Sky Bet League One #43 – Weekend Preview

Feature Game: MK Dons vs Sheffield Wednesday

Likely Lineups:
MK Dons: (3-4-3) Cumming; O’Hora, Darling, Lewington; Hayden, Coventry, McEachran, Harvie; Twine, Wickham, Parrott
Sheffield Wednesday: (3-5-2) Peacock-Farrell; Storey, Dean, Hutchinson; Hunt, Byers, Luongo, Bannan, Johnson; Berahino, Gregory

Preview: Two sides in the hunt for promotion from League One face-off as Sheffield Wednesday travel to Stadium MK.

MK Dons come into this game off the back of a draw last time out against rivals AFC Wimbledon, with forward Troy Parrott scoring a fine solo effort to earn them a share of the spoils at Plough Lane. Midfielder Scott Twine was included on the shortlist for Player of the Year in League One, and he will be looking to influence this contest. Theo Corbeanu made the switch from Sheffield Wednesday to MK Dons earlier in the campaign, however has found game time hard to come by, and he will be hoping to play a part here. It was his introduction – along with Dan Kemp – that brought about improvements in their game and you may see Corbeanu play against his former employers from the off, with a point to prove. They currently occupy 2nd in the table and would have been pleased to see Rotherham United lose in midweek, and will be just looking to extend their unbeaten run here.

The visitors are a Sheffield Wednesday side that are well-placed to get into the play-offs come the end of the campaign, but dropped two points last time out against Bolton Wanderers, chucking a goal away in the final few minutes. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was again deployed in an unusual striking berth, but he was then taken off shortly after the hour and you would assume that someone with the ability to run in behind and make movements off the back of defenders in Saido Berahino – fresh from the Player of the Month award – may be restored to the eleven. The Owls have not lost in their last five league games, but they have drawn three of those and so Moore will be mindful that they need to turn some of these draws into wins if they are to finish in the top six. They are in a 3-way tie on 73 points, and with buffers either side of that gap, they know they need to pick something up here to ensure they don’t lose ground.

Prediction: MK Dons 1-1 Sheffield Wednesday
I think that this will be a close game, and will very much hinge on who gets a grip of the ball better in midfield. The visitors will be buoyed by a strong away following, and I think that will help them, but I am going to edge for a draw. A 1-1 scoreline, that will be more entertaining than that alone suggest, with Twine and Bannan getting a goal each.

One to Watch: Scott Twine and Barry Bannan – I can’t just single out one player in a game littered with so much quality, and we will see a direct match-up between two players in the running for divisional Player of the Year between Twine and Bannan.

Accrington Stanley vs Burton Albion
Preview: Burton Albion come into this off the back of successive draws against promotion-chasing sides and face Accrington Stanley on the road.

Accrington were 2-1 winners last weekend against Fleetwood. Accrington had to come from behind to take all three points and get their first away victory of the calendar year. Accrington were poor defensively and could have been two or three goals down before Sean McConville’s header brought them back into the game. Accrington have struggled defensively recently conceding 24 goals in their last 10 league games, while going forward they’ve scored 13. It’s been an entertaining end to the season for Stanley fans even if they have got nothing to play for.

Burton have recorded back-to-back 0-0 draws this week at home to promotion chasers Plymouth and Wigan. It’s just the improvement Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink would have liked to have seen from his team after poor defeats against Morecambe and Charlton. A return to a back three is what was the catalyst for The Brewers’ improvement defensively. While, a midfield duo of Michael Mancienne and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson really helped to match up to Wigan in midweek. The worry for Hasselbaink now will be going forward with Burton Albion now having gone four games without scoring for Burton. Christian Saydee is still waiting for his first goal since arriving from Bournemouth in January and Gassan Ahadme is out of favour only starting one of the last nine league games.

Prediction: Accrington Stanley 3-0 Burton Albion
Accrington will be comfortable winners here beating a Burton side that is having a poor finish to the season.

