We look ahead to the upcoming fixtures in Sky Bet League 1.TOP OF THE TREE
Bristol City have led Sky Bet League 1 for the majority of the season and sit at the summit going into the busy period of games with 43 points, but they aren’t in total command.
They suffered their first defeat of the campaign in mid-November and have since lost twice more, including last time out against rock-bottom Crewe Alexandra. Prior to their defeat to the Railwaymen they picked up six points by seeing off Peterborough United and Crawley Town, and it’s those results that keep them at the top, in front of Preston North End, Swindon Town and Milton Keynes Dons, who are all on 41 points.
Steve Cotterill’s men host lowly Yeovil Town on Boxing Day before a trip another struggling side, Gillingham, on Sunday 28th December. They won’t be taking those two lightly though, after their surprise loss to Crewe.
The chasing pack is headed up by MK Dons and they are fresh from a club-record 7-0 mauling of Oldham Athletic. A trip to seventh-placed Notts County is next up for Karl Robinson’s side before they host Walsall at stadiummk.
HOME COMFORTS: MK Dons have collected 26 points from 11 games on home soil, scoring a league-high 33 goals.
Swindon slipped to third after the Dons’ memorable victory, with the Robins losing against Doncaster to end a run of five successive wins. Mark Cooper’s men have a trip to Walsall on their hands first and then meet mid-table Port Vale at the County Ground.
LEVEL PEGGING: The head-to-head record between Swindon and Walsall reads 32 wins apiece, alongside 27 draws.
Fourth-placed Preston are the other team that could sit at the summit going into 2015 and they’ve notched three wins in four, conceding only once. It’s Lancashire versus Yorkshire on Boxing Day when the Lilywhites entertain Barnsley, and they then go to bottom-of-the-table Crewe possessing the best away record in the division with 22 points registered over 11 games on the road.
With six vital points on offer for teams over this crucial period of the season, the Sky Bet League 1 table could look a lot different over the next week, and that’s compounded by the fact sixth to 16th are separated by only five points.
Sheffield United are two points ahead of sixth but haven’t won in five, although they’ve drawn four of those and recently secured a place in the Capital One Cup Semi-Finals by beating Premier League Southampton 1-0.
The Blades will need to improve their form in Sky Bet League 1 if there are to remain in the Play-Offs going into the new year and they are up against Port Vale and Scunthorpe United. They’ve only lost to Port Vale five times in 36 clashes over the years and haven’t suffered a defeat to the Iron in five meetings, since February 2011.
Rochdale sit in the lowest Play-Off place but have only triumphed once in six, and that’s the same story for Notts County who are seventh but level on points with Dale after the pair contested a 2-2 draw last time out.
Keith Hill’s side go to Scunthorpe on Boxing Day for an encounter between two sides promoted from Sky Bet League 2 last term, before they host 12th-placed Fleetwood Town. County, meanwhile, play the MK Dons and then have a key clash on Sunday against Bradford, who are one point behind them an on a run of five unbeaten matches.
FAMILIAR FACE: Notts County’s clash with Bradford will see midfielder Gary Jones play against his former club. The 37-year-old was a key player in the Bantams side that won promotion from League 2 and reached the Capital One Cup Final, but he now features in the Magpies’ midfield.
Prior to their match against County, Phil Parkinson’s Bradford take on Fleetwood. The Cod Army are on 27 points but good results against Rochdale and the Bantams could fire them into the Play-Off mix.
Peterborough United and Oldham are level on points with Bradford (30), but come into the schedule out of sorts. The Posh have lost six of nine, including last weekend to Preston, and the Latics have been thumped in their most recent two, against Yeovil and MK Dons, conceding 11 goals.
Once the turkey has settled, Darren Ferguson’s side are at Chesterfield on Boxing Day, which is a big game with only two points between them, before they welcome the visit of Doncaster. How Oldham recover from that embarrassing loss will be key and they play Crewe and Barnsley over this busy period.
Walsall are the form team in the mid-table bulk as they have the momentum of an unbeaten run of seven matches behind them, prior to their aforementioned matches against Swindon and MK Dons. These matches against two sides firmly in the promotion mix will test their credentials ahead of 2015.
The last time Crewe ended a prolonged spell without a win they went on to record three successive victories to spark a revival, and they have the chance to do that again, against Oldham and Preston, following their morale-boosting 1-0 victory at home to table-toppers Bristol City on Saturday.
The three points took the Railwaymen level with Leyton Orient on 19, and the O’s have lost three of four ahead of their clashes against Crawley Town and fellow strugglers Yeovil.
It has been a nightmare first half of the season for Orient after they were defeated in last term’s Play-Off Final, and they will need to turn a corner under boss Fabio Liverani if they are to escape trouble. The Italian is yet to win a game since his appointment in the early stages of this month.
Just the one: Leyton Orient and Yeovil have only won once at home so far this term, as well as mid-table Doncaster.
Yeovil are one point and one place above Liverani’s men, highlighting just how important their encounter is on Monday 29th December. Prior to that, Gary Johnson takes his men to his former club Bristol City, who they’ve only managed to beat once in six meetings.
The Glovers lost to Colchester United last time out and that result ended a run of five straight defeats for the U’s. They remain in the bottom four but only two points adrift of Crawley, who haven’t won in seven. Colchester play Crawley on Sunday in a key clash, just days after they host Gillingham, who are also on 22 points, in another six-pointer.
It’s set to be a telling few days at the foot of the Sky Bet League 1 table, that’s for sure.
Upcoming Sky Bet League 1 fixtures:
Friday 26th December
Bristol City v Yeovil Town
Chesterfield v Peterborough United
Colchester United v Gillingham
Doncaster Rovers v Coventry City
Fleetwood Town v Bradford City
Leyton Orient v Crawley Town
Notts County v Milton Keynes Dons
Oldham Athletic v Crewe Alexandra
Port Vale v Sheffield United
Preston North End v Barnsley
Scunthorpe United v Rochdale
Walsall v Swindon Town
Sunday 28th December
Bradford City v Notts County
Coventry City v Chesterfield
Crawley Town v Colchester United
Crewe Alexandra v Preston North End
Gillingham v Bristol City
Milton Keynes Dons v Walsall
Peterborough United v Doncaster Rovers
Rochdale v Fleetwood
Sheffield United v Scunthorpe United
Swindon Town v Port Vale
Monday 29th December
Barnsley v Oldham Athletic
Yeovil Town v Leyton Orient