League One remains tighter than a South African goal-line decision
League One has been a frustrating affair for most clubs this season, and unless you’re Brighton (happily sitting at the top of the table and unbeaten in eleven) you probably feel you have more to complain about than to celebrate; yet you look at the league table and see that your team still has a good shout at promotion.
At the end of a high-scoring weekend in the division, only 7 points separate 2nd and 21st. Three points can mean the difference between a play-off position and one just outside the relegation zone and no-one has been able to string more than three wins together yet.
Oldham 4-2 Plymouth, Exeter 2-4 Brentford, Tranmere 4-2 MK Dons
It was a weekend to forget for most defenders and goalkeepers, with only Charlton, Huddersfield and Brighton keeping clean sheets. The big news was that there were no less than three 4-2 scorelines, with Oldham, Brentford and Tranmere overcoming Plymouth, Exeter and MK Dons by that number respectively.
The results are especially welcome for Tranmere and Brentford, both of whom looked to be in serious trouble a few short weeks ago. Tranmere are now lifted out of the relegation zone with their second win in a row, having scored four the previous week as well. The MK Dons drop from 7th to 11th after yet another away defeat they have lost every away game this season with the exception of a win on the opening day.
Meanwhile a resurgent Brentford are propelled well clear of the red area and are now only a point behind the vanquished Exeter who have lost 5 of the last 7, along with their unbeaten home record. Grecians fans must be frustrated with their team’s inconsistency which has seen them pinging around the mid-table to lower play-off regions for most of the season.
Oldham maintain their unbeaten home record and move within a point of the play-offs while the poor Pilgrims plunge into the relegation zone for the first time this season; two red cards for Plymouth and two goals deep into injury time for Oldham being the evidence for a spirited fight-back from the Latics.
Peterborough 0-3 Brighton
Fans attending the home of Peterborough United this season had seen an incredible 33 goals in 6 games (21 for and 12 against) before this weekend, while table-topping Brighton had only conceded three on the road all season. Another high-scoring game was in store at London Road, but with Brighton on unstoppable form, none of the goals were to please the home fans.
The Seagulls took the lead with the aid of a brace from Ashley Barnes and by all accounts could have had more than the three they ended the game with. Brighton extend their lead to eight points and manager Gus Poyet’s bravado in front of the microphone continues, as well it might given their awe-inspiring start to the season.
Peterborough fans can console themselves with the fact that they are still very strong contenders for automatic promotion as they drop down to 5th.
Huddersfield 1-0 Walsall
While Brighton set the pace, Huddersfield lead the ever expanding chasing pack, but made things tough for themselves at home to troubled Walsall. The Terriers had to play most of the game with ten men after Alan Lee was sent off for violent conduct, but a barnstorming 30-yarder soon after from Anthony Pilkington was enough to send the Saddlers to the foot of the table as the ten men hung on against a Walsall side bereft of new ideas.
This is Walsall’s second defeat in a row, stymieing a mini-revival they had put together; conversely Huddersfield look back on more solid ground after a difficult spell a couple of weeks ago.
Bournemouth 1-2 Colchester, Notts County 1-2 Southampton
Bournemouth’s unbeaten home record was the second to fall as the Cherries fell from second this weekend. The south coast team had been the early season’s high scorers, and while they have gone off the boil a bit by the standards they set for themselves their opponents, Colchester had to draw on all their reserve to hold out against a late onslaught and win the game 2-1.
Bournemouth drop to fourth, while Colchester leapfrog them into third; despite having only won five games all season, the same amount as Notts County who had no such luck. Southampton lie second in the current form table (behind Brighton of course) and despite going in at half-time 1-0 down at Meadow Lane, ran out 3-1 winners.
A red card for the Magpies’ John Thompson and a subsequent penalty by Richie Lambert initiated the Saints’ come-back. Paul Ince’s managerial debut ruined and County fans left to gee themselves up with what has been a creditable start to life in League One. Saints can start talking up their chances again as they rise to 9th after an opening two months of turmoil both on and off the pitch.
Charlton 1-0 Sheff Wed
Saints claim the early-season bouncebackability award at the expense of Sheffield Wednesday who had led the league early on, plummeted to 16th after 5 games without a win, and then brushed themselves off and climbed back up the ladder to find themselves in 4th place.
Travelling Owls fans were left wondering where the fight had gone at the Valley as Charlton won at a canter, able to take things easy after an early goal. Wednesday drop to just outside the play-offs. The Addicks must have been relieved at the lack of fight in their opponents after last weekend’s 4-3 thriller at Brunton Park and they themselves now occupy the last play-off spot, after a yet another story this season of mini-revivals to end a mini-blips.
Dagenham 1-1 Hartlepool
One team who know nothing of ‘blips’ are Dagenham and Redbridge, who have only been able to rise from the relegation zone twice this season to take a deep breath before sinking back under. One can hardly blame them though, this is the highest this young team have ever been and if they are finding it tough at this level at least the tightness of the league keeps safety well and truly within reach; and safety is what the Daggers are playing for this season.
They may have felt a tad unfortunate as an own goal in the dying seconds from Mark Arber rescued a point for Hartlepool, but then the Essex team also benefited from the misplaced foot of an opposing defender as an own goal from Peter Hartley gave them the lead in the first half.
Dagenham lift off the bottom of the table, while the Monkey Hangers hang nervously close to the frothing pool of the relegation zone despite also lifting a place.
Leyton Orient 2-1 Rochdale, Yeovil 3-3 Swindon
More movement in the bottom half from Leyton Orient, Yeovil Town and Swindon Town. