Sky Bet League One #45 – Weekend Preview

Feature Game: Wycombe Wanderers vs Sheffield Wednesday

Likely Lineups:
Wycombe Wanderers: (3-4-1-2) Stockdale; McCarthy, Forino, Tafazolli; Grimmer, Gape, Scowen, Obita; McCleary; Vokes, Hanlan
Sheffield Wednesday: (3-5-2) Peacock-Farrell; Palmer, Storey, Dunkley; Hunt, Luongo, Bannan, Byers, Johnson; Berahino, Gregory

Preview: Two teams in the mix for the play-offs meet at Adams Park as Wycombe Wanderers entertain Sheffield Wednesday.

With just two games left in the season for The Chairboys, Gareth Ainsworth’s men find themselves sitting in the play-offs purely on goal difference as things stand and having played a game more, and so they will be fully aware that it is now or never for them to get into the play-off places, with defeat here potentially pivotal in their attempts to get into the top six. They come into this game in good form, having not lost in their last five league outings and dropping just four points during that period. Forward Adebayo Akinfenwa had to be at the rescue, however, to extend that unbeaten run as he came off the bench to earn a share of the spoils against AFC Wimbledon. The Chairboys went with a back-four against The Dons, but it would not surprise me to see them match up the visitors’ system and revert to a more comfortable back-three, with Grimmer and Obita the wing-backs.

Sheffield Wednesday, meanwhile, come into this game full of confidence after extending their unbeaten run in the league last time out with a hard-fought 1-0 victory against already-relegated Crewe Alexandra. The result means that Darren Moore’s men have dropped only two points in their last five league games. The run has moved them within four points of the automatic promotion places, and with MK Dons and Rotherham United both stuttering in their last few games, The Owls will have one eye on gatecrashing the top two and making a late play for automatic promotion. Moore boasts a fairly fully-fit squad coming into this one, with Luongo coming off the bench last time out and so could be recalled to the starting eleven to rekindle the BLB trioship that has impressed so much this term. The Owls must win here if they want to finish in the top two.

Prediction: Wycombe Wanderers 2-2 Sheffield Wednesday
The Chairboys will see this as a game that they need to get something from if they are to stay in the hunt for a play-off spot, as they can’t afford to lose any more ground. I am going to back them to get something from the game, but only a point, as the game ends in a draw. Akinfenwa and Mehmeti to score for the home side, while Bannan and Gregory score for the visitors.

One to Watch: Barry Bannan – The midfielder has been in electric form of late and is really spearheading their late finish for an automatic spot. If they do end up finishing in the top two, you can bet your bottom dollar that the midfield magician will have something to say about it.

Accrington Stanley vs Lincoln City
Preview: Lincoln City head to Accrington Stanley with the license to enjoy themselves after securing their League One survival.

Accrington picked up one point last weekend. They were beaten 3-1 by Bolton on Monday. Goals from Dapo Afolayan and a Jon Dadi Bodvarsson brace leave them sitting 15th in the league. Accrington did equalise on Monday through Jay Rich-Baghuelou and though they’d made it 2-2 when Tommy Leigh found the back of the net only for the linesman to flag after Joe Pritchard had impeded the opposition goalkeeper much to John Coleman’s disbelief. Coleman however could have no complaints when Rosaire Longelo-Mbule was shown a straight red late on which will most likely mean the end of his season and will definitely mean he won’t feature this weekend. 

Lincoln destroyed Cheltenham on Monday and are now mathematically safe from relegation. The Imps blew apart Cheltenham in the opening 20 minutes with a brace from Morgan Whittaker and Anthony Scully chipping in to put them 3-0 ahead. Lincoln were just able to control the game from that point with Manchester City loanee Lewis Fiorini impressing as he has done over the last few weeks. I’m sure we’ll see Fiorini in the championship next season as the Scotland U21 international looks to keep progressing at just the age of 19.

Prediction: Accrington Stanley 4-4 Lincoln City
With nothing but pride at stake this could be a real fun April fixture between two sides who look to impress and have plenty to prove ahead of a big summer for both managers.

One to Watch: Morgan Whittaker – Back from suspension with a point to prove on Monday, Lincoln’s Morgan Whittaker scored two, taking his tally since joining in January to five. I think he could have some real fun against this Accrington defence.

