The battle of the Robins at the top of League 1 took another twist this week following Swindon Town’s 3-0 away victory over Coventry City. That win saw Swindon replace Bristol City at the top of the division and with the two teams now separated by goal difference alone, it’s another crucial weekend of football in Sky Bet League 1.
Game of the Weekend- MK Dons v Sheffield United
This looks set to be the clash of the day in League 1 with 3rd place MK Dons taking on 6th place Sheffield United at Stadium:MK. Karl Robinson’s men will be looking to get back to winning ways in the division after a poor 3-0 loss to Walsall a fortnight ago was followed up by a disappointing 2-2 draw away to relegation threatened Crawley Town. The Dons could only scrape a draw, despite Crawley striker Matt Harrold forced to play in goal for the final 50 minutes of the match after Brian Jensen went off injured.
United meanwhile will be looking to build on the impressive 2-1 victory over Preston last Saturday that halted a 6 match winless run in the League for the Blades, who will be hoping Tuesday nights’ Capital One Semi-Final tie with Tottenham will not prove a distraction. Clough looks likely to stick with the same XI that saw off North End last Saturday.
In the reverse encounter back in December, MK left Sheffield with all 3 points courtesy of a Deli Alli strike with just 3 minutes left of the game, despite United dominating most of the match: a game which saw Dons midfielder Danny Green sent off in the last minute for a second bookable offence.
The January transfer window has not been kind to Karl Robinson’s side who will no doubt be searching for a replacement for 19-goal Benik Afobe who this week signed for Championship side Wolves after Arsenal recalled the 21 year-old striker from what was intended to be a season long loan with the Dons. Luckily for Robinson he still holds the potent threat of Alli and Will Grigg who have both hit double figures this season in the goals charts. Both are likely to start tomorrow afternoon.
Scunthorpe United v Bristol City
Despite the criticism Peter Swann, the Scunthorpe United chairman, received following the decision to axe Russ Wilcox, in spite of the Irons winning promotion to League 1 last season, his choice to bring in Mark Robbins has proven to be a masterstroke. Scunthorpe are 7 unbeaten, having last tasted defeat in October, a run of form that has seen them climb to 17th in the table. With 3 games in hand on many teams in the division and with a gap of 4 points between them and the relegation places, Irons fans may be forgiven for looking up the table as the season draws on rather than casting their eyes over the lower reaches of the division.
Scunthorpe will also be boosted by the arrival of defender Jordan Clarke from Coventry City in the week. The 23 year-old defender played under Robbins at Coventry and impressed in his recent loan spell at Yeovil Town. Clarke looks likely to be drafted into the team by Robbins for tomorrow, replacing Marcus Williams who picked up an ankle injury in last weeks 4-1 win over Walsall. Paddy Madden will continue upfront for Scunthorpe, his goals, a crucial factor for United’s upturn in form since Robbins arrival.
Bristol’s season meanwhile shows no signs of faltering, but still they lost top spot on Monday so will be looking for all 3 points at Glanford Park. City’s squad will be boosted by the two loan signings of midfielder George Saville and defender James Tavernier whilst it is likely Joe Bryan, Luke Freeman and Wade Elliott will all return to the starting line-up after sitting out Tuesday night’s 2-0 FA Cup replay with Doncaster Rovers.
Last time out, Bristol cantered to a 2-0 victory at Ashton Gate in September but expect a much closer encounter at Glanford Park between two in-form sides in the division.
Swindon Town v Chesterfield
Swindon showed on Monday night in front of the Sky cameras what many fans from other clubs in the division have been saying: that the Robins are arguably the best footballing side in the division. Cooper has put together an impressive team with the loan trio of Harry Toffolo, Louis Thompson, both from Norwich City and John Swift, on loan from Chelsea, producing performances of high quality in midfield on Monday alongside Ben Gladwin ensuring the Robins dominated from the first minute to the last at the Ricoh Arena.
All the plaudits naturally are going at the moment to 17-goal striker Andy Williams whose classic little and large partnership with Matt Smith has proven too much to handle for the majority of league 1 defences this season.
Chesterfield themselves however have promotion aspirations of their own and following 3 wins in 4 over the Christmas period, the Spireites lie just a point and a place from a play off spot. Continuity has been the key for Paul Cook’s side with the manager naming the same starting line-up in all 4 of Chesterfield’s league and cup games in 2015, however they could be without wide man Gary Roberts tomorrow who picked up an ankle knock in Tuesday nights win over Scunthorpe in the cup.
The league’s top 2 goal scorers go head to head tomorrow afternoon at the Proact. Doyle for Chesterfield leads Andy Williams in the stakes for top scorer by just 1 goal. Could that change come 5 o’clock Saturday afternoon? With 35 goals between the pair… expect a 0-0 draw tomorrow!
Preston North End v Leyton Orient
When the fixtures were released in July, most would have expected this to have been one of the crucial games between two teams at the top of the division at this stage of the season. For Orient however the game is of curcial importance for all the wrong reasons as a loss in tonights televised game will likely see them dragged back into the relegation places by then end of play on Saturday evening.
Onto their fourth manager of the season, now under the guidance of Fabio Liverani, Orient are the shadow of the consistent side both on and off the pitch of last season: a season that saw them desperately close to promotion if not for a 3-2 defeat in the play-off final against Rotherham. Is this season a case of extended Wembley hangover? If so then Orient need to recover soon otherwise a relegation battle looks certain for the London side. No doubt however, the O’s have suffered this season because of the constant line of players taking extending visits to the injury room which has seen a host of crucial players coming and going throughout the season. For tonight’s game, Orient look likely to once more be without striker Darius Henderson and Jobi McAnuff but one piece of good news is captain Nathan Clarke looks likely to return, hopefully tightening up what has been a leaky Orient defence this season.
Preston go into the game with a healthy 10 point cushion from the teams fighting to get into the play offs, but recent slips against Crewe and Sheffield United have seen North End drop 6 points behind the leading two, albeit wih a game in hand on Swindon. Preston continue to be without long term absentee Joe Garner, but will be boosted by the loan-signing of Manchester United keeper Sam Johnstone who could make his debut tonight for his home town club at the expense of Thorsten Stuckmann.
In the game down at Brisbane Road in October, Preston ran out 2-0 winners courtesy of strikes from Callum Robinson and Paul Huntingdon that saw Mauro Milanese’s short reign in the Orient hotseat get off to a shocking start.
Other League 1 fixtures
Colchester United v Walsall
Doncaster Rovers v Barnsley
Fleetwood Town v Oldham Atheltic
Gillingham v Coventry City
Notts County v Crewe Alexandra
Port Vale v Peterborough United
Rochdale v Crawley Town
Yeovil Town v Bradford City