League One Preview: Gameweek 35

Aaron Wilbraham

Aaron Wilbraham

In League One, there is a key game at both ends of the table, as relegation candidates Crawley face league leaders Bristol City. Swindon are experiencing something of a slip, and need to get back to winning ways when they face a Notts County side who may be re-juvenated, after their recent additions. 5th place Sheffield United will at least maintain the 5 point gap between themselves and those outside the play-off places when they host Fleetwood, who have won 5, drawn 5 and lost 5 of their last 15 games.

Crawley v Bristol City

It would be of little surprise if this were to be the last time these teams met for a very long time. Bristol City are running away with promotion to the Championship, while Crawley Town are battling against relegation to the Football League’s basement tier. At the moment, the Red Devils are getting attendances of around 2,500 at every home game, and with that small fanbase, it is difficult for the club to sustain themselves at this level. Perhaps for financial reasons, manager Dean Saunders has been forced to let defender Joe Walsh leave for MK Dons on loan. Bristol City are 11 points clear in the promotion race, and on current form, the teams below the Robins look much more likely to drop points. Loanee Matt Smith, who had scored 7 goals in 15 appearances, has recently returned to Fulham, but luckily for boss Steve Cotterill, this has come at the same time as Aaron Wilbraham’s return to form. The target man had been left out of the team over January and February, but having recently come back into the side, Wilbraham has scored in each of his last 3 games. This should be a comfortable away victory.

Sheff Utd v Fleetwood

Sheffield United have picked up just 4 points from their last 4 games, and any hopes of them stealing 2nd place are now scuppered. Their main problem is that they do not start games strongly enough. It is staggering that they are 5th in the table, yet have only been leading at half-time in 4 of their 33 matches this season. On the one hand, you might praise Nigel Clough’s ability to change games with his substitutions, but on the other hand, you might criticize him, because his side are continually making the same mistakes. Fleetwood, on the other hand, are usually very sturdy in the opening stages, because they have conceded just 4 league goals in the first half hour of matches this season. In fact, they have been very strong defensively overall. If, as could be expected, the game is very tight for a long time, Sheffield United have a plethora of players, such as Marc McNulty and Jose Baxter,who can come on in games and make an impact. This could be key on Saturday.

Swindon v Notts County

Swindon have won just 1 of their last 6 matches, and are going through their worst run of results since the start of the season. They played Tuesday’s 3-0 home defeat to Gillingham without key midfielders, such as Louis Thompson and Massimo Luongo, but those players had been part of the team during other poor results of late, so that cannot be the sole reason behind the loss. Manager Mark Cooper has done well to put together a young, talented squad, with top scorer Andy Williams the only player over 24. However, the challenge that comes with having a youthful squad is keeping the players level-headed. When results are going well, there is potential for complacency, and when they start to go badly, there is a tendency for players to start panicking. Older players normally have a more composed, focused mindset. Cooper might regret the decision not to bring in a couple of more experienced players in January, but this would most likely have meant losing Yaser Kasim and the aforementioned Luongo, both of whom the club were desperate to keep. On the subject of transfers, Notts County have bolstered their squad in recent weeks, and they look stronger in an attacking sense. Winger Jamal Campbell-Ryce and striker Leroy Lita will add raw energy to the side, while Patrick McCourt possesses genuine quality on the ball. With each of those players in the squad, County picked up a 1-0 win at Colchester on Tuesday, only their 3rd victory since mid-November. 11 of their 14 defeats this season have come by a solitary goal, which suggests that with new attacking impetus, Shaun Derry’s side will pick up a result at the aptly named County Ground.