League One Preview: Gameweek 38

Peter Vincenti

Peter Vincenti

In League One, Bradford return to the league and play-off ambitions after their FA Cup journey came to an abrupt end at Reading, as Fleetwood, another team hoping to break into the top 6, stand in their way. MK Dons prepare for a probable place in the play-offs in May with a home game against Notts County, who have slid down the table over the last 4 months. Scunthorpe, without a win in 6, travel to Rochdale, who have come back into the race for a play-off place in recent weeks, after 3 wins in 4 games.

Bradford v Fleetwood

Both of these clubs have had memorable seasons. Fleetwood have been playing at their highest ever level this season, and they have adjusted to life in England’s third tier very well, with even a play-off push looking possible. Bradford, on the other hand, need to regroup. Their players looked very jaded in the 3-0 FA Cup replay defeat to Reading, and playing 3 games in a week with the same team was inevitably going to catch up with them eventually. The Bantams struggled without centre-back Andrew Davies, who has had an outstanding season. Bradford are now 4 points off the play-off places with 2 games in hand, and they have an opportunity to marry an incredible cup run with promotion to the Championship. To do this, however, they need to become a little bit more expansive in their play. In recent weeks, they have started to play slow, long balls towards target man James Hanson, and this has not worked particularly. Their most effective football seems to come when they play through the likes of Billy Clarke and Mark Yeates, who provide a creative spark. Bradford’s chances in this match depends entirely on whether the players are fully fit, focused and ready, because if Phil Parkinson’s men put in another lethargic performance, Fleetwood will take advantage.

MK Dons v Notts County

Notts County are in awful form at the moment. Having soared high for parts of the season, the Magpies are now in freefall, with just 3 wins since mid-November. Some of the loan players manager Shaun Derry has brought in do not have the kind of attitude that teams need in a relegation battle. Paddy McCourt possesses plenty of quality, but is often a defensive liability, while Leroy Lita seems to have lost the kind of pace, energy and drive that you might once have associated with him. The one factor that favours Notts County now is that each of their next 5 opponents, arguably, have nothing to play for. MK Dons come into that category, because their recent poor run of form has cost them a chance of automatic promotion, despite Tuesday night’s 3-1 win at Oldham. Poor results for Karl Robinson’s side can be put down, predominantly, to injuries. Goalkeeper Ian McLoughlin had struggled in the absence of David Martin, who has now returned, while the injury to Dele Alli coincided directly with MK Dons’ poor run. The midfielder will miss at least the next 3 matches, and his fitness will be pivotal for MK Dons’ chances in the play-offs, because he offers the ability to drive forward from midfield and open games up. Without Alli, this will be a win for MK Dons, but not by the kind of emphatic scoreline they often produce.

Rochdale v Scunthorpe

The clubs promoted from League Two have performed well in the division above, Rochdale and Scunthorpe being no exceptions. Scunthorpe will be without midfielder Neal Bishop for this match, so Mark Robins has loaned in John Lundstram from Everton, who may offer a degree of work rate and physicality in his absence. Lundstram is a very creative player too, and he will provide some more support for loan striker Paddy Madden, who has started up front on his own in the last 2 games. Rochdale, on the other hand, go into this match in a strong position. They have won 3 of their last 4 games and have no new injury concerns. This blog has praised the energy in this Dale side and the positive football they play, but they also offer an aerial threat. Keith Hill’s men have scored 17 headed goals this season, more than any other side in League One. 14 goal man Peter Vincenti, who scored the winner in Rochdale’s 2-1 win at Notts County, has been a major reason for this. Scunthorpe will be safe from relegation this year, but Rochdale have newly found momentum.