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League One

Andy Ritchie's Blog 27

20 February 2013

I know I'm biased but I have to start this week's blog by sending my hearty congratulations to Oldham Athletic on another awesome FA Cup performance.

Matt Smith was playing for Solihull Moors not so long ago, but this season he's been the scourge of Merseyside. A few weeks back the giant front man was terrorising Liverpool's Martin Skrtel and Sebastian Coates, and this time on Sunday it was Phil Jagielka and Sylvan Distin's turn to be troubled by him.

I've been racking my brains to work out why he's been such a thorn in their side, and I can only really explain it by saying that the Premier League defenders just aren't used to facing six foot six inch bruisers like him often enough. They have the odd opponent who will knock them around, but it's a rarity. Let's not take anything away from Matt though, because neither Liverpool or Everton could handle him.

The draw was Oldham's perfect result, and now they can look forward to another much-needed pay day, and still have the possibility of reaching the last eight.

One team that have snuck up on the rails this season in npower League 1 are Yeovil Town. Thanks to a stunning run of eight successive wins the Glovers are now fourth in the table, smack bang in the mix for automatic promotion.

I've been looking back at my pre-season notes, and back in August I said that Gary Johnson was a master at getting the team spirit right and that he'd need it to be spot on this season for them to compete. I think it's fair to say he's achieved that.

The star of the show in attack is young Paddy Madden who has now scored in a club record seven successive matches, taking him to the very top of the division's goal charts.

My mate Greg Abbott had Madden at Carlisle United for two and a half years before allowing him to join Yeovil Town on a free transfer, and I'm sure he's wondering if he made the right call now.

I'm convinced Greg knew he was a striker that had 'something' but if he wasn't scoring goals he had little choice but to let him go. In Cumbria, Madden's record was pretty average at best; so it's hard to explain why he's suddenly found his touch at his new club. Sometimes there's no rhyme or reason for it.

When I was a boss (and most of us are the same) I always wanted players that I released to prove me wrong. The percentages say that it will happen to you, and you can look silly, but as a person I was delighted to see my former lads do the business and rebuild their careers elsewhere. Greg Abbott will feel that way about Paddy Madden's success.

Much to my disappointment, Paolo Di Canio has finally resigned from his post at Swindon Town, but I can't say I'm surprised because it seems he'd been at loggerheads with the board for quite some time now regarding the club's finances and 'broken promises'.

I'll miss him, and the Swindon fans will miss him too, because he's proven to be a fabulous manager and character.

They started life without him very tidily in a win at Tranmere Rovers this week, but who would want to fill his shoes? That's the issue they now face.

I'm not convinced that anyone could have brought more success to the club than he did since taking over, so it's an intimidating role to fill. That said, the lure of a possible promotion will ensure Swindon have a truck load of applications.

The Play-Offs are probably beyond Preston North End this year but Simon Grayson's swift appointment in place of Graham Westley should ensure they soon get themselves back on a safer footing.

He's the kind of manager that's more than capable of making a decent fist of this job, and if he gets them firing Preston are capable of going places with huge crowds supporting them, too. I think he'll do well there.

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