By Connor Lawson
With the League One season now under a month away, many fans will be looking forward to facing their big rivals home and away. In this article, I’m going to look at some of the biggest rivalries in the league.
AFC Wimbledon v MK Dons
Now, before I receive comments such as “this game shouldn’t exist” let’s just agree that, although it shouldn’t, it does. So let’s get into this intense rivalry. I am sure you do not need to be told about why these two hate each other, and the reason behind the hatred makes it the most unique rivalry in the country. Although some AFC Wimbledon fans may proclaim that they do not care one iota about MK Dons and refuse to recognise them as a legitimate club, the majority do care about the game, which was proven by the 2,000 Wombles fans who went to Stadium:MK last season. I could look at the head-to-head record of this tie in ‘recent times’ but there isn’t really anything beyond recent times. AFC Wimbledon are just 15 years old with MK Dons two years younger. The two sides have faced each other five times, with the first encounter being in 2o12. MK Dons have won three of these ties, whilst AFC Wimbledon have won two. Last season was the first time ever that the two sides faced each other in the league, with both sides winning at home against their fierce rivals. AFC Wimbledon fans remain deeply hurt by the events which led to their club relocating to Milton Keynes, and understandably so. The hurt boils over into anger aimed at MK Dons, a perfect example would be when an AFC Wimbledon twitter podcast refused to put ‘MK Dons’ on their fixture graphic for the 17/18 season, calling them ‘Opponent’ instead. The teams first go head-to-head at Kingsmeadow on 22nd September, before AFC Wimbledon travel to Milton Keynes on 13th January.
Charlton v AFC Wimbledon
The only two London clubs in League One are Charlton and AFC Wimbledon, and this is another new rivalry. The two have only faced each other twice and both of those encounters were last season. The Addicks failed to beat AFC Wimbledon last season, with the Wombles picking up a win at The Valley, and drawing with Charlton at Kingsmeadow. The tension of this derby match was ramped up when Charlton appointed ex-MK Dons manager Karl Robinson. Upon their visit to Kingsmeadow, Robinson had to be escorted around the ground by stewards. The animosity felt towards Robinson was illustrated with a banner that read “Karl Robinson is a lying c***” held up by AFC Wimbledon fans. After the full time whistle at Kingsmeadow, a member of the AFC Wimbledon staff said something ‘appalling’ to Karl Robinson, prompting an angry reaction from the Charlton boss who had to be held back. Assuming Robinson remains Charlton manager next season, his visit to Kingsmeadow is sure to be eventful in a South London derby with a whole new meaning besides locality. The two sides face each other at The Valley on 28th October and at Kingsmeadow on 3rd March.
Blackpool v Fleetwood
Just a half an hour drive separates Bloomfield Road and Highbury Stadium of Blackpool and Fleetwood respectively. However, like both of the other games we have looked at, these two aren’t old rivals, having only played each other three times in history. The first time the two sides met in 2012, Fleetwood were in what is now the National League and Blackpool were in the Championship. Blackpool won 5-1, with a certain Jamie Vardy bagging Fleetwood’s only goal. After relegations on Blackpool’s part and promotions for Fleetwood, they faced each other in League One in the 15/16 season, with the two games ending with a 1-0 Blackpool win and a 0-0 draw. Now, the two are in the same division again. For the first time Fleetwood will probably be considered favourites for this game after their play-off campaign of last season. It really wouldn’t surprise me if Fleetwood took six points off Blackpool when the two sides go head-to-head. Fleetwood and Blackpool fans will turn out in their numbers for the game, and I am sure many fans already have the two dates in their diary, Highbury on 25th November and Bloomfield Road on 14th April.
Plymouth v Portsmouth
Known as the Dockyard Derby, this rivalry can be dated back to 1921 when the pair first met in Portsmouth, drawing 1-1. Since then, there have been 61 competitive encounters between the two sides, with Portsmouth winning 26 games and Plymouth winning 25. Despite the bitter rivalry between the two sides, it is a pretty lengthy 3.5 hour trip to get from one ground to the other. Both teams are newly promoted from League Two and were the two best supported sides in the division during their time there, and their fan bases will be easily be able to compete with many League One clubs. Their rivalry was at its peak over the last two seasons. In the season just gone, Portsmouth snatched the League Two crown from Plymouth on goal difference despite both encounters last season ending level. In the season before that, Plymouth finished three points above Pompey but ended up facing them in the play-offs. The game at Fratton Park ended 2-2, and Plymouth ended up going onto the final after a late winner at Home Park, although they lost to AFC Wimbledon at Wembley, missing out on promotion. The age of this fixture can be seen by the fact that the two have played each other in nine different competitions. The two dates for the fans to look out for are 25th November at Fratton Park and April 14th at Home Park, both ties will certainly be one for the television cameras.
Bury v Rochdale
This post-war derby, known as the M66 Derby, was first played in 1946 in the FA Cup, and it ended in a thrilling 3-3 draw. This game has since been played 65 times, with Bury winning 26 of the games to Rochdale’s 19. In fact, these two have faced each other at least once every year since 2002. The regularity of this tie stems from the two sides being promoted or relegated to and from the same divisions at similar times. When Rochdale won promotion from League Two in 2010, Bury followed suit in 2011 and when Rochdale were relegated from League One in 2012, Bury were also relegated in 2013. Finally, when Rochdale were promoted to League One in 2014, Bury were promoted in 2015, leaving both sides where they are now. Rochdale have won all three of the last fixtures against Bury, who have only won one of the last seven ties. It is just a twenty minute trip from Gigg Lane to Spotland, across the M66, as the name of the derby suggests. Last season, it was Rochdale who had a considerably better season, finishing 19 points above Bury, who survived the drop by just a point. The dates for the derbies this season are 26th August at Spotland and 3rd April at Gigg Lane
Northampton v Peterborough
These two sides are separated by a little over 40 miles. The Nene Derby as its known has been played since 1946, where they played each other three times in the same month in the FA Cup, before the introduction of penalties. The first two games finished 1-1, but Northampton beat Peterborough 8-1 in the second replay. In a total of 68 games between both sides, Posh have won 29 to Northampton’s 21. The two games they played against each other in League One last season were the first time they faced each other in 7 years. Peterborough have won all three of the most recent encounters and the Cobblers have only won four of the fourteen games played in the 21st century. Northampton will be keen to re-assert themselves against these old rivals this season, whilst Peterborough will be keen to hold onto theirs. I think both sides are destined to be mid table League One teams this season, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a couple of draws when they go toe-to-toe next season, at Sixfields on 26th August and at London Road on 2nd April.
What have we missed? Which of these games are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments!