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League One Playoff Race: The Battle for the Top Six

League One playoff

The League One playoff race is perhaps the most entertaining battle left in English football this year. A mere nine points separate Lincoln City in fourth and Fleetwood Town in 13th, with all ten clubs within that range, hopeful of securing a place in the top six.

Assessing the League One Playoff Race

Current Occupiers of the League One Playoff Positions

Two consecutive defeats for Sunderland means that their chances for automatic promotion have been cut. The Black Cats now look set for the playoffs but will be pushing to threaten the division’s current top two.

Lincoln sit five points below the Wearside club and possess a game in hand. The Imps ended a six-game winless run last time out, with a 4-0 thrashing of MK Dons. Lincoln’s poor form in March has condemned them to a fight for the playoffs in a season where automatic promotion was on the cards. A top-six finish still looks likely for Michael Appleton’s side but they still have to play the top two, before a trip to a revitalised Charlton Athletic.

A 15-game unbeaten run has elevated Blackpool into a favourable fifth position. The Seasiders picked up just the single win from their opening game of the season but are now the division’s in-form side and will be a fancied outfit, should they hold on to a playoff place. Neil Critchley’s men remain just three points above Charlton Athletic in eighth and their 14-point gap from Peterborough United is enough to suggest that cementing their place in the top six is the number one priority.

Portsmouth occupy the decisive sixth spot at present – the position that is most under threat. After the club’s promotion ambitions were seemingly eliminated, four consecutive wins, starting from when Danny Cowley was appointed, have reignited their playoff hopes. However, a defeat at home to Burton Albion followed by a 0-0 draw at Crewe Alexandra means that there is still a lot of work for the South Coast club to do.

The in-Form Chasers

Oxford United are a team that is full of surprises. When backed they seem to drop off but when hope is seemingly lost, they conjure up a run to keep them with a fighting chance. After narrowly missing out on promotion to the Championship last season, The U’s dropped into the relegation zone in early December. However, a run of nine victories in ten games completely transformed their season from a bottom four battle to yet another playoff push. A worrying statistic for Karl Robinson is that his Oxford side have won just a single game out of 17 against the division’s top ten this season. But the highest-placed opposition they still have to play is Gillingham in tenth, a welcomed remaining fixture list.

Charlton find themselves in eighth place and are unbeaten in their last eight games (W5 D3), with new manager Nigel Adkins overseeing the last three (W2 D1). The Addicks started the season brilliantly and after a 3-2 win against Fleetwood in their tenth game of the season, they sat outside the automatic places on goal difference – a game they recorded their sixth straight victory in. However, the East London club have since dropped off the pace and by the end of February, they occupied 12th spot. Their recent run of form has back into contention for a playoff spot but like Lincoln, they still need to play the top two. 

Potential Upsets

Ipswich Town are two points below Charlton and occupy ninth place. The Tractor Boys’ one victory in their last seven has seen their playoff ambitions diminish, but they are still in with a fighting chance. Bar Oxford, the Suffolk club have the easiest run-in on paper, although, as seen over countless years, form goes out the window at the end of the season.

Also looking to pounce on any potential slip-ups is Steve Evans’ Gillingham. The Gills have picked up 18 points from their last ten games and are six points off Portsmouth in sixth. Gillingham have played a game more than the majority of teams in the division and it would take a near-flawless run for them to make the much-desired playoffs.

Accrington Stanley, Doncaster Rovers, and Fleetwood Town are seven, eight, and nine points from Portsmouth respectively. Stanley have picked up just three wins in their last 14 games, whilst Doncaster are without a win in nine, losing their last five. It will take a perfect run from this point for either side to trouble the playoffs but whilst it is still mathematically possible, both clubs will be striving towards it.

Fleetwood have picked up 19 points from their last nine games, as they continue to cling on to the possibility of making the playoffs once more. Again, the chances are slim for the 13th-placed club but weirder things have happened in the beautiful game.


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