Sky Bet League One #38 – Weekend Preview

Feature Game: MK Dons vs Wigan Athletic

Likely Lineups:
MK Dons: (3-4-3) Cumming; O’Hora, Darling, Lewington; Watson, Smith, Coventry, Kesler-Hayden; Corbeanu, Eisa, Parrott
Wigan Athletic: (4-2-3-1) Amos; Darikwa, Whatmough, Tilt, Bennett; Power, Naylor; Lang, Keane, McClean; Magennis

Preview: Two of the top three go head-to-head this weekend as MK Dons entertain 2nd-placed Wigan Athletic at Stadium MK.

MK Dons come into this game off the back of another win during midweek, as they ran out 3-1 winners at home to Cheltenham Town. That win comes after the victory on the road against Rotherham United, and that will give manager Liam Manning and co. that extra bit of motivation and indeed confidence to continue that run with another win in this one. The Dons come into this weekend having won each of their last five league outings and are currently level on points with their opponents here, albeit having played three games more, and so Manning will realistically see this as a chance that they need to take if they are indeed to finish in the top two this season. Daniel Harvie remains out for the hosts after his dismissal against Rotherham United, with Tennai Watson and Kaine Kesler-Hayden filling in as the wing-back pairing in his absence. Two goals for Troy Parrott will come as a timely boost for Manning, and he will hope the Irishman can build on that form during the run-in. They beat The Millers a couple of weeks ago – can they get another top scalp as they “aim for perfection?”

They face a Wigan Athletic that currently occupy second in the table and have the upper-hand as things stand at the moment, especially with games in hand, and will see this as a good opportunity to put real daylight between themselves and the play-offs. They too got a win under their belt in their most recent League One outing, securing a narrow 1-0 win at home to AFC Wimbledon courtesy to a goal from Will Keane. James McClean came back into the side during midweek and reverted to his more familiar wing role, and he scored for The Latics in their cup game against Sutton United, but it was ultimately not enough for Richardson’s men as they lost on penalties to the EFL newbies, and so Richardson will look for his side to bounce back from that missed opportunity to get to Wembley with a win here. Richardson rung the changes for their game against Sutton United, and so with the usual core returning to the fold here, The Latics boss will want to see them hit the ground running in a key game.

Prediction: MK Dons 1-1 Wigan Athletic
Another big game in the context of the race for the top two, and one that if The Latics can win, that would very much so cement their spot in the automatics and give MK Dons a bit of a mountain to climb at this late stage. I think that MK Dons will get something from the contest, but only a point, as they have to settle for a draw. Lang and Eisa on target, as the points are shared.

One to Watch: Callum Lang – The attacking player has been one of the standout players of the season in League One, and in what is a key game for The Latics in terms of getting promoted, I expect that Lang will step up to the plate and put in another impressive display.

Accrington Stanley vs Charlton Athletic
Preview: Accrington Stanley will look to return to winning ways in the league as they welcome Charlton Athletic to The Wham Stadium.

Accrington were comprehensively beaten last weekend by 10-man Portsmouth. Accrington matched up to Portsmouth, playing with three at the back too. After Portsmouth went down to 10 men after just 20 minutes and were only 1-0 up at the time, Accrington struggled to cope with Portsmouth from set pieces, something Accrington normally are so much better at. Accrington sit top of the split in the league which now has a nine point gap between 12th and 11th. Youngster Josh Woods has been given appearances in the last couple of games, playing instead of Korede Adedoyin, as John Coleman looks to manage his youngsters and assess which are going to be ready for next year.

Charlton ended their run of five league defeats in a row by drawing 0-0 with Sunderland last weekend. Jason Pearce returned at the centre of defence having missed the last four league games and Jayden Stockley also came back in for his first start since before Christmas. Scott Fraser also started his first league game since coming in from Ipswich, having struggled with, Covid. They have struggled away from home, only winning 1 league away game from their last nine league games. The team is clearly struggling for confidence and now needs to build on their draw from last weekend, starting here.

Prediction: Accrington Stanley 0-2 Charlton Athletic
Charlton will run out winners here, ending their winless run comprehensively.

One to Watch: Jayden Stockley – Charlton striker Jayden Stockley has seven goals this season and has recently returned from injury. The striker was key to Charlton’s upturn in form under Jackson and will be key in ending this winless run.

AFC Wimbledon vs Lincoln City
Preview: AFC Wimbledon have a good opportunity to get some points on the board in their bid to stay in the division as they host Lincoln City.

AFC Wimbledon are 17 league games without a victory, a run that started with them outside the relegation zone and sees them still outside the relegation zone, albeit by just one point now. They were beaten 2-0 in midweek by Plymouth and experienced defender Lee Brown has said that his teammates need a reality check. Mark Robinson reverted to a three at the back in the second-half, taking off leading scorer Jack Rudoni. Wimbledon fans are starting to question their manager now with the club staring down the barrel of a pending relegation if they can not turn their fortune around.

Lincoln ended their terrible form with a victory at home to Sheffield Wednesday last weekend. John Marquis was back at his best against The Owls with the striker bullying the Wednesday defence. However, they were beaten in midweek by Ipswich and still only sit six points above the relegation zone. Appleton has reverted to a three at the back formation with Brooke Norton-Cuffy and Morgan Whittaker playing as wing-backs. Tom Hopper’s return will also have an influence, with the striker being a big miss after starting the season excellently.

Prediction: AFC Wimbledon 0-3 Lincoln City
AFC Wimbledon’s long awaited run without a victory will continue as Lincoln beat them comfortably 3-0, which I expect will spell the end of Mark Robinson’s time in charge.

One to Watch: John Marquis – Lincoln striker John Marquis scored a brace last weekend and now has five goals in 10 games after arriving from Portsmouth. His experience against a young Wimbledon side will be key.

Bolton Wanderers vs Plymouth Argyle
Preview: Plymouth Argyle will be eager to extend their recent run in the league as they set sail on their travels to face Bolton Wanderers.

Bolton were victorious 3-0 last weekend against Gillingham before drawing 1-1 with Morecambe in midweek. The Trotters sit seven points behind the play-off places and with just nine games left and plenty of sides jostling for them positions, I fear it could be too late for Ian Evatt’s men to finish there. Last week’s victory was dedicated to Gethin Jones’ family after his mum passed away. Jones has been granted compassionate leave by Ian Evatt, leaving Will Aimson to fill the void at right centre-back. 

Plymouth have won back-to-back games in the last week against relegation-threatened Morecambe and AFC Wimbledon. It leaves them in sixth place in the league and they become the side being hunted having previously been the hunters. Plymouth have suffered no injury problems either this week with the only doubt being Connor Grant after he went off with a tight groin. Steven Schumacher insists that was only precautionary with Brendan Galloway, George Cooper, Dan Scarr and Alfie Lewis already out injured.

Prediction: Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Plymouth Argyle
Bolton will come out victorious with a strong win against potential play-off rivals Plymouth. However, I think Bolton need at least 21 from their last nine games to finish in the play-offs.

One to Watch: Jon Dadi Bodvarsson – Bolton now have an array of attacking options having brought in plenty of signings in January. In Bodvarsson, they not only have someone who is strong in front of goal, but who is happy to play his part for the team. He has two goals in his last two league games and will look to add to that here.

Burton Albion vs Fleetwood Town
Preview: Burton Albion and Fleetwood Town have the exact same record in their last five league games, and they face off at The Pirelli.

Burton are five games without a victory having been beaten convincingly by Oxford United last weekend 4-1. The game was over for The Brewers after just 45 minutes, when Matty Taylor put Oxford 4-0 up. The Burton defence hasn’t been strong enough and it’s probably time for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to ditch the three at the back system. John Brayford, I believe, has struggled at centre defence as well as Cameron Borthwick-Jackson struggling on the left. Fans want to see JFH revert to a back four with Conor Shaughnessy coming back into the team and it’s up to Hasselbaink to make sure his team isn’t already on the beach and finish the season strongly like they did last season.

Fleetwood are 10 games without victory and are now only one place above the relegation zone. They have lost three games in a row against Wigan, Ipswich and Sunderland. They went ahead against Sunderland after Ellis Harrison hustled the defence into making a mistake before finishing excellently. Harrison soon went off injured and was replaced by Ged Garner and with Joe Garner still out suspended, I expect Ged to come back in from the start. Zak Jules was also sent off in midweek and will miss this game. I expect Fleetwood to revert to a back four here in a game they can’t afford to throw more points away in.

Prediction: Burton Albion 0-1 Fleetwood Town
Fleetwood will end their winless 10 game run with a 1-0 victory against Burton. The Brewers have shown their mind is already elsewhere and Fleetwood will capitalise, winning narrowly.

One to Watch: Paddy Lane – Fleetwood attacking midfielder Paddy Lane has been a ray of sunshine in what has been a dark season for the cod army. The 21-year-old has five goals and eight assists in a side struggling against relegation.

Doncaster Rovers vs Gillingham
Preview: Two sides battling against relegation meet at The Keepmoat Stadium as Doncaster Rovers entertain Gillingham.

Doncaster were hammered last weekend by Cheltenham 4-0. This has often been the case for Donny since Gary McSheffrey took over with the Yorkshiremen showing signs of improvement before throwing in the odd disastrous performance. Last weekend’s defeat wasn’t helped by experienced midfielder Adam Clayton being sent off for a second bookable offence meaning he will miss the crucial game against their relegation rivals. A win this weekend would see Doncaster leapfrog their opponents and could easily go within one point of safety. Gary McSheffrey has called on his team to bounce back after suffering a heavy defeat last week and has since said there is some winnable games between now and the end of the season for Rovers, and this is one of those.

Gillingham may have showed signs of improvement since Neil Harris came in, but last weekend they reverted to old habits, conceding sloppy goals and showing a lack of discipline. Daniel Phillips was sent off for two bookable offences with the score at 1-0, stopping any form of comeback. Phillips will be out suspended for this one with Ben Reeves likely to come in for the Watford loanee. Gillingham could go level on points with Fleetwood and Wimbledon if they win and results go their way, but they have an inferior goal difference which would stop them climbing out of the drop zone completely. Against relegation rivals so far, Harris has accumulated eight points from a possible 12 – not losing against any of them yet – and they will be eager to extend that record here.

Prediction: Doncaster Rovers 0-2 Gillingham
Gillingham will run out victorious over their relegation rivals here. Neil Harris’ men will win 2-0, lifting them closer to safety while leaving Doncaster with a mountain to climb.

One to Watch: Ben Thompson – Former Millwall midfielder Ben Thompson has only found himself at Gillingham due to playing under Harris at his former club. He is creative and clinical in front of goal.

Ipswich Town vs Portsmouth
Preview: There is a match-up between two sides that have found their feet since the turn of the year, as Portsmouth head to Portman Road.

Ipswich are unbeaten in eight league games after beating Lincoln 2-0 in midweek. Since Kieran McKenna came in, he has built a team on a strong defence, keeping 9 clean sheets in his first 14 league games in charge while only conceding one goal at Portman Road, coming in a 2-1 victory over Accrington. This is the start of three huge games in Ipswich’s push for the play-offs, with Oxford and Plymouth on the horizon next week. They can’t afford to lose any of these games if they want to finish in the play-offs and need at least seven points. George Edmondson and Sam Morsy may both be missing for Ipswich this weekend, with both going off in discomfort against Lincoln.

Portsmouth are themselves unbeaten in seven league games, winning six of them. Pompey sit just five points off the play-offs with games in hand over the likes of play-off chasers Wycombe, Sunderland, Oxford and this weekend’s opposition Ipswich. Last weekend, they were victorious against Accrington, winning 4-0. They were massively dominant from set pieces, with Sean Raggett and George Hirst scoring from freekicks. The win came with ten men, who battled valiantly and hit excellently on the counter-attack for 70 minutes of the game. Marcus Harness was sent off for a terrible tackle on Ross Sykes and will be missing for the next two games which come against top six rivals Ipswich and Plymouth. The first of his suspended games came in midweek in a comfortable victory over Crewe.

Prediction: Ipswich Town 2-1 Portsmouth
Ipswich’s strong home form at Portman Road will continue with a 2-1 victory over Portsmouth. It will bring their unbeaten run to an end, while Ipswich’s unbeaten run will continue.

One to Watch: Kayden Jackson – Ipswich have plenty of attacking options, but in Kayden Jackson they have found a goal scorer. In his last four starts, he has three league goals and has linked up really well with right wing-back Wes Burns.

Morecambe vs Cheltenham Town
Preview: Morecambe are still in search of their first win under Derek Adams upon his return, with The Shrimps playing hosts to Cheltenham Town.

