Sky Bet League One #46 – Weekend Preview

Feature Game: Plymouth Argyle vs MK Dons

Likely Lineups:
Plymouth Argyle: (3-5-2) Cooper; Wilson, Scarr, Gillesphey; Edwards, Broom, Houghton, Mayor, Grant; Hardie, Ennis
MK Dons: (3-4-3) Cumming; O’Hora, Darling, Lewington; Hayden, Kasumu, Coventry, Harvie; Corbeanu, Parrott, Twine

Preview: Plymouth Argyle and MK Dons will both be hoping they can go out with a win to help their respective causes as they meet at Home Park.

The Pilgrims come into this game knowing that if they can get a win, they will be assured of a play-off spot. A defeat will almost certainly see them drop out, and a draw will leave them waiting for results elsewhere, and so Argyle boss Steven Schumacher will want this side to just go out and make sure that they do their bit. They may well have a timely boost this weekend in the potential return of wing-back Joe Edwards, and that will give the some extra quality to pick from. Ryan Hardie was taken off before the hour against Wigan Athletic, and so he will hope that although they may welcome one back, they don’t lose Hardie, as he will be a big loss at this late stage. Argyle stopper Mike Cooper was named as the standout goalkeeper in the division this season, and against an MK Dons side that will come to Devon going all out to win, he may well be called into action.

The visitors are an MK Dons side that have not lost hope of getting into the automatic spots after the results went their way during midweek, with both of the top two sides falling to defeat. That leaves MK Dons sitting in 3rd going into the last weekend of the season, three points behind The Latics and just a point outside the top two. They come into this game off the back of a win, their first in four league games, and that would have no doubt pleased boss Liam Manning. Scott Twine was named as the best player in the division at the EFL Awards during the week, and Manning will hope that his top performer can bring his best game to this one to help them over the line. As thing stand, both sides could well play each other in the play-offs.

Prediction: Plymouth Argyle 1-1 MK Dons
A game that both need to win, and for that very reason, I can see it ending in a draw. An intriguing and highly-entertaining clash ends 1-1, with Twine and Ennis getting on the scoresheet.

One to Watch: Scott Twine – The midfielder was voted as the Player of the Year, and he has been hugely impressive this term. If they are to get into the automatics, you can bet your bottom dollar that he will have something to say about it.

AFC Wimbledon vs Accrington Stanley
Preview: AFC Wimbledon need a win and other results to go their way to keep them in the division as they welcome Accrington Stanley to Plough Lane.

AFC Wimbledon are all-but down after last weekend. The Dons need to win, hope Fleetwood and Gillingham lose and overturn a 7 goal swing when it comes to goal difference. Last weekend they looked on course to win their first game in 2022 after Luke McCormick opened the scoring but a complete brain fart from goalkeeper Nick Tzanev gave Fleetwood an indirect free-kick with just 2 minutes remaining. Joe Garner finished for Fleetwood making it 39 points dropped from leading positions this season for Wimbledon. Another player came through the Dons academy with Dylan Adjei Hersey made his debut having been in the academy for 10 years and spending the first half of the season on loan at Merstham in the Isthmian Premier division. They will have a little hope coming into this game though with Accrington being the last side they beat this season. 

Accrington recorded a 2-1 victory last weekend over Lincoln in a mid table clash. Stanley went ahead after another Sean McConville set piece caused problems for the Lincoln defence before doubling their advantage in the second-half. They were, however, made to sweat when goalkeeper Toby Savin deliberately handled outside the area resulting in a red card for the home keeper. Accrington managed to hold on though only conceding in the 93rd minute as replacement keeper Liam Isherwood was beaten. They will subsequently be without Savin this weekend. This leaves Accrington having picked up 42 of their 58 points at home, a very strong home record which has seen them stay up yet again. On the road, however, it is a different story with only Morecambe, Doncaster and Crewe having worse away records.

Prediction: AFC Wimbledon 2-0 Accrington Stanley
Wimbledon will give their fans something to cheer about with a final victory of the season. It will be a farewell to League One though with it not being enough to make up the goal difference swing.

One to Watch: Luke McCormick – Having been picked up from Chelsea, McCormick has impressed for AFC Wimbledon this season chipping in with seven goals and six assists from the base of midfield.

Bolton Wanderers vs Fleetwood Town
Preview: Fleetwood Town will be looking for a result if they are to avoid the drop as they face Bolton Wanderers on their travels.

