If you are a regular reader of All Out Football, you might have seen the articles earlier this week grading the starts to the season made by all twenty-four Championship clubs. And, with just days until the new year, I will be having a look at the League One teams and how they have got on, in my eyes, in the first half of the season.
This is the first part of what will be a four part article, with six teams graded in each. This part looks at AFC Wimbledon, Bolton, Bradford, Bristol Rovers, Bury and Charlton.
AFC Wimbledon were one of four League Two clubs promoted last season and, out of those clubs, they are doing second best this season, a point behind Bristol Rovers. They didn't exactly have the best start to the season, not winning a single game in August, but they found their feet in September losing just once all month. The main problem for AFC Wimbledon is that they lack consistency, and it is that inconsistency that has landed them in mid table going into 2017. They will also be buoyed by the possibility of a return to Plough Lane. I'm sure AFC Wimbledon fans will be quite happy with their league position, especially as they are above MK Dons. If they want to go even higher up the table, they will need to start picking up consecutive wins, but it is looking good for them at the moment.
Bolton were relegated from the Championship last season with MK Dons and Charlton but, unlike those two, they find themselves at the top end of the table. They were many bookies' favourites for promotion pre-season, and they are looking very likely candidates. Not many points separate the top three of Scunthorpe, Sheffield United and the Trotters, so it is certainly very tight but by no means a three horse race. With many games still left, everything could change. Phil Parkinson will be extremely happy with his defence, as they have only conceded fourteen goals all season, making them the best defence in the league. Despite their success on the pitch, Bolton have serious financial problems, with recent reports suggesting they lose £800,000 every month. To not get promotion from League One could have an extremely negative impact on the club.
After having Phil Parkinson poached by Bolton, the Bantams made Stuart McCall their new boss, and he has done a good job so far. Bradford have drawn the most games out of anyone else in League One and, had they not drawn all of those games, you feel they might be higher up in the League table than the Play-Offs. This is by no means a bad thing though, as long as they are there or thereabouts, I feel like Bradford have a good shot of getting promoted. At the moment, there is a decent gap between them and second place, but all they need is to win a few on the spin and they will quickly see that gap close. Personally, I think Bradford belong in the Championship, they have a fantastic stadium and fan base which merits a place in the Championship. The only down side for Bradford is the fact that they have been knocked out of both the EFL and FA Cup, by Accrington Stanley on both occasions. However, this could be a blessing in disguise as they can fully concentrate on the league.
Bristol Rovers - A-
Similarly to AFC Wimbledon, Bristol Rovers have done very well so far. After a shaky start, they went on to only lose two of their eleven games in September and October. Their main man Matty Taylor is the third top scorer in the league with thirteen goals and he has popped up at vital times with goals that have pushed his side into a comfortable mid table spot. Again, like AFC Wimbledon, they lack consistency which would enable them to be a Play-Off side. They have taken the jump from League Two in their stride and coped with it very well. They just need to keep picking up good wins and draws which will keep them where they are or even elevate them higher up the table. Whether or not they keep hold of Matty Taylor this window will also be huge for them, as losing him could be a massive blow.
The first half of Bury's season really has been split in two. After ten games, they were second in the table, but, since their win at MK Dons in September, they haven't won a game. The awful run of form they are currently in has left them 20th and, since parting company with David Flitcroft in November, results haven't really improved. Chris Brass has been appointed until the end of the season and he has a hell of a task on his hands if he wants to stop the Shakers' decline. They clearly need defensive change, as they have conceded the most goals in the league compared to any other team. James Vaughan seems to be the only silver lining to the Bury cloud, having scored ten goals for them this season. Bury aren't really struggling to score, they just need to stop conceding in order to pick up points. It is going to be an interesting transfer window and second half of the season for Bury and their fans.
Charlton Athletic - C
Charlton didn't have the best start to the season, winning just two games in August and September, but since then they have been picking up good wins, which are also accompanied by some poor defeats. Russell Slade was given the sack in November and Karl Robinson stepped in to take his place, grabbing his first win of his reign at Charlton against his former side MK Dons on Boxing Day. I have seen Charlton play a few times this season and they have some very good players, yet they don't always seem to function well as a team. Similarly to how their club isn't functioning very well with the disputes between the fans and their dreadful owner still ongoing. Ademola Lookman is off to Everton in January for big money, and it will be interesting to see how this money is spent by Karl Robinson, as he was never given huge amounts of funds when at MK Dons. Mid table for Charlton at the moment is alright, but they will definitely be looking to climb the table and challenge for promotion in 2017.
Do you agree with these grades? Let us know in the comments below!