Morecambe are still searching for their first win since Derek Adams returned to the dugout. The Shrimps came really close in midweek against Bolton, leading 1-0 until the 94th minute where Jon Dadi Bodvarsson was given the freedom of the penalty area to finish. Morecambe were easily out played, but when Adam Phillips hurried George Johnson and James Trafford on the ball he was able to give Cole Stockton the easiest of goals to make it 19 for the season. Morecambe are now nine games without a victory and still sit in the relegation places despite Fleetwood and Wimbledon both being on poor runs above. If The Shrimps are to capitalise on that, it’s now or never. 

Cheltenham are definitely not on the beach yet, with a very strong 4-0 victory over relegation-threatened Doncaster last weekend. They did, however, follow that up with a 3-1 defeat against MK Dons in midweek. Kion Etete was once again missing for Cheltenham having felt his ankle in the build up to the game. He was a big miss with Cheltenham unable to provide a focal point up front and Alfie May having to play with Callum Wright and Aaron Ramsey off him. Charlie Colkett also only started his third game since coming in from Ostersunds in January. It’s fair to say Michael Duff likes to throw him in at the deep end with his three starts coming against Sunderland, Ipswich and MK Dons. Michael Duff is confident Etete will be back for this one and Cheltenham will need him to add some physicality.

Prediction: Morecambe 1-1 Cheltenham Town
Cheltenham will take the lead here going 1-0 up, but Morecambe will hit back getting a third draw in five games since Adams’ return.

One to Watch: Alfie May – Cheltenham striker Alfie May has 10 goals in his last eight games and now 17 for the season. The striker thrives on confidence and has been Cheltenham’s best player this season.

Sheffield Wednesday vs Cambridge United
Preview: Sheffield Wednesday will be looking to bounce back from defeat last time out as they welcome Cambridge United to Hillsborough.

Sheffield Wednesday have won seven of their last nine league games in a run that has seen them move from eighth to… erm… well, eighth. The Owls were beaten last weekend by Lincoln 3-1 in a game they were comfortably second best in. Lee Gregory made a return coming off the bench featuring for the first time since January, while Fisayo Dele-Bashiru also appeared off the bench for the first time since February 1st against Morecambe. Dominic Iorfa has also recently been on the bench for the owls with many fans calling for him to return to the team after last weekends terrible defensive display. Meanwhile Harlee Dean, Nathanial Mendez-Laing, Josh Windass and Olamide Shodipo were all pictured in training yesterday.

Cambridge are on a run of three games without a victory. Liam O’Neil will be back in contention having missed the last two games through illness. Centre defender Sam Sherring should also return to the starting line up having missed last weekend through concussion protocol. Cambridge finally have options back at centre-back, with Lloyd Jones returning recently. Joe Ironside also started his first game since he came back from injury. Cambridge have struggled away from home especially, recently not winning in their last six on their travels, being beaten by Oxford and Wycombe, and so they will look to address that record here. 

Prediction: Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 Cambridge United
Sheffield Wednesday will run out comfortable winners, beating Cambridge 3-0 and moving towards the play-off places.

One to Watch: Marvin Johnson – Neymarv as the Wednesday fans call him. The wing-back has been a bright spark for The Owls while being versatile.

Shrewsbury Town vs Oxford United
Preview: Oxford United will aim to keep the pressure up on those sides around them as they head on the road to face Shrewsbury Town.

Shrewsbury are unbeaten in their last three games and have drawn their last couple of games 0-0. Gary Cotterill’s side have struggled for goals all season with only Gillingham and Doncaster scoring less goals than them. However, defensively they are excellent with only the top two sides in the league conceding less goals than them. Cotterill has been struggling to find the right balance between keeping it tight and winning games of football. He has recently tried playing three strikers, with Tom Bloxham starting alongside Daniel Udoh and Ryan Bowman. That was fruitful against Burton, but has since been firing blanks again.

Oxford seemed to have turned their form around, having found a new system and a new way to get the best out of their team, playing a 3-4-1-2 which will get in particular the best out of Matty Taylor and Sam Baldock together as a partnership However, Baldock picked up a significant knee injury while Marcus Browne is also out injured with a hamstring problem. Karl Robinson also confirmed that they have had one or two Covid situations this week which could see some players missing this Saturday. In positive news for The Yellows, Billy Bodin is likely to return to the matchday squad while James Henry could be fit enough for a place on the bench at a push.