Bolton were comfortable winners last weekend beating Cheltenham 2-1. It’s now seven unbeaten for Ian Evatt’s Trotters as they finish the season strongly before heading into next season where they will be expected to challenge the top six. Impressively Bolton have won all 15 games they have taken the lead in this season showing they have a strong rear guard. If Bolton win Saturday they would finish on 73 points, a tally good enough to finish in the play-offs in 9 of the last 19 conventional seasons (19/20’s Covid affected season excluded.) However, this season’s league has been of an exceptional quality with it looking like you could need mid 80’s to get in the play-offs.

Fleetwood need a win to maintain their League One status. The Cod Army followed up a fortunate 1-1 draw at home to Wimbledon last weekend with an unfortunate 3-2 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in midweek. Having been battered for the first 20 minutes Fleetwood did well to capitalise on a Wednesday defensive mistake when Callum Camps finished. They then took the lead through a Joe Garner header. However, Fleetwood sat too deep from the start of the second-half and just invited pressure onto them. They also switched off after conceding to make it 2-2 with Lee Gregory changing the game from 2-1 to 2-3 in the space of 48 seconds. Coming into this one, Stephen Crainey is determined Fleetwood ignores things elsewhere “We don’t need to worry about what’s going on at Gillingham, we all need to focus on what we do at Bolton.”

Prediction: Bolton 3-0 Fleetwood Town
Bolton will be comfortable winners here offering too much quality compared to Fleetwood. It will mean Fleetwood are left sweating on results elsewhere while Bolton finish their first season back at this level in a strong 10th.

One to Watch: Kieran Sadlier – Since joining in January, Sadlier has impressed for The Trotters. Playing off the right, he has chipped in with 4 goals from just 6 starts.

Burton Albion vs Wycombe Wanderers
Preview: Wycombe Wanderers will be aiming to secure a spot in the play-off places as they head to The Pirelli Stadium.

Burton were beaten last weekend 2-0 by relegation certainties Doncaster. The Brewers missed a penalty through Gassan Ahadme before conceding two sloppy goals as they couldn’t make it five clean sheets in a row.  Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink said the penalty was the key turning point as it gave their hosts confidence and the brewers seemed to stop doing what was bringing them much success. Burton won’t make it easy for play-off chasing Wycombe having already picked up home points against promotion chasing Rotherham, Wigan, Plymouth and Sunderland. 

Wycombe could finish in the play-off places with a win against Burton. However with an unbeaten run of 11 league games fate is still not in their hands. Wanderers sit in 7th knowing they have to better Plymouth’s result or win and hope Sheffield Wednesday or Sunderland drop points. It’s complicated. On the pitch last weekend, they put themselves in a good position though with a battling performance against Sheffield Wednesday as they beat their fellow play-off chasers 1-0 thanks to a goal from Jordan Obita. Chris Forino was a stand out for Wycombe winning everything in the air for the wanderers. Forino was playing at Loughborough university last season and is now helping a side chase promotion to the Championship!

Prediction: Burton Albion 1-2 Wycombe Wanderers
Wycombe would prefer for a comfortable victory this weekend and hope to be set for the play-offs, but that won’t happen here. Burton will scare them early on leaving Ainsworth’s men shell shocked. However, they’ll come back in the second-half to win 2-1 and wonder if that’s enough for the top six.

One to Watch: Sam Vokes – Wycombe striker Sam Vokes has 15 goals this season, a feat one Stoke city fan said if he got he’d walk to their first away game next season. The Stoke City fans were glad to see the back of him but Vokes has been key for Wycombe and will be vital again this weekend.

Cambridge United vs Cheltenham Town
Preview: The race for top spot of the promoted teams goes down to the final game here as Cambridge United entertain Cheltenham Town.

Cambridge were torn apart 5-1 by Sunderland last weekend and were dealt blow after blow in their first meeting with the black cats. The U’s were dealt their first blow when Lloyd Jones was sent off for a foul on Ross Stewart leading to a Sunderland penalty and a red card to the Cambridge man. Jones’ red card has subsequently been overturned and he will be able to play this weekend. It could, however, have been seven or eight for the hosts and the task now for Bonner is for him to pick his team up and go again to prove this is just a one off. Regardless of the outcome Cambridge will achieve their highest league finish since the 1993/94 season, an incredible job done off the back of losing their top goal scorer from last season. 

Cheltenham Town were beaten 2-1 by Bolton in their final home game last weekend. Bolton took the lead and made it difficult for Cheltenham to come back although Michael Duff was annoyed with the manner his side conceded. “They were better than us in the second-half, no doubt, but a corner and a very dubious penalty, for all their good play and they are a good team.” Cheltenham are set for their best ever finish with the lowest possible place they can finish being 16th. Michael Duff has done an excellent job, but has a big rebuild this summer with 10 of his match day 18 from last week either on loan or out of contract in the summer. Duff has also hinted that Will Boyle could leave in the summer. “He’s been great all season and if he goes, he deserves his move. I don’t think anyone can begrudge him his move for the service he’s given to the football club and the way he’s been around the place”.

