Sky Bet League One #39 – Weekend Preview

Feature Game: Oxford United vs Ipswich Town

Likely Lineups:
Oxford United: (3-4-1-2) Eastwood; McNally, Mousinho, Seddon; Sykes, Kane, Brannagan, Williams; Holland; Taylor, Whyte
Ipswich Town: (3-4-2-1) Walton; Donacien, Woolfenden, Burgess; Burns, Carroll, Bakinson, Thompson; Chaplin, Celina; Bonne

Preview: Oxford United will be hoping they can cement their play-off spot even further this weekend as they entertain Ipswich Town.

Oxford United come into this game looking to further cement their play-off spot, having won four of their last five league games, as they sit in 4th. They won in their most recent league outing, making it back-to-back victories as they edged out Shrewsbury Town 2-1 on the road. This term, Karl Robinson has shown more adaptability as a coach to change up the system and experiment with different personnel and structures for different games, with the use of 3-back system against Shrewsbury Town moving away from the conventional 4-3-3 we have seen Robinson employ more often than not during his time with United. They do not have the biggest of squads with the injuries that they have to contend with, highlighted none more so by the fact that they were only able to name six substitutes on the bench for the trip on the weekend, but if they continue playing the way they are at the moment, Robinson will be encouraged that they have what it takes to go all the way.

The visitors at The Kassam Stadium are an Ipswich Town side that may still have one eye on the play-offs, with Kieran McKenna’s side currently sitting eight points outside the play-offs as things stand, and as such he will view this game as a pivotal one in terms of them being able to indeed finish in the top six come the end of the campaign. McKenna was dealt with the blow that that striker Kayden Jackson is ruled out for the remainder of the season, and that is a huge loss, further adding to their selection problems after George Edmundson was also ruled for the foreseeable future, while Sam Morsy is also likely to drop out through injury. That being said, the loss of Edmundson has not had an effect on their performances and more specifically their defensive record, with The Tractorboys having kept clean sheets in each of their last three league games. In fact, Town have conceded just one goal in nine games, keeping eight clean sheets. That could well be the difference in them being able to get into the play-offs.

Prediction: Oxford United 1-1 Ipswich Town
What? I have predicted Ipswich Town to concede a goal – that can’t be right! I think that they will do enough to ensure a share of the spoils on the road, but will have to settle for only a point as Oxford United break down the Town resistance with a 1-1 draw. Taylor to score for the hosts, while Celina levels for McKenna’s men.

One to Watch: Bersant Celina – The Kosovan midfielder has impressed this term with his qualities on the ball, and against an equally-talented Town midfield, his ability will need to come to the fore for Town if they are to indeed get something from this one.

Cambridge United vs MK Dons
Preview: MK Dons look to keep the pressure up on the top two in League One as they aim for promotion and face Cambridge United on the road this weekend.

Cambridge come into this off the back of a 6-0 drubbing away at Hillsborough last weekend. The U’s have had a tough run of away games with their last three away league games coming at play-off chasers Wycombe, Oxford and Sheffield Wednesday. It’s a return to home comforts though this weekend where they haven’t lost a league game in six attempts this year. Cambridge seemed burnt out last weekend after a tough run and looked on the beach so to speak, however Mark Bonner won’t want his side to relax just yet. After heavy defeat last week, he hinted at changing things saying “Perhaps we need a back five or midfield five against them to try and take away some of the space. Perhaps we need to make more changes at this stage of the season”. Jack Iredale could be back for Cambridge, with his last appearance coming on 1st February. 

MK Dons have lost one of their last 17 league games and are unbeaten in their last 11. Dons drew 1-1 with automatic promotion rivals Wigan last weekend after Harry Darling’s 88th minute header rescued them a late point. The point suited The Latics more though with a midweek win following, leaving MK Dons three points behind having played two more games. MK Dons have often struggled to play the fluent passing football Liam Manning wants from his side at home due to the pitch being torn up, and so it is not as easy to keep the ball on the ground. They have the joint 2nd best away record in the league and have scored the most away goals, averaging just under two a game, while last time on their travels they beat table-toppers Rotherham.

