With the business end of the season fast approaching across all four English divisions, who is likely to come out on top in League One?
With Sheffield United currently sitting pretty on top of the league, followed by Scunthorpe, Fleetwood and Bolton, it is sure to be an exciting climax to the League One season.
So, let's have a look at each of the top four and their promotion credentials. starting with leaders Sheffield United.
The Blades will we hoping to return to the Championship after being relegated from the second tier of English football six years ago, and they certainly look good to do so. Top of the league by seven points, despite having played a game or two more than some of the teams below them. They are the highest scorers in the league and that has been the key to their success this season, and that is mainly down to Billy Sharp, who has played in every game in the league for the Blades. He has scored 23 league goals this season, making him the league's top scorer. They are slightly shaky at the back, and have conceded the most goals out of the current top four, although they still have the best goal difference. For me, Sheffield United are just too big for League One. Everything about them merits a Championship, if not top flight place. They have a fantastic stadium, and brilliant fans to fill it, as well as a top quality squad. They deserve promotion. Chris Wilder has got them playing some brilliant football, and it is a pleasure to watch. Personally, I'm tipping the Blades for the League One title.
The early trail blazers of League One fell away slightly over the festive period, only to regain their form and climb into the automatic promotion places. They are currently level on points with third place Fleetwood but with a game in hand, which they will be wanting to capitalize on. The key to the success of The Iron has been almost flawless home form. They have only lost once at home all season, and that came earlier this month to Shrewsbury. It is quite difficult to split them and Sheffield United at the top. Both teams have scored and conceded similar amounts and, but for a couple of draws from Scunthorpe, they would probably be level on points. Indeed, both of the games between the two have finished level, but it is currently the Blades who have an advantage, so it is important for Scunthorpe that they get a good win streak together. They have a big game with Fleetwood coming up, so it is vital that they win that one as I think that could give them a huge boost of confidence. As long as they can keep key players like Josh Morris and Kevin Van Veen fit, they have every chance of lifting the League One title. They will need to be careful to avoid losses like the ones against Shrewsbury, Rochdale and fellow high flyers Bolton, who they face in March.
I think it's safe to say no one really expected little Fleetwood Town to be up where they are, with no disrespect to the Cod Army. But they have deserved it, and they are currently the most in form side in the league. They haven't lost in seventeen games since the 12th November against Port Vale. Like Scunthorpe, they have only been beaten once at home and that was to MK Dons back in September and, again like Scunthorpe, it is their away form which lets them down slightly, having only taken 22 points from a possible 48 on the road so far this season. Manager Uwe Rosler has earned promotion from League One before with Brentford a few years ago, and will be eager to replicate the same thing with Fleetwood. There is a truly remarkable story around Fleetwood Town, considering ten years ago, they had an average gate of around 500 in the Northern Premier Division, and they only reached the Football League five years ago, the fact that they are even in with a shout of promotion to the Championship is a credit to the club, it is similar to Burton Albion. Fleetwood's back line is very solid, and they have kept fourteen clean sheets so far this season, but I feel they need to score a few more goals if they want to maintain their current position and better it. Devante Cole is starting to score some goals for the Cod Army, so Fleetwood fans will be hoping he can carry on doing so. Will Fleetwood survive if they get promoted to the Championship? Probably not, but it will certainly be a fantastic tale from the Lancashire club.
Bolton were relegated from the Championship just last season and consequently were pre season favourites to win the league. They have certainly looked good this season, but they aren't currently where they will want to be. This season is the first time they have been in the third tier for twenty-four years and, unlike some teams who find themselves in League One, they haven't panicked or looked destined to remain there. In fact, the best defensive team in the league haven't fallen victim to the sometimes unexpected difficulty of League One. Like Sheffield United, Bolton just seem 'too big' for League One. They spent eleven consecutive seasons in the top flight which only came to an end five years ago. I think it shows the extraordinary element of football when you look at teams like Bolton and Fleetwood. Ten years ago, Bolton were in the top tier while Fleetwood were in the seventh tier and now, Fleetwood are above them. Anyway, I apologise for going off on a tangent there. Phil Parkinson knows what it is like to compete in the play offs, having won them with Bradford in League Two, but I don't think play offs are his target with Bolton. The Trotters definitely aren't out of it, they are three points outside the automatic promotion places with a game in hand on Scunthorpe, and two on Sheffield United and Fleetwood. They have on the horizon big games against Fleetwood and Scunthorpe, which they will need to win if they want promotion. Their recent loss to Sheffield United was a blow for them, but they can't afford to dwell on it as the season comes to a close.
In my opinion, there are six teams who can still realistically challenge for the play offs and they are Bradford, Southend, Millwall, Peterborough, Oxford and Rochdale. Bristol Rovers and Walsall have an outside shot but they will need to play seriously well over the next couple of months. Oxford and Rochdale have two games in hand over Southend in the last play off place, and Millwall also have a game in hand over Southend. Just seven points separate Bradford in fifth and Rochdale in tenth, so it will certainly be very interesting to see how it all pans out over the remaining months
Play Off Battle Key Games
Millwall v Peterborough United (28th Feb)
Bradford City v Peterbrough United (4th March)
Peterborough United v Oxford United (11th March)
Rochdale v Millwall (21st March)
Bradford City v Oxford United (14th April)
Millwall v Oxford United (22nd April)
Rochdale v Bradford City (30th April)
My Predicted Top Six
1. Sheffield United
2. Bolton Wanderers
3. Scunthorpe United
4. Fleetwood Town
6. Bradford City
What do you think the top six will look like at the end of the season? Comment below!