Prediction: Cambridge United 3-3 Cheltenham Town
This will be a good game for the neutral with both clubs playing attacking football with nothing to lose. Often games like this can see defences get left wide open and the floodgates open.

One to Watch: Alfie May – Cheltenham striker Alfie May is still in with a chance of getting the golden boot. He is, however, three off the leader and without a goal in his last four, but I’m sure he’ll still want to chase it down.

Gillingham vs Rotherham United
Preview: Gillingham and Rotherham United both need points for differing reasons this weekend as they go head-to-head.

Gillingham need at least a point here to stand a chance of staying up. The Gills currently sit level on points with Fleetwood and two points behind Morecambe. They need to either win and hope one of Morecambe or Fleetwood lose or draw and hope Fleetwood lose. They come into this with no wins in their last five and 2 wins in their last 10 league games. Last weekend, they were beaten 3-1 by Portsmouth with manager Neil Harris receiving a red card for his protestation towards how long the ref played over the allotted time and an offside in the build up to Portsmouth’s 2nd goal. That means he’ll be banned from the touchline on Saturday. On the pitch, Harris has now challenged his players to show him the fight, hunger and desire of a leader. Especially with current club captain Stuart O’Keefe playing through a calf injury whilst not training and Dan Phillips also not training through injury but playing the opposite half to O’Keefe. 

Rotherham were moments away from having a three point gap to third in midweek with a 1-0 lead over Sunderland. Only for Michael Ihiekwe to nod into his own net in the 88th minute helping the black cats to a point and cancelling out his own strike at the other end. It leaves the millers needing to better MK Dons’ result this weekend. Although they could potentially still be promoted with a defeat if MK Dons fail to beat Plymouth. Rotherham’s form has dipped at the worst possible time with just two wins in their last seven league games. Paul Warne is staying positive though saying his players were only allowed to feel down by the late equaliser for 10 minutes, but before they got on the bus if he saw any of them looking down they would be fined.

Prediction: Gillingham 1-1 Rotherham United
A result that will leave both sides sweating. Gillingham will take an early lead much to their fans’ delight, but Rotherham will fight back to get a point but will that be enough for either of them!?

One to Watch: Daniel Barlaser – Rotherham’s central midfielder was named in the League One team of the season last week and is key to how Paul Warne likes to play. He sits in the centre of midfield and has popped up with nine goals and seven assists this season.

Ipswich Town vs Charlton Athletic
Preview: Ipswich Town and Charlton Athletic both have nothing to play for as they face off at Portman Road this weekend.

Ipswich have only won one of their last eight league games. It’s their worst form since Kieran McKenna took over. Last weekend they drew 1-1 with basement boys Crewe Alexandra. Ipswich took the lead through Conor Chaplin but failed to kill the game off with their biggest weakness under McKenna being their inability to score a glut of goals in games. They were made to pay late on by Tom Lowery who finished from long range to steal a point. Sone Aluko has been praised this week as he triggered an appearance based clause. It will be a busy summer for McKenna who has already had some Manchester United players training with him in view to loan moves this summer. 

Charlton were 2-0 winners last weekend against Shrewsbury. The Addicks went ahead through Jayden Stockley before Chuks Aneke finished late on to seal all three points. Charlton started Stockley and Conor Washington, the deadly partnership for Johnnie Jackson, and Chuks Aneke came on to play behind the two forwards. It will be interesting to see if that’s the avenue Jackson goes down heading into next season playing with all three.  Sean Clare will be missing for Charlton with the ex-Sheffield Wednesday youngster having a prominent birthmark on his face removed as it poses a risk of becoming melanomic (skin cancer). It will hopefully mean Clare will be fit for pre-season and raring to go next season.

Prediction: Ipswich Town 1-1 Charlton Athletic
Ipswich will manage to take a point against Charlton with a solid display. Charlton will come back from behind though to take the point.

One to Watch: Jayden Stockley – Charlton striker Jayden Stockley has five goals in his last seven league games. He has 13 goals in an injury ravaged season and will be pivotal for next season.

Lincoln City vs Crewe Alexandra
Preview: Crewe Alexandra will be hoping to finish the season on a win as they travel to Sincil Bank to face Lincoln City.