One to Watch: Sean McConville – Accrington midfielder Sean McConville has four goals and 14 assists this season. He has created 18 big chances the most in the league and will be Accrington’s main attacking threat yet again.

Charlton Athletic vs Morecambe
Preview: Morecambe face a tricky test on the road in their attempts to stave off relegation as they face Charlton Athletic.

Charlton were winners last weekend away at league leaders Rotherham. Jason Pearce and Akin Famewo returned to the start in the defence while Albie Morgan also came in for his first start in eight league games. Morgan has had to force his way back into the team having been frozen out under previous management. Jake Forster-Caskey has also been back having not featured all season due to injury. With all the squad now getting back to full fitness and Jonnie Jackson having a strong side to choose between, if they can finish the season strongly, they could really take some form into next season.

Morecambe were beaten by Cambridge last weekend 2-1 and are now level on points with Gillingham below them. The Morecambe defence yet again let them down conceding two sloppy goals. The run-in is unkind to Morecambe with them having to play Charlton, MK Dons, Portsmouth and Sunderland. They haven’t won any away league game in 12 matches, a run spanning back to November putting pressure on their remaining two home league games. Shrimps striker Cole Stockton was back on the scoresheet last weekend with a remarkable volley and will surely have a point to prove having somehow not been nominated for the Sky Bet League One player of the season.

Prediction: Charlton Athletic 2-0 Morecambe
Charlton will be comfortable 2-0 winners, inflicting more travel sickness on Morecambe.

One to Watch: Jayden Stockley – Charlton striker Jayden Stockley has 11 goals for the season and is now clearly back to full form and fitness. His partnership with Conor Washington will cause problems for the Morecambe defence.

Cheltenham Town vs Gillingham
Preview: Gillingham will feel they have a good opportunity to move away from the drop zone as they travel to Cheltenham Town.

Cheltenham were victorious over Portsmouth for the first time ever last weekend recording a 1-0 win. The robins were able to welcome Kion Etete back into the team from the start alongside Alfie May. Only Crewe have a smaller budget than Cheltenham in League One and they finished 12th last season and will be playing in League Two next. It gives Michael Duff a reality check after this season knowing that that could easily be them next season if they aren’t careful. Therefore, coming into this one he will want his players to keep the high standards they have set throughout the season.

Gillingham drew 1-1 with Wycombe last weekend and moved back level with Morecambe outside the relegation zone. Wycombe were the better team in the first-half and uncharacteristically cut open Gillingham’s defence. However, they fought their way back into the game after Neil Harris took off Conor Masterson for Ben Reeves and changed formation to go more attacking with a diamond in midfield. Gillingham also lost David Tutonda to injury in the first quarter of an hour, and I think will start with a diamond this weekend but need to be more aware of their opposition’s running in behind.

Prediction: Cheltenham Town 0-1 Gillingham
Gillingham will be narrow winners here, defending better from start to finish, and moving out of the relegation zone.

One to Watch: Jack Tucker – Gillingham centre back Jack Tucker has only missed two games this season. The defender is colossal at the back and showed he has an eye for goal last weekend.

Crewe Alexandra vs AFC Wimbledon
Preview: Alex Morris takes charge of his first game as interim Railwaymen boss as they welcome AFC Wimbledon to Gresty Road.

Crewe were relegated last weekend to League Two. It spelt the end of time in charge for David Artell with Alex Morris and Lee Bell taking over as first team manager and assistant manager on an interim basis. Morris is in essence giving an audition for the role on a permanent basis next season and has said this week “We can never guarantee results in football. What I can promise is that players will show greater energy, drive and intensity out on the pitch.” One thing that seems to have gone is the pride the fans had in the team and Crewe will just be intent on stopping their current run of defeats which is now up to eight games.

