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npower League 1 Easter weekend preview

29 March 2013


The Easter weekend can make or break a team's season with six points up for grabs and it all kicks off on Good Friday with the first round of npower League 1 fixtures.

Fans of Tranmere Rovers and Sheffield United will be witnessing the stand-out match as two teams with automatic promotion ambitions meet at Prenton Park.

But to re-ignite those ambitions both clubs will be looking for a big Easter return as they start the weekend fifth and sixth respectively, the home side having the edge by a point.

But so tight is the top end of the table at the moment that both could close Friday in the top two, with Rovers sitting a point behind second-placed Swindon Town.

Boss Ronnie Moore told Tranmere Player: "It's another massive game. They don't come much bigger than Sheffield United. They have got a great manager there, a good squad of players, and it will be a big test for us.

"For me, they are going to be top two. I like Danny [Wilson], he's done a great job and I get on well with him. I wish him all the best.

"Obviously we want to take the three points off them. They have got three games in hand so they've got everything to play for as well but no-one has got a divine right to go up - you have to earn it."

The Blades have still only lost six League 1 games all season, less than any other team in the division, and have those games in hand that Moore referred to.

They have two points to make up on the top two but must be wary of those behind them as they are only a point ahead of seventh-placed Yeovil Town, who have played two games more.

Wilson told "Any team must answer the criticisms thrown at them in the next game and that remains our focus.

"Taking everything into account there is no better place than Prenton Park for us to address the shortcomings we had at Stevenage [a 4-0 away defeat last Saturday]. I am fully confident we can go there and get a positive result, if we do it sets us up nicely for Carlisle United on Monday.

"Tranmere are always strong at home, though, and Ronnie has worked miracles to keep Rovers in contention at the top."


So much can happen on Good Friday that can affect the Easter Monday games but regardless of that you will be hard-pushed to find a more enticing npower League 1 encounter on Monday than Doncaster Rovers against Swindon Town.

The two teams start the Easter weekend first and second respectively, Doncaster having recorded 72 points from their 39 matches with Swindon having played the same amount but sitting five points further back.

Automatic promotion to the Championship is on the agenda for both clubs and Rovers are currently best-placed to achieve that only a season after they came down.

Brian Flynn's men have won 21 matches in 2012/13, more than any other team in the division, and with only three defeats since the middle of December they have momentum on their side.

On Good Friday they head to Coventry City while their Monday lunchtime visitors - it's a 12.15pm kick-off at the Keepmoat Stadium - host struggling Oldham Athletic.

If Doncaster have momentum then the same can be said of Swindon, who have lost only twice since the end of November as they continue their bid for back-to-back promotions having won League 2 last season.

Kevin MacDonald has continued the good work of his predecessor, Paolo Di Canio, with two wins, two draws and a sole defeat in his five games in charge.

And you only have to look at Swindon's statistics to see how dangerous they can be. Their current goal difference of +34 is 16 better than the division's next best, Doncaster's +18, while 29 goals conceded is League 1's best defensive record and only third-placed Bournemouth have scored more than their 63 goals.

Doncaster know that whatever happens in Friday's fixtures they will still be top by the time this one comes around on Monday, whereas Swindon could find themselves as low as fifth as they are currently level on points with Bournemouth and Brentford, the two teams immediately behind them, while Tranmere Rovers - currently fifth - are a point further back.

The season's first meeting ended 1-1 back in December while Swindon have never won a game at Doncaster in any competition, and have only beaten them three times in 19 previous attempts.


There isn't much time to draw breath over the Easter weekend with all 24 npower League 1 teams in action twice, meaning plenty of action at the top and bottom of the table.

As we have just covered, the current top two, Doncaster Rovers and Swindon Town, meet at the Keepmoat Stadium on Monday and both will be hoping to go into it on the back of a victory.

Doncaster's Friday fixture sees them head to Coventry City, who were 10th and five points off a Play-Off spot before receiving a 10-point deduction on Thursday afternoon that put them down to 14th.

Swindon have a home match on Friday as they take on Oldham Athletic, who are a point and a place outside the relegation zone under new boss Lee Johnson.

The Latics' Monday match is another big one for them as they head to Colchester United, who start Easter a place and four points further ahead.

Hoping to overhaul second-placed Swindon on Friday are Bournemouth, Brentford, Tranmere Rovers and Sheffield United.

The latter two meet at Prenton Park so they can't both get the win they would need to potentially go second but Bournemouth, who are at Colchester, and Brentford, at home to Notts County, are currently level on points with Swindon.

The home and away runs are reversed on Monday as Bournemouth host Scunthorpe United, who are fourth from bottom and a point adrift of safety, while Brentford head to mid-table Milton Keynes Dons.

Sheffield United are at home to Carlisle United and Tranmere go to Portsmouth, who have moved to third from bottom and five points from safety but having played three games more.

The teams in the bottom four will all be looking to spark their survival hopes with good point returns over the weekend.

Hartlepool United are currently bottom, six points adrift of safety, with a home game against MK Dons and a trip to Stevenage their challenge.

Bury are level on points with them and host Crewe Alexandra before travelling to Leyton Orient, while Pompey go to Preston North End before that game against Tranmere, whereas Scunthorpe are at home to Orient and then away to Bournemouth.

Friday's remaining games see Crawley Town host Stevenage, Yeovil Town up against Walsall and Carlisle welcoming Shrewsbury Town.

On Monday the fixture list is rounded off by Walsall at home to Coventry, Crewe hosting Preston, Shrewsbury taking on Crawley, and Notts County going up against Yeovil.

Click here for all the weekend's action

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