The battle for survival in League One is intensifying. Following the midweek action, there is a mini-league forming at the bottom of the division consisting of seven sides. The League One relegation battle is finely poised and it’s tough to call who will be dropping into the fourth tier.
The seven sides involved find themselves cut adrift from the rest of the league. Rochdale, AFC Wimbledon, Bristol Rovers, Wigan Athletic, Northampton Town, Swindon Town and Burton Albion are all desperate to preserve their League One statuses.
A crucial weekend lies ahead in the battle for survival with six of the seven sides set to meet each in what could be a season-defining game for the sides involved.
League One Relegation Battle Heads Into Vital Weekend of Games
Rochdale are the Entertainers in the Pack But the Risk Football Isn’t Bringing Reward
Brian Barry-Murphy’s Dale are top of the mini-league heading into this weekend. They have 26 points from their 27 games and find themselves two points clear of the relegation zone.
They are proving to be League One’s entertainers with a series of high scoring games, but despite boasting the third-best attack in the league, results haven’t arrived. Dale have won just twice in their last 13 league games, which has left them sweating at the wrong end of the table.
Only two sides can better their 41 league goals but due to the recent spate of goals in Dale games, Barry-Murphy’s side now boast the worst defence in League One with 54 goals conceded.
The club hit a new low in midweek after Milton Keynes Dons hit four past them on their own patch. Their home form is a major concern, having won just twice at home all season across all competitions.
Rochdale have demonstrated their goalscoring abilities but have to tighten up at the back. Shoring up their defence will increase their survival chances but they will likely continue their risk and reward style of play.
The form of Matty Lund will be vital for Dale, having notched 11 league goals this campaign, while Stephen Humphrys and Jake Beesley have proven themselves at this level so far. High scoring Rochdale games are something likely to continue for the rest of the campaign.
AFC Wimbledon Looking to Build On Crucial Wigan Victory
The dismissal of Glyn Hodges at the end of January was a huge reality check for AFC Wimbledon. Their form was rotten, which included an 11 match winless run. Academy manager Mark Harrison is in caretaker charge of the Dons and they sit 19th, one point clear of the relegation zone having collected 25 points from their 26 matches.
Harrison’s first league game yielded a vital victory against fellow strugglers Wigan Athletic. Crucially, Harrison got goals out of their talisman Joe Pigott. He took his tally to 13 for the season and he will be leaned on to fire Wimbledon to safety.
While last weekend’s win halted their winless sequence, Wimbledon have managed just three wins in their last 17 league games – ten defeats in that time. Dons can be brilliant to watch but show major naivety at times and concede very sloppy goals.
The sooner the managerial situation is addressed the better, but for now, Harrison continues to guide the team. The Wigan win will give them plenty of confidence and Harrison will want his side to build on that in the coming matches.
Bristol Rovers and Northampton Town Have Dismissed Their Managers
Below Rochdale and Wimbledon are four sides locked together on 24 points. All four sides have endured tough seasons for various reasons. Only goal difference separates these sides and the pressures of the job have proved too much for some.
Bristol Rovers are on the hunt for their third permanent manager of the season after sacking Paul Tisdale following the midweek defeat to Oxford United. A season which promised so much has been hugely disappointing for the Gas. Tisdale managed just three league wins and exits after an eight-game winless run. Theo Widdrington is in caretaker charge until a permanent successor is found and he needs to inject some momentum into the team. Goalscoring has proven an issue this campaign for predecessors Ben Garner and Paul Tisdale.
The Gas have only managed 24 league goals. Their top scorer Brandon Hanlan only has six, which highlights their problems. Hanlan has scored a quarter of their league goals – he needs help from his teammates.
Rovers weren‘t the only side to change bosses after a midweek loss. Following the home loss to Wigan, Northampton Town sacked Keith Curle. The experienced manager leaves just eight months after guiding the Cobblers to promotion.
Curle exits after a terrible run of form which has seen Northampton collect just one win in their last 11 league games. Jon Brady has stepped up from the academy to take over until a permanent appointment is made.
He must arrest an alarming run of form and inject goals into the team. Northampton’s 20 is the worst in the division. Sam Hoskins and Danny Rose have just three goals and are the joint top scorers. Despite their struggles, their ace in the relegation pack is they boast the best defence if the seven sides.
The next appointment at Bristol Rovers and Northampton Town must be right otherwise both could be heading to League Two.
Wigan Athletic and Swindon Complete the Relegation Battle Quartet Locked on 24 Points
Despite their difficulties off the pitch, Wigan Athletic’s players have performed admirably to keep them in the race. While there has been plenty of changes on and off the pitch, the Latics have kept themselves in the hunt.
Leam Richardson has led the team in two spells this season and he has got the players playing for him. Adding experience in the transfer window was vital and now Richardson will feel he has a team that can survive.
Confidence will be high after collecting a vital three points at fellow strugglers Northampton. As the takeover rumbles on in the background, credit must go to the players and management staff for keeping the club alive and kicking.
Swindon Town manager John Sheridan was briefly part of the Wigan survival bid but departed for the Robins in October. His arrival at Swindon hasn’t yielded the results and his tenure has been hugely disappointing thus far. Sheridan has won just three league games since replacing Richie Wellens.
Swindon just cannot stop conceding goals. Only Rochdale have conceded more than the Robins and that must be addressed if they are to survive. Sheridan is also faced with the concern that their six rivals all have games in hand on his team. The pressure is increasing on the Swindon boss having lost five of their last seven matches.
Burton Albion Prop Up the League One Table But Have the Most Momentum
Despite being five points behind the four sides above them, the Brewers are gaining some confidence and picking up results since Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink returned as manager.
The Brewers have collected six points from Hasselbaink’s four league games in charge. Both were narrow victories which yielded their first clean sheets of the season – a huge plus as the Brewers had failed to keep a clean sheet in their first 21 league games.
Victory over Hull City last weekend would have given the whole side a huge confidence boost. An influx of new signings made an instant impact, including Jonny Smith.
A huge January transfer window saw Hasselbaink completely transform the team. Now it’s a case of getting results with 21 games remaining for Burton to get out of trouble. They have the most work to do out of the seven sides because, although they have momentum, they are cut adrift from the rest.
However, if they manage to pick up results consistently, they will start to concern the sides above them.
A Crucial Weekend Lies Ahead in the League One Relegation Battle
With the bottom seven in League One fighting for their lives in a finely poised battle, the games where they meet each other will be crucial to their chances of winning the war.
Six of the seven sides clash this weekend as the relegation battle intensifies. Rochdale head to Wimbledon, Bristol Rovers host Swindon and Burton Albion travel to Northampton. It’s a case of must win for all the sides involved.
Wigan Athletic will be keeping a firm eye on those games while trying to mastermind a victory at red-hot Oxford United. The Latics face a difficult afternoon from a U’s side who have won eight of their last nine league games.
Swindon have arguably done their better work away from the County Ground. A trip to Bristol should suit them. Rovers need some momentum and any positive result against the Robins should help.
Rochdale’s trip to Wimbledon offers both sides a great chance to get themselves breathing space. Dale have been better away from home but Wimbledon will look to exploit League One’s worst defence.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink would love to get one over the side he managed during the 2017/18 season. The Brewers head to the Cobblers full of confidence and belief. Victory will see them move to within two points of their opponents and make ground on at least two other sides in the scrap.
A vital weekend in the relegation battle. It’s a finely poised battle with all seven sides very much in trouble. This weekend’s games could give us an indication as to who is up for the fight. The League One relegation battle is a tough one to call but its sit to be a fascinating fight for survival.