AFC Wimbledon’s winless run is still going on despite Mark Bowen’s appointment as manager until the end of the season. Last weekend they drew 1-1 with MK Dons in a game that is huge for Dons fans. Wimbledon dominated the match for the majority of it, but were unable to kill off their opposition with their defence yet again killing any chances of a victory. It is now nine games without a clean sheet for Wimbledon and going forward they have been dealt a blow with Zach Robinson – who has impressed recently – ruled out having picked up a hamstring injury.

Prediction: Crewe Alexandra 0-1 AFC Wimbledon
AFC Wimbledon’s long winless run of 24 league games will come to an end this weekend with a narrow victory over a poor Crewe side. Unfortunately, the new interim manager won’t be able to get an instant response at Crewe.

One to Watch: Ayoub Assal – Without Zach Robinson who has impressed recently, the pressure will be back on Ayoub Assal in front of goal. The Wimbledon youngster scored recently against Sheffield Wednesday and will be needed in front of goal to help the Dons chances of survival.

Doncaster Rovers vs Bolton Wanderers
Preview: Doncaster Rovers will be aiming to keep alive their hopes of staying in the division as they host Bolton Wanderers at The Keepmoat Stadium.

Doncaster were victorious 2-0 last weekend over Crewe and will need a minor miracle to make up five points from their next four league games. Doncaster have a couple of injury worries with manager Gary McSheffrey saying a few unnamed players have had to sit out of training, but they will be boosted by the return of Kyle Knoyle in defence. Doncaster are looking to record back-to-back wins for the first time this season with Gary McSheffrey challenging his side to do so especially with the confidence and belief last weekend’s victory and clean sheet should give them going into the final four.

Bolton managed to take a point last weekend against Sheffield Wednesday, and they have now drawn three games in a row 1-1. Bolton were without Dapo Afolayan, Ricardo Santos, Keiran Lee, Kyle Dempsey and Marlon Fossey last weekend and had some terrible injury struggles to finish the season. Keiran Lee’s season is over, but Ian Evatt did deliver good news on Dapo Afolayan, Ricardo Santos and Declan John (who limped off last weekend) with all three fit and available for selection this weekend. That will most likely see Bolton return to the three at the back formation they have used for most of the season.

Prediction: Doncaster Rovers 1-0 Bolton Wanderers
Doncaster will record back-to-back wins for the first time this season against The Trotters. Bolton will be unable to stop Doncaster with Rovers narrowly winning.

One to Watch: Josh Martin – Doncaster midfield Josh Martin got his second goal last weekend since arriving on loan from Norwich. He is a quick winger who has finally been given a chance in League One.

Fleetwood Town vs Oxford United
Preview: Fleetwood Town and Oxford United will both be looking for points to boost their respective causes as they go head-to-head at Highbury.

Fleetwood were beaten last weekend by Accrington Stanley. The Cod Army were the better team for the majority of a game but switched off for Accrington to equalise and then some brain dead goalkeeping from Alex Cairns saw him sent off, with Callum Camps having to go in goal. Keiran O’Hara will start in goal and will have a point to prove having played three games recently before being replaced by Cairns after arriving in January. Anthony Pilkington had to be taken off at half-time with a hamstring problem, but should be fit for this weekend while Ged Garner may miss the rest of the season with a hamstring injury. 

Oxford United have recorded three league defeats in a row and moved down to eighth place, four points off the play-off places where they have spent most of the league season. Defensively, Oxford haven’t been good enough conceding 54 goals, the most in the top 11 of the league. They haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last eight league games and the players were hurting, angry and frustrated after last weekend’s defeat according to Karl Robinson. Oxford have never beaten Fleetwood away and will need to take all three points here to have any chance of finishing in the play-offs.

Prediction: Fleetwood Town 1-1 Oxford United
Oxford’s poor record away at Fleetwood will continue as they lose more ground on the play-off places.

One to Watch: Ellis Harrison – Fleetwood striker Ellis Harrison had plenty of chances last weekend and should have had more than one goal. He has five goals from 15 games since arriving in January and his goals are key to any chance of survival.

Portsmouth vs Lincoln City
Preview: Portsmouth will be searching for a second straight home victory as they welcome Lincoln City to Fratton Park.