Prediction: Cambridge United 0-2 MK Dons
MK Dons will run out comfortable winners against their counterparts just like they did earlier in the season. It was Twine that made the difference then and he will this weekend too.

One to Watch: Scott Twine – MK Dons attacker Scott Twine is the only player to have double figure goals (14) and assists (10) in league one this season. He showed his quality from set pieces last weekend setting up the equaliser and will be needed again behind Troy Parrott and Mo Eisa.

Charlton Athletic vs Burton Albion
Preview: Charlton Athletic will be aiming to make it back-to-back wins in the league this weekend as they host Burton Albion.

Charlton ended their run of seven league games without victory with a 1-0 home win in midweek. The Addicks brought in Adam Matthews for his first start in four games. Co-incidentally Corey Blackett-Taylor featured the last time Charlton won and made his return here, while they also had striker Conor Washington fit, available and starting for the first time since the 11th of December. They have only played together seven times this season and are unbeaten in all seven with at least one of them scoring in six. In midweek, it was Alex Gilbey on the scoresheet with Charlton’s back three – which has not been brilliant recently – restricting Gillingham to just a handful of chances. 

Burton were victorious for the first time in six league games last weekend. They beat Fleetwood 3-2, having to come from 2-0 down. Burton changed formation from a three at the back to a four, but defensively they were still poor, gifting Fleetwood with a two goal advantage. However, when you sign a former Premier League striker you can expect big things and that’s sometimes what you get, with Oumar Niasse getting a brace. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s men showed great character to come back like that and for Niasse it was special as he completed his first 90 minutes for two years.

Prediction: Charlton Athletic 3-2 Burton Albion
Charlton and Burton could both be accepted as playing a nothing game with very little at stake. Sometimes these can make good games and that’s why I think Charlton could come out 3-2 winners.

One to Watch: Jayden Stockley – Charlton striker Jayden Stockley has eight goals this season and got his first since returning from injury last week at Accrington. The target man is always a threat in front of goal and great at linking play.

Cheltenham Town vs AFC Wimbledon
Preview: AFC Wimbledon will be hoping they can secure a key three points in the bid to stay in the division as they face Cheltenham Town on the road.

Cheltenham striker Alfie May received the February League One player of the month award for his eight league goals from five games. The striker was on target last week again in their 3-1 victory over Morecambe which moved them up to 13th and saw the squad enjoy a day out at Cheltenham races on Tuesday. Michael Duff will hope his side are at the races here with the manager still expecting the players to turn up and not be on the beach from now until the end of the season. Last week saw the return of Sean Long to defence, with him making his first start in 10 league games.

AFC Wimbledon are now 17 league games without a victory and will be hoping this is 18th time lucky. Mark Robinson recalled young forward Zach Robinson from his loan at Hampton & Richmond and started him last weekend alongside Adedapo Mebude. Jack Rudoni and Ayoub Assal have both returned from injuries recently, but it feels like all the pressure Robinson is putting on his young side isn’t helping with them inevitably about to fall into the relegation zone. To worsen matters, The Dons received a double injury blow with Cheye Alexander and on loan Brentford striker Aaron Pressley being ruled out until the end of the season.

Prediction: Cheltenham Town 2-0 AFC Wimbledon
Cheltenham will be too good for their opposition here. AFC Wimbledon are running out of time to get a result, but won’t this weekend.

One to Watch: Callum Wright – Cheltenham midfielder Callum Wright was on the scoresheet scored his sixth goal of the season last weekend and has been excellent creatively for the robins all season.

Crewe Alexandra vs Bolton Wanderers
Preview: Bottom-side Crewe Alexandra will be looking to secure a vital three points in their fight against relegation as they welcome Bolton Wanderers to Gresty Road.

Crewe’s midweek defeat to Wigan made it 25 league defeats for the season which is the same as their number of points this season. It’s now 11 defeats in their last 12 games for Crewe and they have lost their last six home games in a row. David Artell will most likely be preparing for life in League Two. They have conceded a staggering 70 goals this season and Artell has stuck with a back three regardless while up front they’ve also struggled with only 30 goals scored this season.

Bolton were beaten last weekend 1-0 by Plymouth. It has left The Trotters 11 points off the play-offs, and they will most likely need to pick up 21 points or more from just eight games. Bolton have struggled against the teams in and around the play-off places and will need to improve that going into next season as they look to target another promotion. It was nice to see the squad togetherness as they all attended Gethin Jones’ mum’s funeral. They had a strong game last weekend especially going forward, however their finishing let them down. Evatt changed the system in the second-half, taking off a centre-back for a winger, but I expect Evatt to stick to his three at the back this weekend.

Prediction: Crewe Alexandra 0-3 Bolton Wanderers
Bolton will run out comfortable winners against a poor Crewe side.

One to Watch: Dapo Afolayan – Bolton attacking player Dapo Afolayan has 11 goals and three assists this season. The attacker had an excellent start to the season and will be vital against Crewe this weekend.

Fleetwood Town vs Doncaster Rovers
Preview: Two sides in the mix for relegation from League One meet at Highbury as Fleetwood Town host Doncaster Rovers.

Fleetwood have lost five league games in a row and are now 12 games without a win. In midweek, they were beaten 1-0 by Wycombe and were unlucky to be beaten after conceding in the 94th minute. Even more annoying for Fleetwood is the clear foul in the build-up to the goal, but that wasn’t given. Fleetwood defensively have been really poor and haven’t kept a clean sheet for any of their last 12 league games. They have played a 4-4-2 diamond with Paddy Lane in behind Daniel Butterworth and Cian Hayes. Joe Garner also made a return in midweek after his red card against Wigan, while Daniel Butterworth was impressive in midweek.

Doncaster were beaten in a relegation six pointer last weekend against Gillingham and now sit four points from safety. Young forward Reo Griffiths missed the defeat last week due to an Achilles tendon issue, but he may be back fit for this weekend’s next crunch tie against Fleetwood. Doncaster’s away record is poor, but it has improved since the end of January with three wins and a draw in their last six league games. Since McSheffrey took over, they have struggled in the games where the pressure is on, but flourished against better sides with no added pressure.

Prediction: Fleetwood Town 2-1 Doncaster Rovers
Fleetwood will end their long winless run with a narrow victory. They will take the lead before going two goals in front before Doncaster strike late to leave a nervy finish.

One to Watch: Daniel Butterworth – Fleetwood striker Daniel Butterworth has been on loan from Blackburn since January. He got his first goal last weekend and has made an impact up front.

Gillingham vs Sheffield Wednesday
Preview: Gillingham face a tricky home tie this weekend as they entertain play-off chasing Sheffield Wednesday.

Gillingham were beaten in midweek by Charlton after a victory over Doncaster last weekend saw them go level on points with 20th place AFC Wimbledon. Gills have a strong record against the sides at the bottom of the league since Neil Harris came in, but they have struggled against the likes of Ipswich, Plymouth and Bolton who are all better teams. Charlie Kelman scored his first league goal in two years last weekend and his first goal since his loan spell two years ago at Southend, and will look to build on that here.

Sheffield Wednesday were excellent last weekend when they ran out 6-0 winners against Cambridge at Hillsborough.  In midweek though they were flat with Lee Gregory, who returned to the starting line-up dropped to the bench.  They were given a lift when he was brought on, but they still dropped points as they drew 1-1 with Accrington Stanley. Stanley scored from a corner after Ross Sykes won the initial header and that was the 16th time they’ve conceded from a set piece, the third most in the league this season. Gillingham will look to exploit that weakness this weekend with Neil Harris’ main focus being set pieces since he came in.

Prediction: Gillingham 1-3 Sheffield Wednesday
Gillingham will take an early lead here from a set piece before Wednesday kick into gear and make a good comeback.

One to Watch: Saido Berahino – Darren Moore spoke about a strict plan the striker has been on last week and how its paid off. The Burundi international got his first career hat trick last week and has been excellent in recent weeks with five goals in his last six games.

Lincoln City vs Sunderland
Preview: Sunderland boss Alex Neil will want his side to continue their strong recent run of form as they head to Sincil Bank to face strugglers Lincoln City.

Lincoln were beaten 2-1 by league leaders Rotherham although were a much stronger side in the 2nd half. Appleton has challenged his team to pick up from that impressive performance which almost saw them get a point. The Imps are close to signing an emergency loan goalkeeper with Josh Griffiths suffering a season ending injury against Sheffield Wednesday while back up goalkeeper Sam Long is unable to return from his loan at Drogheda. They have had to start young goalkeeper Jordan Wright, but Appleton wants the safety net of a keeper on the bench. It’s been a poor season for Lincoln with them only turning up in patches and now Appleton will want his side to prepare themselves for next season.

Sunderland are unbeaten in their last five league games which has seen them propelled back up to 6th in the league. Last week, they left it late to beat Crewe, but goals from Dan Neil and Patrick Roberts in the final 10 minutes carried them over the line against the league’s bottom club. The options Alex Neil now has are sensational with him able to bring Neil and Roberts off the bench to score, and before that he brought on Luke O’Nien to score and substituting Jermaine Defoe on changed the game. Callum Doyle could return after having a good rest away from the side while Danny Batth could return to add experience at the back. Dan Neil is likely to be back in the starting line-up, but Corry Evans and Jay Matete have nailed down starting positions and it will be up to Neil whether he drops Luke O’Nien or sticks with his team.

Prediction: Lincoln City 2-2 Sunderland
Lincoln always seem to relish these games against the bigger clubs in league one. Sunderland will be punished for a slow start here with Lincoln going two goals in front before Alex Neil’s substitutions change the game again.

One to Watch: Chris Maguire – Lincoln forward Chris Maguire got a hat trick the last time these sides met just two months ago. Maguire a former Mackem quietened former manager Lee Johnson on that day, but his gamesmanship will have to be saved for his former employers this weekend.

Plymouth Argyle vs Accrington Stanley
Preview: Plymouth Argyle will look to cement their play-off spot this weekend as they entertain Accrington Stanley at Home Park.

Plymouth have won four games in a row to nil. The Pilgrims now sit in 5th place with a game in hand on Oxford in 4th.  Conor Grant missed out in midweek with a few injury niggles and Steven Schumacher could have a selection headache with Fulham loanee Steven Sessegnon coming in and taking his chance playing really well. Schumacher has said he’d prefer a right footer who cut inside from the left, but had spoken to Sessegnon’s former coach Keith Downing to check if he could play left wing-back. The central midfield combination of Panutche Camara and Jordan Houghton has especially impressed me, with the pair pressing and working together before Ryan Hardie slotted home.

Accrington picked up their first point on the road of 2022 in midweek thanks to a Marvin Johnson own goal at Hillsborough. It was a trademark Sean McConville corner which got the goal after Ross Sykes won the initial header. Accrington were at the centre of one of the best but also worst goals I’ve ever seen last weekend after a goalmouth scramble led to Rosaire Lomhelo-Mbule heading home. Korede Adedoyin missed midweek’s trip to Hillsborough after an agreement was made when he left for Stanley in January, but he will be back this weekend and will be looking to take points off more play-off chasers.

Prediction: Plymouth Argyle 2-0 Accrington Stanley
Accrington aren’t good travellers this year and will once again be homesick losing to Plymouth comfortably 2-0.

One to Watch: Ryan Hardie – Plymouth striker Ryan Hardie has three times as many goals this season as last and his manager has put it down to getting more sleep. The pilgrims striker became a dad at the start of last season and Schumacher has said the more sleep his striker gets the better he is.

Portsmouth vs Wycombe Wanderers
Preview: Portsmouth will want to get back to winning ways in the league after defeat last time out and they welcome Wycombe Wanderers to Fratton Park.

Portsmouth’s eight game unbeaten run came to an end in midweek as they were defeated 1-0 by fellow play-off chasers Plymouth. The result leaves Portsmouth eight points off the play-offs while visitors Wycombe sit seven points ahead of them. Portsmouth will need most likely six wins from their last eight games to even stand a chance of getting into the play-offs which seems highly unlikely with Wycombe, Bolton, Rotherham, Wigan and Sheffield Wednesday still to play. Michael Jacobs is set to be back which will be a boost for Pompey fans while Marcus Harness should also be back from suspension to give Danny Cowley some attacking options, as Cowley looks to mark a year in charge at Fratton Park with a win.