Lincoln were beaten 2-1 by Accrington last weekend. They conceded twice last weekend through sloppy defending. The first goal came from an inability to clear a set piece before the second goal came from an inability to just get rid of the ball out of defence. Lincoln lost two key players last week with Connor McGrandles going off in the first half with a knee injury before Ben House had to be taken over with a suspected broken collarbone. The imps were expecting to challenge at the other end of the table but have spent most of the season in a relegation battle. To get to the opposite end of the table Michael Appleton has called for a big overhaul this summer “For us to get better, there are certain players that are under contract that have to go”.

Crewe managed to get a point last weekend against Ipswich. Their performances have improved under Alex Morris and he looks set to get the job on a full time basis. Last weekend, Tom Lowery got the goal for Alex from long range and he is likely to leave the club this summer. Lowery has been with the club for 15 years and marked his 150th league appearance last weekend. Crewe defended well for the majority of the game but weren’t good enough with the ball going forward. They lacked a press going forward with a lack of confidence in their forwards. If Alex Morris is to get the job full time this weekend is a final chance to show what he’s got to the people above.

Prediction: Lincoln City 3-1 Crewe Alexandra
Crewe have struggled defensively, and Lincoln will punish them for that. They will manage to get a goal as they wave farewell to League One.

One to Watch: Zac Williams – Crewe central defender Zac Williams has been brilliant. At just the age of 18, he stood out for Crewe, and this may be The Railwaymen’s final chance of seeing him play for their club.

Morecambe vs Sunderland
Preview: Two sides with interests at either end of the table go head-to-head at The Mazuma on Saturday as Morecambe host Sunderland.

Morecambe were beaten last weekend by MK Dons and there is still a slim chance they could be relegated to League Two. They last week failed to register even a single shot on target against their hosts. They conceded two sloppy goals with Harry Darling able to waltz through the entire Morecambe defence for the first before Dan Hardie managed to cut in to finish for the second. For them to be relegated they have to lose and Fleetwood AND Gillingham both need to win. They could go down with a draw and both Fleetwood and Gillingham victories, but The Gills’ goal difference is two less than Morecambe’s. Morecambe have picked up 10 points from their last six games and have only lost one of their last eight home games so they are definitely the form side going into the relegation battle. 

Sunderland are unbeaten in their last 12 league games and now sit 5th in league one but could still miss out on the playoffs. For that to happen both Plymouth and Wycombe would have to win while Sunderland would have to drop points. In midweek, The Black Cats were fortunate to get a point with a 1-1 draw at home to Rotherham. They only recorded 5 attempts on goal with none on target but were still able to equalise when Michael Ihiekwe was only able to put Jack Clarke’s dangerous cross into his own net. Nathan Broadhead was touch and go in midweek, but managed to play while Sunderland are still waiting for results on scans of Carl Winchester and Dennis Cirkin. Sunderland have been the team of late goals recently gaining eight points from the 85th minute onwards in their unbeaten run.

Prediction: Morecambe 1-3 Sunderland
Sunderland will be comfortable winners away at Morecambe. The Black Cats will capitalise on The Shrimps’ poor defending although won’t be able to keep a clean sheet as Morecambe strike late.

One to Watch: Ross Stewart and Cole Stockton – The race for the golden boot is tight and this game has two candidates. Sunderland striker Ross Stewart is joint top with 24 goals while Morecambe striker Cole Stockton is one behind on 23.

Oxford United vs Doncaster Rovers
Preview: United boss Karl Robinson has stated that this weekend is the start of their preparations for next term as they host Doncaster Rovers.

Oxford were beaten 2-1 by Rotherham last weekend and have struggled against the top seven this season with them only being victorious against Sheffield Wednesday and MK Dons, while being unable to beat any of the fellow top seven. Oxford’s 75 points would have been enough for the playoffs for the last few seasons but unfortunately it isn’t this and Karl Robinson will be looking for more improvement ahead of next season. The big challenge will be keeping hold of the nucleus of the squad with a lot of interest in his side already. The likes of Cameron Brannagan and Elliott Moore are already the subject of interest from Championship clubs. 

Doncaster Rovers are still somehow able to stay up but it will take an absolute miracle. Donny needs to win and hope Fleetwood and Gillingham are beaten and overturn a goal difference swing of 27 goals. Last weekend their chances stayed alive for another week with a 2-0 victory over Burton. They gave away a penalty in the first half but Jonathan Mitchell managed to save it before Joe Dodoo and Josh Martin managed to capitalise on some sloppy defending. Doncaster appointed James Coppinger as head of football operations and this could be Gary McSheffrey’s final game in charge. McSheffrey is still only in interim charge but I would not be surprised if he was to take it permanently with two club legends working alongside each other.