Prediction: Shrewsbury Town 0-1 Oxford United
Oxford will be the winners here with a narrow 1-0 victory. They may have plenty of players missing, but they have enough fire power to get over the line.

One to Watch: Matty Taylor – Shrewsbury are a side that don’t like to concede goals, but Oxford striker Taylor will have a say in that. The striker has 18 goals for the season and with Sam Baldock now out, the onus is back on the experienced man.

Sunderland vs Crewe Alexandra
Preview: Sunderland will look to make it five games unbeaten in the league under Alex Neil this Saturday in welcoming Crewe Alexandra to The Stadium of Light.

Sunderland got their first win under Alex Neil just two weeks ago, and since then they have drawn with Charlton 0-0 and were winners 3-1 against Fleetwood in his first victory at the Stadium of Light. Bailey Wright was rushed on the ball allowing Ellis Harrison to go through and open the scoring, but Sunderland hit back in the second-half with Jermain Defoe and Lyndon Gooch coming on at half-time. Alex Pritchard was missing for the Wearsiders, with him looking likely to miss the rest of the season. Luke O’Nien came back from injury, featuring for the first time since the end of November, and he came back with a bang scoring and has now given his boss a selection headache.

Crewe are as good as relegated, with nine defeats in their last 10 games. In midweek, they were beaten by Portsmouth 3-1 and are now eight points from safety. David Artell has said that he will argue with anyone until he’s blue in the face if they think his lads aren’t trying. “We’ve got to stick together, and I think the fans have been brilliant. It’s not as if we are just accepting it, we know where we are”. The fans certainly know that Artell is trying his hardest, but his hands are very much tied with him left bringing players through or picking up players off the scrap heap. The Railwaymen will be hoping to see a similar result to what Doncaster got at Sunderland.

Prediction: Sunderland 5-0 Crewe Alexandra – Sunderland will run out convincing 5-0 winners. They will inflict another defeat on Crewe leaving them staring down the barrel whilst keeping themselves in a comfortable position in the top six.

One to Watch: Ross Stewart – Sunderland striker Ross Stewart got a brace against this opposition earlier in the season. The league’s top goal scorer will be keen to add to his tally against the bottom club in league one.

Wycombe Wanderers vs Rotherham United
Preview: Rotherham Untied face another tough test this weekend as they travel to Adams Park to face Wycombe Wanderers.

Wycombe were 3-1 winners last weekend against Crewe in Gareth Ainsworth’s 500th game in charge of The Chairboys. It elevated Wycombe to 6th at the time but now leaves them sat 7th after Plymouth’s win in midweek. They were rarely tested by the league’s bottom club with Sam Vokes being dominant leading the line, while Lewis Wing fired in a couple of brilliant strikes from outside the box. After defeat to Accrington, Ainsworth went back to a 4-2-3-1 with Anis Mehmeti, Daryl Horgan and James McCleary playing behind Sam Vokes up front. On Monday, The Chairboys were victorious in a friendly against a strong Brentford side with David Wheeler scoring a late winner on Monday as they look to give squad players minutes and help keep fitness levels high. 

Rotherham were beaten by 10 man MK Dons last weekend in a game that should have brought them crashing back down to earth. The Millers sit four points clear in the automatic places, but they haven’t achieved anything yet. The Millers are much stronger defensively away from home, only conceding five away league goals all season. Only Fleetwood, Accrington and Wigan have beat them away from home this season, so they clearly don’t mind travelling South. Rotherham are left with only one fit striker though in Michael Smith. Freddie Ladapo has been ruled out with a quad injury while Josh Kayode and Georgie Kelly have picked up knee and calf knocks respectively. Ramarni Edmonds-Green and Mickel Miller returned against Hartlepool in the EFL Trophy semi-final victory in midweek, and are welcome additions to their squad.

Prediction: Wycombe Wanderers 1-2 Rotherham United
This will be a tight game between two clubs competing at the top of the league. Rotherham will run out 2-1 winners in a game that I doubt will be for the purest, with the ball rarely likely to be in play by design from the hosts.

One to Watch: Michael Smith – Rotherham striker Michael Smith is the 3rd highest goal scorer in the league. With other strikers out injured, the pressure is on the target man to keep hitting the heights and knocking in the goals for The Millers.

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