; Northampton Town vs. Gillingham; Oxford vs. Barnet; Torquay vs. Cheltenham; Stockport County vs. Lincoln; Crewe vs. Gillingham; Rotherham United vs. Barnet; Port Vale vs. Bury; Shrewsbury vs. Stockport; Chesterfield vs. Gillingham.
Including: Rochdale vs. FC United of Manchester; Dover vs. Aldershot Town; Preston vs. Nottingham Forest.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
The league enters its final stretch with Nottingham Forest playing the first leg of their play off semi final this evening against Swansea.
Both Boston and Preston's seasons have come to an end.
Turls: Forest 1-0 Swansea City
Monday, May 09, 2011
Three second half goals helped long term leaders Chesterfield clinch the League Two title and deny Gillingham a place in the end of season play offs.
The Spireites opened the scoring on 54 minutes when Danny Whittaker seized on a mistake at the back to round Alan Julian and slip the ball home.
However, the Kent side - knowing they had to get a result to have a chance of a top seven spot - were soon back on level termsCody McDonald latching onto Bayo Akinfenwa's through ball to clip the ball over Tommy Lee and give the Gills hope.
The home team hit back though, and restored their advantage when Jack Lester was on hand to tap home Scott Griffith's low centre from close range.
They wrapped up the game and the title when Dean Smalley converted another cross from the left at the back post to make it 3-1.
It capped a memorable first year at the b2net Stadium for John Sheridan's men. For Gillingham though, a season which had begun with such high hopes has failed to deliver.
Friday, May 06, 2011
This weekend see the final game of the season for Preston. Boston play the second leg of their play off tie on Sunday.
Crystal Palace vs. Nottingham Forest
Lakes: Crystal Palace 1-2 Forest
Nobes: Crystal Palace 1-1 Forest
Turls: Crystal Palace 0-1 Forest
Preston North End vs. Watford
Lakes: PNE 1-1 Watford
Nobes: PNE 2-1 Watford
Turls: PNE 2-1 Watford
Boston United vs. Guiseley
Lakes: Skyrockets 2-0 Guiseley
Nobes: Skyrockets 2-1 Guiseley
Turls: Skyrockets 2-0 Guiseley
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Two sides with plenty still to play for on the final day clash in Derbyshire this weekend as top of the table Chesterfield play host to Gillingham.
The Gills still harbour hopes of finishing in the play offs, and know they must get something from the game. A point for the home side will confirm them as the basement division winners.
John Sheridan's side would have expected to have sealed the title after months of leading the way. However, a recent blip has seen the already-promoted Spireites still needing a result.
That's because a defeat, coupled with a win for second-placed Bury, would see the Shakers steal the crown from under Chesterfield's nose on goal difference alone.
They will be hoping it's a case of third time lucky in sealing top spot though, having been beaten by Bury 3-2 in their last home match before a 0-0 draw at Torquay in their most recent game.
That loss to their title rivals was only Chesterfield's fourth defeat on home soil this term as they have built their promotion campaign on an imperious record at the new b2net stadium.
No League Two side has won more home games than the Spireites this term, and with 56 goals bagged in their 22 games, they pose an unnerving threat going forwards to visiting back lines.
In striker Craig Davies they also possess one of the division's deadliest strikers, with 25 strikes already to his name. Veteran Jack Lester also has 16 goals this term too.
For opponents Gillingham, they know that a season that had begun with such high hopes still has a possibility to end in promotion.
Andy Hessenthaler's men had expected to be challenging in Chesterfield's position, but endured a nightmare start to the campaign languishing towards the foot of the division.
A loss to Kent rivals Dover Athletic in the FA Cup further compounded matters and heaped on the pressure on Hessenthaler - in his second spell in charge of the club - to start delivering.
However, the Gills recovered and, having ended their away day hoodoo, embarked on a run which propelled them firmly into the race for the top seven - and even automatic promotion spots.
They've stuttered over recent weeks though - suffering 4-2 and 4-1 home losses to Barnet and Macclesfield respectively. Those defeats have dealt a severe blow to their hopes.