Charlton Athletic vs Shrewsbury Town
Preview: Shrewsbury Town will be aiming to continue their good performances of late as they head to The Valley.

Charlton were beaten by Morecambe last Friday before bouncing back on Tuesday night beating Cambridge 2-0.  Goals from Conor Washington and Corey Blackett-Taylor helped them to three points and lifted them to 13th just a point behind the split between the top 11 and bottom 13. Conor Washington returned in midweek and his partnership with Jayden Stockley was yet again on display for everyone to see. Johnnie Jackson has since said his side have not been ruthless enough in front of goal. As much as it’s been a disappointing campaign for The Addicks, for them to finish comfortably mid-table is an achievement compared to where they were when Nigel Adkins departed. 

Shrewsbury only picked up a point last weekend against Sunderland and Doncaster. They started excellently on Monday with Daniel Udoh and Ryan Bowman both on the scoresheet as they continue their fantastic strike partnership. While Sean Whalley also scored with the 34 year old who’s had a season much disturbed by injury making in two in his last three games. Steve Cotterill will not be happy, however with how his team folded at 3-0 and coming into this one I’m sure he will warn his side that they can’t show compliancy like that against anyone. Luke Leahy who captained the side Monday addressed them conceding “rubbish goals” by saying “Crosses in, we get the first contact, and they are coming onto it and getting a shot at Marko (Marosi).” “It’s not good enough. It’s three rubbish goals” Leahy added.

Prediction: Charlton Athletic 2-0 Shrewsbury Town
Charlton will win this one comfortably. Shrewsbury’s sloppy defending will cost them again with Charlton’s strikers yet again impressing.

One to Watch: Corey Blackett-Taylor – Charlton wing-back Corey Blackett-Taylor has two goals and four assists. Although not impressive on the face of it, he’s been influential since Johnnie Jackson came in despite injuries.

Cheltenham Town vs Bolton Wanderers
Preview: Two sides comfortably safe in mid-table go head-to-head as Cheltenham Town host Bolton Wanderers.

Cheltenham were torn to shreds in the opening 20 minutes against Lincoln on Monday. Kion Etete could have made the score line slightly more flattering but his attempt into an open net from a tight angle could only hit the post. They were defensively poor which is very rare to hear about a Michael Duff side. Duff brought up his 200th game in charge of Cheltenham and we could see his last in the next few weeks with his name one of many linked with the vacant Burnley job. Duff, however, is focused on the job in hand and has called from a reaction from his team “We’ll try and get them together and get a reaction out of them, whatever team plays”

Ian Evatt’s Bolton are still eyeing a top 10 finish in their first season back in League One. Last weekend they picked up wins over Doncaster and Accrington. A 3-1 win over Accrington on Monday meant its six league games unbeaten and Ian Evatt showed just how strong his attacking options are bringing on Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Amadou Bakayoko at 1-1 for them to combine just minutes later with the Icelandic international finishing for his first of two goals. A change from Bolton to more a 4-4-2 with Dion Charles playing alongside Elias Kachunga meant they could switch it up at times, but it did leave Dion Charles quite isolated at times with Elias Kachunga often too far away. One positive for Trotters fans is Dapo Afolayan looked back to his best in his natural left sided role.

Prediction: Cheltenham Town 3-2 Bolton Wanderers
Cheltenham will go all out for three points looking for the reaction Michael Duff wants. However, I expect them to leave some gaps at the back for Bolton to exploit.

One to Watch: Jon Dadi Bodvarsson – Bolton striker Jon Dadi Bodvarsson has six goals in his last 12 games. He took his chances on Monday excellently and I think he could grow and become the goal scorer he’s always threatened to be.

Crewe Alexandra vs Ipswich Town
Preview: Crewe Alexandra will be aiming to continue their promising start to life under interim boss Alex Morris as they host Ipswich Town.

Crewe bounced back after suffering relegation with a 3-1 victory over AFC Wimbledon. Goals from Mikael Mandron, Chris Long and Bassala Sambou helped them to just their seventh win of the season. They did however fail to follow this up in midweek suffering a 1-0 defeat at Hillsborough to inform Sheffield Wednesday. Crewe recorded an xG of 0.04 and were lucky Wednesday only beat them by one in all honesty. Alex Morris was impressed with his defence though saying they stood up to the challenge Wednesday posed. They will need to do more going forward than they did on Tuesday night if they are to get anything.