Portsmouth were comfortable winners in midweek at home to Rotherham. It was the perfect way to bounce back from a 1-0 defeat last weekend away at Cheltenham. It ended a run of five league games without a victory, but it came at a cost with Michael Jacobs, Louis Thompson and Marcus Harness all going off injured. It is Portsmouth’s fourth game in 11 days and with a growing injury list Danny Cowley has called on the EFL to do more to protect players “You look at other teams in the division who have played on Tuesday, and they don’t play until Saturday (Wigan and Rotherham)”.

Lincoln were beaten last weekend by Wigan 3-1 and now sit eight points above the relegation zone with just four games remaining. Liam Bridcutt is set to miss the rest of the season and his contract is up at the end of the season, and so that could well be the last that Imps fans have seen of the midfielder, at least in a City shirt. John Marquis will be looking to prove a point against his former club and still needs to prove a point to be offered a new contract in Lincolnshire.  Lincoln will be without TJ Eyoma and Brooke Norton-Cuffy who are both out with injuries, but Tom Hopper and John Marquis were both dropped having both been taken off after an hour against Fleetwood.

Prediction: Portsmouth 2-0 Lincoln City
Portsmouth will take all three points again against a poor Lincoln side. The season can’t come soon enough for either side but especially Lincoln, who have underachieved massively.

One to Watch: George Hirst – Portsmouth striker George Hirst got his ninth for the season in midweek. His all round play has improved this season and he could be really important going into next season if he stays at Portsmouth.

Sunderland vs Shrewsbury Town
Preview: Sunderland will be aiming to strengthen their play-off prospects as they welcome Shrewsbury Town to The Stadium of Light.

Sunderland moved into the play-off places with a victory over play-off rival’s Oxford. Sunderland are now unbeaten in eight league games and seem to have hit form at the right time as they head towards a play-off finish. The Black Cats won thanks to goals from Corey Evans and Elliot Embleton while they had Anthony Patterson to thank for making some exceptional saves throughout the game. Ross Stewart missed a sitter and has now gone six league games without scoring. Alex Pritchard and Leon Dajaku missed out due to illness and injury respectively. Pritchard had a minor calf problem and is making good progress ahead of this one. 

Shrewsbury drew 1-1 with Ipswich last week and are now basically clear of relegation ahead of next season. Sean Whalley scored last weekend against Ipswich in his 250th game for Shrewsbury in a season that has seen him miss four months due to a serious thigh and tendon injury. Steve Cotterill has this week discussed how sides like last weekend’s opponents Ipswich and this weekend’s opponents Sunderland have a wage budget that dwarfs them. Shrewsbury will be looking to finish the season strongly and take it into next season. They have impressed in recent weeks and have used the smallest number of players in the league this season so with some smart recruitment in the summer, they will be at the other end of the table next season.

Prediction: Sunderland 2-0 Shrewsbury Town
Sunderland will manage to beat their visitors fairly comfortable this weekend. With just four games left, The Black Cats will keep lifting themselves to seal that play-off place.

One to Watch: Tom Flanagan – Shrewsbury defender Tom Flanagan joined from Sunderland in January. He has been excellent since coming in and has praised the Sunderland fans for their support in his time there.

Wycombe Wanderers vs Plymouth Argyle
Preview: Two sides in the mix for the play-offs go head-to-head at Adams Park as Wycombe Wanderers host Plymouth Argyle.

Wycombe are unbeaten in eight league games after drawing last weekend away at Gillingham. Wycombe were comfortably the better team in the first-half splitting Gillingham open at will, but they couldn’t capitalise, only being one goal ahead. They were punished for that in the second-half and could have been beaten. Anis Mehmeti had to be substituted in the first-half and may miss this weekend’s contest with play-off rivals Plymouth, but one player that definitely will miss the contest is Lewis Wing who was dismissed for a horrible tackle late on.  