Even a win at the b2net on Saturday may not be enough if play off rivals Torquay and Stevenage both earn three points themselves. The Gills could then miss out purely on goal difference.
It promises to be a tension-filled afternoon though, but I have a feeling that only set of supporters will be cheering come full time.
A point apiece will be enough to earn Chesterfield a deserved title, but with results elsewhere it may prove to be a disappointing climax to the campaign for Gillingham.
Nobes' Prediction: Chesterfield 1 Gillingham 1
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
The only race still going on is between Nottingham Forest and Leeds for the final play off berth.
Leeds must win and hope Forest lose - as well as requiring a six goal swing in their favour to take sixth spot from the East Midlands outfit.
Crystal Palace vs. Nottingham Forest
You have to give huge credit to Forest boss Billy Davies. While others around him were losing their heads when the side went on a nine match winless run, he kept maintaining the race for the top six would go to the wire.
So it's proved, but only just. Four wins from five have seen Forest all but cement their spot in the play offs and only a mathematical freak will see them miss out now.
I don't see it happening, and a draw against a Palace side generally good at Selhurst Park will be more than enough to secure yet another top six finish for Davies.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1 Nottingham Forest
Queens Park Rangers vs. Leeds United
There will be some serious questions asked about the bottle at Elland Road. Leeds almost choked last season in League One, and they've once again crumbled under the pressure of this year's run-in.
The last team they would want to be visiting needing a healthy victory are the Champions QPR. People forget that, for all their flair going forwards, Rangers are a very hard side to score against, let alone beat.
Leeds will give it a go, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them pick up a point - but they won't be ousting Forest.
Prediction: QPR 1 Leeds United 1
The relegation fight goes to the wire, with Bristol Rovers in all reality doomed to life in League Two next season. They will be joined by one of Notts County, Walsall, and Dagenham & Redbridge.
Notts County vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
What a quirk of the fixture list, with the three teams still battling to avoid the drop facing the top three sides in League One. A tough mission for all of them.
Notts have been revived under Martin Allen, who has used his famed motivational skills to help drag County out of a real mess.
I think they've probably done enough to see themselves safe - which is a good thing because Brighton will be looking to go out on a high on their way to the Championship next year.
Prediction: Notts County 1 Brighton & Hove Albion 2
Southampton vs. Walsall
I thought Walsall were dead and buried earlier in the campaign, but should the Saddlers complete their great escape this weekend then Dean Smith deserves the freedom of the town.
He's engineered a remarkable turnaround following the departure of Chris Hutchings, although they have to face a formidable Saints side to ensure they remain in the third tier.
It's my belief that, had Nigel Adkins been at St Mary's all season, then they would have won League One ahead of Brighton. He wasn't though, and they will have to make do with finishing runners-up and will win here.
Prediction: Southampton 1 Walsall 0
Peterborough United vs. Dagenham & Redbridge
Given the resources available at Victoria Road, boss John Still has done another incredible job to get the Daggers still in with a shout of survival on the final Saturday.
However, a trip to London Road is a tough one to try and ensure a second successive year in League One next term.
Posh are a side who have great attacking flair and pace going forwards and I can see them picking off Daggers on the break as they warm up for the play offs and send Dagenham down.
Prediction: Peterborough United 3 Dagenham & Redbridge 0
Huddersfield Town vs. Brentford
You have to feel sorry for Huddersfield. Lee Clark's side have been on an unbelievable unbeaten run that, any other season, would have seen them gain automatic promotion.
Unfortunately, the Terriers have come up against superior opponents in Southampton and will have to settle for a crack at promotion via the play offs.
Difficult to see a Bees side with nothing to play for stopping Town from ending their regular campaign with another three points.
Prediction: Huddersfield Town 2 Brentford 0
Issues all over the basement division to be decided. One of Barnet or Lincoln will join Stockport in being relegated to the Conference.
The fight for the third automatic promotion spot is a fight between Wycombe and Shrewsbury. Two from Torquay, Stevenage and Gillingham will make the end of season play offs.
