The Promotion Race: Coventry host Sunderland in this weekends big clash as the race for promotion hots up
We take a look at the weekend’s fixtures with Sunderland travelling to Birmingham on Sunday to take on Coventry City. Elsewhere, Portsmouth entertain Rochdale on Friday evening, while Peterborough are on the road at Burton Albion as they look to remain the in the top six with sides waiting to pounce.
Portsmouth v Rochdale (Friday)
Our Prediction: 2-0
Sam Stone: Pompey take on Rochdale on Friday night knowing a victory will propel them to third in League One – their highest position of the season. After a couple of defeats in quick succession Jackett’s men bounced back with a win against MK Dons, albeit less than convincing. Goals from a returning Andy Cannon, John Marquis and Marcus Harness saw the Blues run out 3-1 winners. However, it was not Pompey’s most fluent display of the season and have MK to thank for gifting Pompey all three goals. MK’s expansive style was pleasing on the eye but also a huge factor in Pompey taking all three points and continue their superb home record.
Given that Coventry and Sunderland are playing each other this weekend it is a huge opportunity to put some significant pressure on the Sky Blues before they kick-off on Sunday afternoon. Rochdale are coming off a 2-1 defeat to the Sky Blues and have been inconsistent throughout the majority of the season. However, they try to play an expansive style and have some good youth players that have excelled this season. In the previous fixture Pompey managed to finally put in a good away performance and came away with a 3-0 win. Rochdale’s ethos, much like MK Dons, was to play out at every chance and this left plenty of room for Pompey’s attacking threats to exploit; Ronan Curtis scoring two on that day.
If Rochdale come and play like they have in previous years I can only see one result. Last year Pompey won 4-0 due to the amount of space that Dale gifted Pompey in attacking areas. Their expansive style is commendable but hasn’t worked on previous occasions. If Pompey can use their counter attacking prowess more regularly than they did on Tuesday, then it should be another routine victory. I feel this game could really suit both Ryan Williams and Ronan Curtis if they both press high. I wouldn’t be surprised if a Rochdale mistake leads to a goal or two for Pompey. Kenny Jackett made five changes on Tuesday and I wouldn’t be surprised if they utilise his squad depth yet again before an appetising cup tie against Arsenal on Monday.
This should be a routine day at the office, even if Pompey aren’t up their best like Tuesday.
Blackpool v Ipswich
Our Prediction: 1-2
Backing the Blues: Town travel up the country to face a hit and miss Blackpool team this weekend.
Arguably this could be an Ipswich win but it won’t come easy like any game, we will need to be physical and be smart. We will be without Kayden Jackson and James Norwood, but if the team selection is correct I can still see us winning, I hope!
Burton v Peterborough
Our Prediction: 1-1
Burton Bible: Burton get a chance to kickstart their play-off run with a home game against current play-off spot occupants Peterborough. A good win last weekend against Southend, which ended a winless run of six, should give us some momentum, but Peterborough are no easy task and have thrashed teams like Ipswich, Oxford and Wycombe already this season.
Recent home performances have been anything but inspiring however a win on Saturday could put us 6 points off with a game in hand so it’s a must win.
Jarred Farmer: This fixture is a must win game for The Posh, we sit sixth, level on points with Fleetwood, although they have a game in hand.
The squad have had two weeks off so with 11 games to play we should be fresh for the run-in. Burton are a sold side with a very good manager, I am sure they haven’t quite given up on play-off push themselves. It will be a tough game, we are again without Ivan Toney, I predict an away win.
Doncaster v Wycombe
Our Prediction: 2-1
Into the Empty Net: Back-to-back away defeats mean morale is a bit low around the club, our hopes of a top six place fading fast. No respite either for us this weekend up against a Wycombe side who have rediscovered a bit of form and are looking well placed at the business end of the table again then!
Manager Darren Moore says he is sticking with his rotation policy as he aims to pick a team best suited to beating specific opposition systems rather than going for the “play your best XI” method, which has worked at times this season but certainly didn’t last weekend at Shrewsbury. A return to the 4-2-3-1 with top scorer Kieran Sadlier in the side is surely the most sensible option for us and it is to be hoped that we see Sads back in the team on Saturday.