Prediction: Oxford 2-0 Doncaster Rovers
Oxford will run out winners relegating Doncaster to League Two. The U’s will comfortably move onto 78 points yet another improved season under Karl Robinson’s tutorage.

One to Watch: Cameron Brannagan – Oxford midfielder Cameron Brannagan has pledged his allegiance to the club. “I’ve always said a big part of your life is not just on the pitch but off the pitch and I’m very happy.” He has 14 goals this season and will be key to improvement next.

Sheffield Wednesday vs Portsmouth
Preview: Sheffield Wednesday will be looking for one final push this weekend to secure them a play-off spot as they host Portsmouth.

Sheffield Wednesday were victorious in midweek against Fleetwood 3-2 in what was a perfect way to bounce back from defeat against play off rivals Wycombe. The Owls started the game excellently taking the lead through Lee Gregory and battered Fleetwood for the first 20 minutes. However, they were punished for defensive mistakes and found themselves behind at half time. Some choice words at half time from Darren Moore helped with the Owls boss telling his players “to go and be heroes.” In the second half Wednesday did well to stay patient and scored twice in the space of 48 seconds through Lee Gregory to go 3-2 up. Wednesday still needs a win to definitely finish in the playoffs and will be playing in front of a sold out crowd at Hillsborough. Fisayo Dele-Bashiru and Harlee Dean were out in midweek. Dean wasn’t fully fit and Moore admitted he wanted more days of training in while Dele-Bashiru was left out just because Wednesday’s squad is so big with lots of options. Wednesday were able to welcome Josh Windass back in midweek though and he could be key going into the playoffs. 

Portsmouth shocked Wigan in midweek, coming back from 2-0 down at half-time to win 3-2 to deny their opponents automatic promotion. Pompey are unbeaten in five games winning four and have in form ex Sheffield Wednesday striker George Hirst has four goals in five games including a brace on Tuesday night. They were poor in the first-half, giving Wigan two goals – one from struggling to play out the back – while the other was from lack of numbers defending a goal kick. Portsmouth bounced back though and as soon as Hirst got his first goal, Pompey’s confidence showed and there was only ever going to be one winner. The Cowley’s have had a streaky season and have been unable to find a settled formation, team and system to play. They have been strong throughout the season defensively for the most part, but have struggled going forward.

Prediction: Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Portsmouth
Sheffield Wednesday will be comfortable winners against Pompey here. They will show up in front of a large crowd and will be able to keep their play-off place.

One to Watch: Lee Gregory – Sheffield Wednesday’s number 9 has seven goals in his last seven games including a hattrick in midweek. He’s been brilliant in recent weeks and now Josh Windass is back they could form an excellent partnership.

Shrewsbury Town vs Wigan Athletic
Preview: Wigan Athletic will be aiming to wrap up the League One title this weekend as they travel to Shrewsbury.

Shrewsbury were beaten 2-0 by Charlton last weekend and are now on a run of five league games without a win. Shrews have been streaky all season without being able to be consistently good or bad. Steve Cotterill has discussed this week how much he thinks his young players will benefit from their break before pre-season. Now, The Shrews are safe and ever since they have been safe they have been on the beach. Ahead of next season Cotterill has spoken about how he doesn’t have the resources to fight against other clubs in this league financially. “we can’t go out and buy our own 20-year-old midfielder that can go on and play higher up the pyramid, because they will be circa half-a-million or 750 grand.” That means it will have to be a busy summer in the recruitment and scouting department.

Wigan could still not be promoted and find themselves in the play-offs. It would require a defeat and wins for MK Dons and Rotherham while Dons need a six goal goal difference swing. Wigan threw away a two goal lead in midweek and seem to be stumbling over the finish line. Fatigue seems to be catching up with Wigan. This weekend’s game will be their 28th game in 105 days which is a game on average every four days. That means they’ve played every midweek since the start of the year. In midweek they started so strongly in midweek racing into a two goal lead through Will Keane and Callum Lang both of whom have been key to their promotion chances. However, it looked like defensively they felt the pressure with some sloppy defending at the back being punished three times as they failed to clear convincingly.

Prediction: Shrewsbury Town 1-3 Wigan Athletic
Wigan will go behind early on and the nerves will definitely start in the away end. Wigan will come roaring back though to win 3-1.

One to Watch: Will Keane – Wigan striker Will Keane is still on the hunt for the golden boot. He is currently joint top on 24 goals.

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