Ipswich were beaten last weekend by Rotherham before drawing in midweek with Wigan. Ipswich came from behind to go 2-1 up thanks to goals from Connor Chaplin and Sam Morsy. However, they conceded late to Will Keane meaning they couldn’t hold on for all three points. Ipswich dominated most of the game against Wigan and were left frustrated at the fact they couldn’t hold on. Ipswich struggled in front of goal last Saturday and brought Macauley Bonne in for James Norwood in midweek, however since both scored against Gillingham in January, Bonne has no goals and Norwood has one.

Prediction: Crewe Alexandra 1-3 Ipswich Town
Ipswich will run out winners against a poor Crewe side. They will be gifted a goal by Ipswich, but they won’t be able to hold on with The Tractorboys running out comfortable winners in the end.

One to Watch: Conor Chaplin – Ipswich attacker Conor Chaplin has eight goals for the season and was excellent in midweek against Wigan. The forward has been one of Ipswich’s stand out players this season and will impress this weekend again.

Doncaster Rovers vs Burton Albion
Preview: Doncaster Rovers will look to extend their stay in League One for another week as they welcome Burton Albion to The Keepmoat Stadium.

Doncaster are all but mathematically down with six points between themselves and Gillingham as well as a 17 goal difference. They looked all but down on Monday at halftime when they were 3-0 down and had been completely outplayed by Shrewsbury. However, they fought back with goals from Ademipo Odubeko, Reo Griffiths and Kyle Knoyle keeping their slim chances of survival alive. Gary McSheffrey made the change bravely at half time to bring on Reo Griffiths and he changed the game, and the Doncaster manager somehow believes they can still stay up “In football anything is possible. If we get an early goal and a bit of confidence creeps in, who knows what could happen.” I admire McSheffrey’s enthusiasm, but I think it could be as big a footballing miracle as I could ever imagine.

Burton have kept four clean sheets in a row having drawn three games 0-0 in a row before they beat Rotherham midweek. The aerial bombardment killed Rotherham and goals from John Brayford and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson helped them to a 2-0 victory. Manchester United loanee Matej Kovar has started the last four games and kept four clean sheets in a row. A midfield duo of Michael Mancienne and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson has surprised many impressing in the middle of the park. Oumar Niasse, Christian Saydee and Harry Chapman have all been excellent, working so hard for the team without getting the rewards they deserve.

Prediction: Doncaster Rovers 2-5 Burton Albion
Burton will be comfortable winners here with Doncaster having to go all out for the three points. Doncaster will take an early lead, but they will push for the three points and goal difference leaving gaps in defence.

One to Watch: Oumar Niasse – Former Everton striker Oumar Niasse has three goals in 10 league games. He has been impressive off the ball and will finally get back on the scoresheet this weekend.

Fleetwood Town vs AFC Wimbledon
Preview: Two sides in the mix for relegation go head-to-head at Highbury as Fleetwood Town host AFC Wimbledon.

Fleetwood were only able to pick up a point against Gillingham on Monday in a huge game at the bottom. They were lucky not to give away a penalty in the first-half when Toto Nsiala seemed to bring down a Gillingham striker. Other than that, and a late Vadaine Oliver chance Fleetwood stood up to the aerial bombardment that the Gills seemed to hit them with. They will be without Paddy Lane though this weekend with the attacker sent off for a 50/50 tackle with Charlie Kelman which saw both see red. It looked worse for Lane however, Fleetwood had since confirmed he didn’t need more medical treatment and travelled back with the team.

AFC Wimbledon recorded a strong point against Wycombe on Monday, but single points aren’t enough for them now. The Dons are 25 games without a victory, a run stretching back 131 days and even when Jack Rudoni put them 1-0 ahead most Wimbledon fans won’t have been optimistic with them 12 times throwing away leads in their last 25 games. It had to be former Wimbledon striker Adebayo Akinfenwa who punished them Monday having left AFC Wimbledon with his final touch securing promotion to League One. If their poor run was to end, I really thought it would have come at Crewe last Friday and defeat here will see them relegated to League Two.