Plymouth have only lost one game in their last nine league games. Last weekend, they drew 0-0 with Burton and Steven Schumacher has said to do better this weekend they need to stand up to the physical side of the game and pass the ball better than they did last weekend against Burton. Plymouth have a tough couple of games over the Easter weekend with Sunderland on Monday to follow and if they lose both they could be back struggling for 6th place. They will give captain Joe Edwards and top goal scorer Ryan Hardie every chance to play, with Hardie missing the last couple while Edwards rolled his ankle last weekend.

Prediction: Wycombe Wanderers 1-1 Plymouth Argyle
Wycombe’s gamesmanship will manage to get them a point at home to Plymouth this weekend. Plymouth will battle back though.

One to Watch: Brandon Hanlan – Wycombe striker Brandon Hanlon has six goals and five assists this season. His figures don’t do his work justice though he has been key for the choirboys.

Rotherham United vs Ipswich Town
Preview: Rotherham United will be eager to bounce back from their poor showing during midweek as they host Ipswich Town.

Rotherham have lost three straight league games and look like unless they address the slide quickly, they will miss out on automatic promotion. In midweek they were beaten 3-0 by Portsmouth and were disappointing from start to finish. Josh Vickers has been a huge miss with Viktor Johansson unable to fill his gloves. Defeat also came at a cost with Jordi Osei-Tutu and Ben Wiles going off injured, but both will be in training ahead of the weekend. Paul Warne has stuck with a 3-5-2 for most the season, but has hinted that he could go to a 4-5-1. January signing Georgie Kelly has rarely featured and may be given a chance this weekend.

Ipswich drew 1-1 last weekend with Shrewsbury as their season fades out into nothing. The game is live on Sky Sports with Ipswich only winning three of their last 34 games on the TV since Noel Hunt’s winner at Charlton in November 2014. Keiran McKenna has confirmed that Kane Vincent-Young has returned to full training ahead of a possible return to first team action this week. That’s the only positive for the Tractorboys though, with George Edmundson, Lee Evans, Kyle Edwards and Kayden Jackson all still out injured.

Prediction: Rotherham United 2-1 Ipswich Town
Ipswich’s TV curse will continue as The Millers get three points and get their way back into the top two albeit until MK Dons play later in the day.

One to Watch: Sone Aluko – Ipswich forward Sone Aluko has rarely featured from the start this season but every time I’ve watched him, he’s impressed. He is quick and skillful, but not in the flashy way most forwards can be.

Wigan Athletic vs Cambridge United
Preview: Wigan Athletic will be looking to take a step closer to sealing promotion as they entertain Cambridge United.

Wigan could be promoted as soon as Tuesday if results go The Latics’ way. They are unbeaten in nine league games, a run that was saved by Jason Kerr’s late heroic header off the line in midweek. Wigan Chairman Talal Al Hammad is over from Bahrain for the final push as Wigan look to get over the line. In midweek, Wigan were unchanged but maybe the toll of their 4th game in 10 days affected them and I think Leam Richardson panicked going for all three points, bringing on Stephen Humphrys for Joe Bennett. Either way, I expect their attack to be back at its ruthless best this weekend.

Cambridge were victorious last weekend against relegation threatened Morecambe. Cambridge have also won their last couple of away games 1-0 at Wimbledon and Ipswich. Last weekend they gave chances to youngsters Liam Bennett and Lewis Simper while also mixing in the experience of Paul Digby, Jack Iredale and Joe Ironside. Mark Bonner is clearly trying to look at his side’s squad players to see if they are good enough for next season. The big decision will be whether the right time to carry on doing that is away at the top league club live on TV.

Prediction: Wigan Athletic 3-0 Cambridge United
Wigan will be comfortable winners live on the tv as they push for the league title. The Latics will make it an even bigger gap between themselves and third playing before MK Dons.

One to Watch: Will Keane – Wigan forward Will Keane has 27 goal contributions in League One. He could still win the golden boot and he finally looks like he’s found a home at Wigan.

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