Wycombe have been good at frustrating our possession-based style in recent seasons and they look to be operating at a higher level these days, so I’m expecting a very tough afternoon. Former Rovers striker Ade Akinfenwa will no doubt be a big influence up front and the sheer teamwork usually on display by Gareth Ainsworth’s side will prove hard to beat.
The Wycombe Way: It’s another long old away day for the Wanderers this weekend as they travel to play-off chasing Doncaster on Saturday.
Both teams have been unable to find any consistency in their form as of late, with Doncaster picking up three wins in their last eight, and Wycombe with a WWLWLWLL form guide in recent weeks. It’s another big test for Wanderers, they’ll be looking for an important win on the road to keep up their ambitions of a top two finish, and to make it two away victories on the bounce for the first time since the promotion winning season, after the victory at Bolton a fortnight ago.
No new injury worries for Gareth Ainsworth this weekend, the option for a third consecutive unchanged line up is very much there if he wishes to use it. New signing Paco Craig gives him another name to think about, the son of the Culture Club bassist made his debut in Tuesday nights Berks & Bucks cup win over Hungerford.
Oxford v Southend
Our Prediction: 3-0
Dale Ventham: We welcome strugglers Southend United this weekend looking to make it four wins in succession.
We saw off Accrington on Tuesday night – a result that moved us back to within one point off the playoffs – which followed wins over Ipswich and AFC Wimbledon.
This is a must-win game. We’ve scored nine without reply in our last three games and face a Shrimpers side 15 points from safety that have conceded a staggering 82 League One goals. Sol Campbell’s side have won just once from their last 24 games.
Should be an easy win, but the way this season has gone, who knows?
Rotherham v MK Dons
Our Prediction: 2-0
Andrew Topham: The Millers face MK Dons at home after a hard fought draw at second place Coventry in midweek.
We now have three games against sides at the wrong end of the table. Many millers fans will see this as low hanging fruit and a return of seven to nine points is a must of we are to remain top of a very tight division.
Freddie Ladapo got a start at Coventry, pouncing on a mistake by keeper Marosi like a Seagull swooping on somebody’s fish and chips on Blackpool pier. He is likely to get a second start in a row on Saturday.
One major negative from Tuesday was the injury to Dan Barlaser. He has been a breath of fresh air in the midfield but looks like he could be out for a few weeks which is the nature of the beast in a long League One season.
Tranmere v Fleetwood
Our Prediction: 1-1
Alexander Redford: The cod army make the trip under the Mersey to Tranmere on Saturday who sit stuck at 21st in the league. They had an impressive late win on Tuesday and have also beaten a premier league side in Watford. We’ve gone nine games unbeaten now and with Tranmeres record it looks like we have every reason to make it ten.
However, Tranmere have nothing to lose in this fixture and I believe they will throw everything at us in an attempt to get 3 points closer to safety. They’re managed by Micky Mellon a man I have great respect for because of his achievements with Fleetwood and ultimately the famous signing of Jamie Vardy. He took some Fleetwood players in Scotty Davis and more recently Peter Clarke. Taking into account our form and tranmeres form I see no reason why we can’t win comfortably and would be disappointing to drop two or even three points.
Coventry v Sunderland (Sunday)
Our Prediction: 1-0
TheNiiLampteyShow: Most Cov fans would have taken four points out of the last two games. Especially after seeing how impressive Rotherham looked on the St Andrews snow during the week.
Sunderland will prove another stern test as they are in great form, but I still feel confident we can get at least a draw.
SunderLad: Sunderland travel to St Andrews for the lunchtime kickoff on Sunday against the Sky Blue Squatters. Despite their off-field problems, they have been the surprise team this season and find themselves in a good position, with games in hand too.
SAFC were below par in their midweek draw at home to Fleetwood Town. They will need to be at their very best to secure a victory against Coventry. However, they will be backed with thousands of travelling fans in great voice once again.