The international break can sometimes be an extremely frustrating and rather dull period for football fans. Nevertheless, most of League One and League Two remain unaffected, meaning there is plenty of FL72 (soon to be EFL72) action for us to get our teeth stuck into. We focus on the five key games taking place this weekend.
Rochdale v Wigan Athletic
There is a big local derby taking place in League One this weekend and all eyes are on Spotland. Keith Hill’s Rochdale entertain Gary Caldwell’s Wigan Athletic in what will undoubtedly be a fiercely competitive affair. They say league form goes out of the window in games like this, and Rochdale will be counting on that! They are now without a win in their last six league matches, although they did win in the FA Cup at the weekend. As for Wigan, things are going incredibly now after a fairly slow start to the season. They are now in the play-off places and are unbeaten in nine league games. They did lose to another local rival Bury in the cup on Saturday, but smashed Blackpool 4-0 in the JPT a few days ago. Everything points to a Wigan win, but don’t expect it to be that simple.
Gillingham v Bury
Gillingham are going through one of their worst spells of the season, but thankfully for them, they still remain third after an excellent start to the campaign. It is now four without a victory, with the last two of those coming in cup competitions. Their home form remains quite strong, and haven’t lost in their last eight at Priestfield. Justin Edinburgh is being linked with Championship jobs, but surely that is nothing to do with their dip in form. Bury, in sixth, travel to their play-off rivals in decent nick themselves. They were five without a win, but have won their last two games 4-0 and 4-3 respectively. They have lost their last two away matches however and Gillingham is a tough place to prevent that becoming three. This should be a good spectacle for League One football.
Northampton Town v Mansfield Town
We dip into League Two to our remaining three games, starting off with this tasty looking contest. There has been plenty of history between these two sides, most notably from the play-off games from a little while ago now. Both teams now meet up once again, with both occupying a play-off spot in League Two. It has been well-documented on the problems that the Cobblers have been having, but that is having no bad effect on the pitch. They have won three of their last four and have won their last three at Sixfields. Mansfield are without a win in four of their last five matches, but they are unbeaten in their last four away games. They have significantly improved from last season into this season and will really be up for this game. It has the makings of being tight, with it most likely being decided by the odd goal.
Portsmouth v AFC Wimbledon
On Sunday Portsmouth look to get their league form back on track when they entertain AFC Wimbledon. Pompey did win in the FA Cup at the weekend, but it is now three without a league victory. They still remain in third spot, but are now seven points off top of the table Plymouth Argyle. It is their home form which is causing some concern, which is a big surprise. They are without a win in their last four home league games, only losing once all season, but drawing five of their eight games. The visitors were on a good run of form themselves prior to losing to National League side Forest Green Rovers in the FA Cup last weekend. Regardless of that, they still remain a very solid League Two side, always finding the net and don’t conceding too many, too often. They have won their last two away games and they’ll relish the chance to go to Fratton Park and play their football.
York City v Plymouth Argyle
Jackie McNamara takes charge of his first York City league game and he couldn’t have asked for a harder opponent to face. The Minstermen did lead 1-0 at League One strugglers Barnsley in the JP Trophy earlier in the week, but went down to a 2-1 defeat. There were still positives to take out of that game and they’ll need all of them and more to try and beat Plymouth. The reality is that it’s ten league games without a win and have only won at home once all season. As for Plymouth, they head into this on the back of two defeats in two different cup competitions against Carlisle United and Millwall respectively. At least that means they can fully focus on winning League Two, where they are on a run of two straight victories. They top the table by five points and will be looking to extend that if possible.