Wycombe’s mid-season slump seems to have come to an end with a run of four league games unbeaten, picking up three wins. The Chairboys drew with table-toppers Rotherham 0-0 last weekend and followed that up with a 1-0 late victory over Fleetwood in midweek. The change of system to a 4-2-3-1 has clearly paid off for Ainsworth, whose substitutes changed the game in midweek. The arrival of Adebayo Akinfenwa – who still has it at the age of 39 – and Brandon Hanlan were what made the difference as Wycombe took all three points in the 94th minute. Hanlan will be pushing for a start this weekend while Wycombe’s centre backs will have to be on their toes to stop George Hirst running in behind.

Prediction: Portsmouth 2-0 Wycombe Wanderers
Portsmouth will be victorious at a sold out Fratton Park this week, keeping their faint play-off hopes alive. They will just have too much pace on the break for Wycombe to deal with.

One to Watch: Ryan Tafazolli – Wycombe centre back Ryan Tafazolli has been back in the side for Wycombe’s upturn in form. They have only conceded four goals in that time and his defending at set pieces especially will be under the microscope as he comes up against Sean Raggett.

Rotherham United vs Shrewsbury Town
Preview: Leaders Rotherham United will be looking to edge a step closer to confirming relegation to the Championship as they entertain Shrewsbury Town.

Rotherham ended their biggest winless run of the season (three games) in midweek with a 2-1 victory against Lincoln. Rotherham have been fairly lucky with injuries this season, but they now seem to be sneaking up on them with Michael Smith and Josh Kayode their only fit strikers while midfielders Ben Wiles and Dan Barlaser have both picked up knocks and won’t train until Friday, so Warne is unsure whether they’ll be available this weekend. The number of injuries is summed up by the fact Warne only had eight doing a full training session and has just said about getting through this weekend so the lads can have a break.

I have spent what feels like forever discussing Shrewsbury’s short comings in front of goal, but that all changed this week. The Shrews beat Morecambe 5-0 in midweek after moving back to a front two with Daniel Udoh and Ryan Bowman starting up front and Tom Bloxham dropping to the bench. Captain Luke Leahy was also superb with a brace and assisting two of the goals. His set piece delivery was excellent, and Morecambe really struggled to deal with him on and off the ball.

Prediction: Rotherham United 0-2 Shrewsbury Town
Rotherham will be too fatigued, and injury stricken to deal with this Shrewsbury side and will subsequently lose 2-0.

One to Watch: Daniel Udoh – Shrewsbury Town striker Daniel Udoh has been excellent all season in patches. He has 13 goals now in all competitions for the season and will relish a tired Rotherham defence to run at and behind.

Wigan Athletic vs Morecambe
Preview: Morecambe face a tricky test if they are to get vital points on the board in their bid to avoid relegation as they travel to promotion-chasing Wigan Athletic.

Wigan made it just one defeat in their last nine league games in midweek as they beat strugglers Crewe 2-0. Josh Magennis finally ended his wait for his first Wigan goal scoring with a bullet header before Will Keane continued his best goal-scoring season. It means Wigan now sit three points above the play-off places in 2nd and still have two games in hand on main chasers MK Dons. The calendar gets more hectic for Wigan with their fixture against Burton next week being postponed due to international call ups, while they’ve lost defender Glen Rea who returned back to Luton in midweek following a knee injury. 

Morecambe are still yet to win since Derek Adams returned. Derek Adams will have left on Tuesday night wondering how Darren Drysdale gave a penalty for an apparent handball from Jacob Bedeau with the score at just 1-0. The Shrimps went on to lose 5-0 and now have comfortably the worst defensive record in the league having conceded 75 goals this season. The big worry though will be the form of Cole Stockton, who only has one goal in his last eight games and has helped his side dig their way out of many holes already this season.

Prediction: Wigan Athletic 3-0 Morecambe
Wigan will run out comfortable winners against another of the leagues strugglers.

One to Watch: Josh Magennis – Wigan striker Josh Magennis is finally off the mark for his new club. The target man has linked play well but now has the confidence of a goal to help him.

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