Even long-time leaders Chesterfield need a point to secure the title ahead of a Bury side who can still nick it.
Chesterfield vs. Gillingham
We all thought Chesterfield would have sewn up the League Two title by now, but the Spireites have stumbled a little of late. Having led the table for so long this term too, it would be awful if they didn't end the season as worthy Champions.
Fortunately, they only need a draw - although they take on a Gillingham side who will know they must take something from the game to be in with a shout of the play offs.
Andy Hessenthaler's side have slipped up at home of late - and it may cost them a place in the play offs. Which would be an undoubted failure given their pre season expectations.
Prediction: Chesterfield 1 Gillingham 1
Rotherham United vs. Torquay United
If you'd told someone at the start of the season that one of these two sides would need a result from this game to get into the top seven, you'd have predicted that side would be Rotherham.
Not so though, as the Gulls know a win will secure them a play off spot. That would be a terrific accomplishment from Paul Buckle, who continues to strengthen his cause as one of the lower league's most talented young bosses.
They take on a Rotherham side who have struggled to take off under Andy Scott and have nothing to play for. Add in the Devon side's good record against top half sides, and I fancy a Torquay win to cement a top seven spot.
Prediction: Rotherham United 1 Torquay United 2
Stevenage vs. Bury
No one likes them, and they don't care. Indeed, Stevenage boss Graham Westley probably uses it as motivation to inspire his team in what's been an impressive debut season in the Football League.
Stevenage are a very competitive team, and have a solid record at Broadhall Way. They will be awkward opponents for any side over two legs in the play offs.
And I expect them to be in those play offs by gaining a victory over an already promoted Bury on Saturday. The Shakers blew their chance for the title last weekend really, and that may well affect them psychologically.
Prediction: Stevenage 2 Bury 1
Shrewsbury Town vs. Oxford United
After play off final defeats in 2007 and 2009, Shrewsbury fans will be dreading entering the end of season lottery and will have all fingers crossed that they can pip Wycombe to third spot.
Graham Turner's men have probably slightly overachieved this term, having consistently been in and around the top three despite a radical overhaul of the playing squad and style in the summer.
I think they'll have enough to beat an Oxford side who, although having had a good first season back in the Football League, have nothing to play for now. WEill it be enough though?
Prediction: Shrewsbury Town 2 Oxford United 0
Wycombe Wanderers vs. Southend United
These two sides were relegated from League One together last season, but it's Wanderers who now stand on the verge of returning there.
It's been an up and down campaign for Gary Waddock's men, who have often flattered to deceive and they will definitely need strengthening over the summer to prevent a swift return back to League Two in 12 months time.
As it is, I expect them to enjoy a promotion party at Adams Park this weekend with three points being enough to see them over the line.
Prediction: Wycombe Wanderers 1 Southend United 0
Barnet vs. Port Vale
I wrote an article a couple of months back suggesting the fight for League Two survival would be a huge anti climax. Barnet have proved me badly wrong though and can still beat the drop on Saturday.
That's an incredible feat considering the Bees have been a shambles all season, and always seem to flirt with relegation. The short-lived return of Martin Allen did seem to galvanise them and has given them the impetus required to survive.
Port Vale have nothing to play for - and I just fancy Barnet - with home advantage and knowing that they just need to go for the win - may well get the three points and then hope for a good result from Sincil Bank.
Prediction: Barnet 2 Port Vale 1
Lincoln City vs. Aldershot Town
Deary me. How on earth have Lincoln allowed to get themselves into such a mess? The Imps looked just about safe a few weeks back, but have embarked on a dreadful run of form at the worst possible time.
Now they could end up slipping back down into the Conference for the first time since 1988. I feel for Steve Tilson, who has done his best with a woeful squad left behind by Chris Sutton.
Aldershot are tricky opponents too. They are difficult to beat under Dean Holdsworth - particularly away from home. I can see them making life very uncomfortable for City and earning a draw - relegating Lincoln on goal difference.
Prediction: Lincoln City 1 Aldershot Town 1