26/01/2013 : Football League Blog : The League One Promotion Race
26 January 2013 : The League One Promotion Race
The clichéd 'business end' of the season is soon to be upon us and the League One promotion race is still so finely poised and looks like that it will go to the final set of games. Who will be going up to the Championship which is of course one division from the Promised Land?

At the moment the two Rovers are at the summit of the league currently only separated by goal difference. Tranmere and Doncaster. The team from the Wirral have surprised many by keeping up their early season form into the New Year but their promotion credentials have been severely tested by the likes of Swindon Town and Coventry City amongst others. In truth they are fortunate that their rivals had slipped up as well otherwise they may not be at the top. However, take nothing away from Ronnie Moore’s side, they have grinded out results and when the final tables are published at the end of the season, results are all that count.

My pick for the automatic promotion spots are Doncaster Rovers and Sheffield United. Doncaster were relegated from the championship last season and are now under new management and to add they have only lost two of their last thirteen league games. Sheffield United are arguably the biggest club in the division as they are the only team in the league with fairly recent Premier League experience. Despite a recent dip in form I expect the Blades to overturn the current eight point deficit they have to earn promotion.
Such is the league this year, there are eleven other sides that would say that they have a chance of promotion this year. One of these teams is Brentford who were fancied before the season by many punters to reach the Championship however I highly doubt that they can get the automatic spot because of their spouts of inconsistency that have severed their ties with the top two.

Early on in the season, it looked like that Coventry could be set for a second successive relegation but since the appointment of Mark Robins they have been in stunning form. Two defeats in their last twelve games shows how good the Sky Blues have been of late. They are currently three points off the playoffs and I expect them to overcome that gap to reach them.

Bournemouth are in a very similar situation to Coventry. They too started the season awfully but a new manager came in and turned the tables completely. In this occasion it was local treasure Eddie Howe, a boyhood supporter of the club that made his return to the south coast side in favour of championship side Burnley. His bold decision has paid off so far as they have only lost one league game since he returned and came close to an FA Cup upset against Wigan. Some believe they are a certainty for the play-off positions but I believe that Eddie Howe has a lot more work to do before they can start dreaming of the Championship.

Now it is the side that everybody loves to hate, the Dons of Milton Keynes. I will not dwell on the controversy of their existence but share my thoughts on their promotion prospects. They have been defeated in play-offs in previous years but I believe that they will reach the playoffs and perhaps this year they could actually succeed in reaching the second division of English football. They have a good squad of players aswell as a good coaching teams which includes former Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Greenwich Borough striker Ian Wright. Although I know many fans would not like to see it, I think Peter Winkleman may be smiling come the end of May.

Talking of controversial figures, Paolo Di Canio seems to be enjoying being at the helm of Swindon as they sit in the playoff places. Despite various controversial actions in his reign he has achieved was is most important. Points. He has become a cult hero with a majority of Swindon’s supporters and they have warmed to his spontaneous personality. Many were unsure what Swindon would achieve when they returned to this league, some suggested promotion others suggested survival in the league is most important and consolidating their league status. They seem to have crept up the league without setting it alight although a 5-0 crushing of Tranmere did highlight how good they can be. Two players who have caught the eye are Matt Ritchie who plays on the wing and young keeper Wesley Foderingham who has been remarkably consistent for such a young keeper that had little first team experience before joining them. With a team managed by such an unpredictable figure, it is difficult to predict where they will finish. I think they are capable of finishing in the play-offs and I will make the bold prediction that they will.

Now to a side that, since losing the League One play off final to Blackpool in 2007, have looked more likely to become a League Two side than a Championship one. Yet under Gary Johnson they have been enjoying a season without relegation worries. Yeovil Town linger four points from the playoffs with a game in hand on sixth place Bournemouth. They were near the summit of the league early on in the season but fell away from the automatic promotion spots over the course of the season. However, a superb win at Sheffield United in their last game proved that they still have a slim chance of promotion. Even if they do not get near the play-offs, a mid-table finish would be an excellent achievement that should be recognised considering how hard it had been for previous Yeovil manager (now an assistant) Terry Skiverton, to consolidate the team from Somerset.

Crawley Town, Notts County, Walsall, Crewe Alexandra and Stevenage would all not completely rule themselves out of the race for the play-offs as the former two are only five points off and the latter two just six. I think it is too much to ask for Crewe or Stevenage to get to the playoffs, same for Crawley who showed so much promise earlier in the season. However I believe Notts County can put up a fight with the other contenders so their progress will be interesting to observe. I also think Walsall could trouble the top six however I do not think the playoffs are a realistic ambition but they have done so well to avoid another relegation battle

It is going to be a very exciting promotion race particularly if you support one of the clubs mentioned, with so much benefit coming from being a championship team we know all the clubs have the ambition and desire to get there. Let me know what your predictions are, you can comment below or find me @FleetNutter on Twitter.

Henry’s final predictions:
Champions: Doncaster Rovers
Runners up: Sheffield United
Playoffs: Coventry, Swindon, MK Dons, Tranmere

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