Prediction: Fleetwood Town 2-1 AFC Wimbledon
Fleetwood will have too much quality for AFC Wimbledon here and will make it 26 games without victory relegating them to League Two.

One to Watch: Josh Harrop – Fleetwood attacker Josh Harrop is yet to register a goal or assist. However, he’s a quality player and he will shine against an AFC Wimbledon defence lacking confidence.

MK Dons vs Morecambe
Preview: MK Dons will be aiming to keep the pressure up on Rotherham United and hopefully end the weekend inside the automatics as they host Morecambe.

MK Dons had a terrible Easter weekend losing back-to-back games against Sheffield Wednesday and Oxford United. They luckily are still level on points with second placed Rotherham with neither looking to capitalise on the others misfortune. On Friday they were beaten comfortably by Sheffield Wednesday having been 3-0 behind after 30 minutes. The biggest blow was Mohammed Eisa going off injured and that most likely will be the end of his season. On Tuesday night they brought in Hiram Boateng for Eisa but couldn’t take their chances. They gifted Oxford a winner late on, getting caught in possession with Billy Bodin capitalising and winning the game for the hosts. Liam Manning will demand a response and there’s no better place to do it than back at home. 

Morecambe picked up four points last weekend with a victory over Charlton coupled with a draw at home to Portsmouth on Monday. Cole Stockton was denied a goal early on against Portsmouth with Gavin Bazunu pulling off an exceptional double save before Sean Raggett put Pompey ahead. A late challenge from Stockton on Bazunu went unpunished and Jonah Ayunga was on hand to tap home into an open net to keep Derek Adams side three points above the relegation zone. Morecambe will look at their change of form after the international break as a catalyst for survival with them picking up 10 points from their last five games and Adams going back to tried and trusted players, he had last season such as Aaron Wildig, Adam Phillip, Cole Stockton and Toumani Diagouraga.

Prediction: MK Dons 2-1 Morecambe
MK Dons will bounce back from their defeats with a victory over Morecambe. Morecambe will take the lead, but Dons will bounce back needing a late goal to go into the top two.

One to Watch: Scott Twine – MK Dons striker Scott Twine has 29 goal involvements this season. He has 16 goals and 13 assists and at just 22 he is far better than League one standard and will play in the premier league in the next couple of years.

Portsmouth vs Gillingham
Preview: Gillingham will be looking to edge a step closer to League One survival as they travel to Fratton Park.

Portsmouth were unfortunate not to get all three points on Monday with a late foul by Cole Stockton on Gavin Bazunu not being given by the referee, despite the goalkeeper clearly being obstructed. That came after Sean Raggett gave them the lead with a strikers finish by a centre-back too as he turned his man and finished. They had Bazunu to thank for the fact they kept it at 1-0 for so long and I highly doubt they’ll be seeing him in a Portsmouth shirt next season with Championship interest likely to be strong. He may even get a chance at the Etihad with his parent club Man City if Zack Steffen’s mistakes cost him his position as back up. It’s all about just trying to finish strongly and use the remaining games to assess this squad.

Gillingham probably feel they should have won on Monday had they had been given a penalty in the first half or Vadaine Oliver finished with a late header. They will be without Charlie Kelman though this weekend with the attacker sent off for a 50/50 tackle with Paddy Lane which saw both see red. They bombarded Fleetwood aerially but could not score and that leaves them just one point above the relegation zone with two games to go. They could be safe this weekend if they win and results go their way, but they could also be sat in the relegation zone heading into the last game of the season.

Prediction: Portsmouth 1-1 Gillingham
Gillingham will manage to get another point in their quest for survival. They will go behind at Portsmouth, but their aerial threat will be too much for Portsmouth to stand up to and it will finish 1-1.

One to Watch: Vadaine Oliver – Gillingham striker Vadaine Oliver has nine goals this season and will be looking to head into double figures this weekend. He will most likely come up against Sean Raggett and it will be a great aerial battle.

Rotherham United vs Oxford United
Preview: Rotherham United have a tough test if they are to turn their form around as they play-off contenders Oxford United.

Rotherham managed to address their slide in form having lost three league games in a row last Saturday with a 1-0 win over Ipswich. However, they were beaten by Burton in midweek and couldn’t deal with Burton’s long throws or crosses into the box. Rotherham have constantly been able to deal with balls in the air, but they really did struggle on Tuesday. They are bottom of the form guide over the last five games and have only picked up 11 points from their last 10 games. Shane Ferguson and Jordi Osei-Tutu were both forced off with injury in midweek and could both be missing this weekend. 

Oxford picked up back to back wins last weekend as they look to continue a charge back towards the playoffs. A late winner at home to MK Dons on Tuesday night from Billy Bodin helped them to three points as they caught MK Dons out at the back pressing late on. Defensively Karl Robinson’s men were excellent, throwing themselves in front of everything while Luke McNally cleared one off the line, but the manager wasn’t impressed with his side’s first-half performance. In the second half they changed tempo and it was clear to see with Matty Taylor almost scoring four minutes into the second half. Coming into this one they will need to start on the front foot and put Rotherham on the back foot.

Prediction: Rotherham United 0-2 Oxford United
Oxford will inflict more misery on Rotherham with a comfortable win. They will press the ball better and catch out The Millers defence.

One to Watch: Matty Taylor – Oxford striker Matty Taylor has 20 goals this season and is imperative to how Oxford play. He presses from the front and also finishes well.

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

Sunderland are unbeaten in their last 10 league games picking up the joint most points in the league. Last weekend they scored late to beat Shrewsbury having already been 2-0 up and being pegged back before Nathan Broadhead scored in the 92nd minute. They followed that up with a 0-0 draw with Plymouth on Monday with both sides having patches in the game but more bothered about not losing than winning. Sunderland’s back three is very attacking with Carl Winchester and Dennis Cirkin playing as outside centre backs.  They have also been buoyed by the return of Nathan Broadhead who keeps scoring late goals to help out the black cats.

Cambridge were beaten by Charlton in midweek 2-0 which followed on from a solid 2-1 victory over Wigan last Saturday. In midweek Mark Bonner made seven changes to his side with Will Mannion making his debut in goal and Wes Hoolahan playing a full match for the first time in seven matches. Jack Iredale also featured although Mark Bonner has confirmed this week that the full back is out of contract in the summer and will most likely be moving on with Bolton set to snap him up. Bonner is clearly using this time to cast an eye over his squad players to see who can cut it next season at this level.

Prediction: Sunderland 3-1 Cambridge United
Sunderland will run out winners in a comfortable match for The Black Cats. Cambridge will take a shock lead, but Alex Neil’s men will bounce back and take all three points.

One to Watch: Ross Stewart – Sunderland striker Ross Stewart has now gone eight league games without a goal. However, he has now lost his position as top goal scorer in the league and will be eager to finish top of the goal scoring charts.

Wigan Athletic vs Plymouth Argyle
Preview: Wigan Athletic will be looking to seal promotion to the Championship this weekend as they host Plymouth Argyle.

Wigan could have been promoted on Tuesday night with a victory. However, they are now three games without a victory having drawn with Burton, lost to Cambridge and then drawing at Ipswich 2-2. They have played games on an average of every three days since January, and it looks as though fatigue is starting to set in. Will Keane scored two goals in midweek against Ipswich, and he is now joint top goal scorer in the league. Not many people would have thought Keane would be that high up in the goal-scoring charts. They just need one more win and they will be promoted with no better place to do it than this weekend at home.

Plymouth drew 0-0 at home to Sunderland on Monday having been beaten by Wycombe last Friday and have slipped to fifth in the league now. They played not to lose on Monday with a defeat being more costly than a draw with Sunderland able to go above them with a win. They weren’t as loose as they have been going forward and have now gone three games without scoring. They were able to welcome back striker Ryan Hardie last weekend after he’d missed the last three through a thigh injury. However, there’s a new name on the injury front with Panutche Camara having to be taken off due to a hamstring issue against Sunderland.

Prediction: Wigan Athletic 2-0 Plymouth Argyle
Wigan will be promoted back to the championship this weekend. They will narrowly win 2-0 seeing them return after two seasons absent and a wonderful job done by Leam Richardson.

One to Watch: Callum Lang – Wigan attacker Callum Lang has 14 goals and seven assists this season. Since he returned last season to help their battle with relegation, the clubs fortunes have changed.

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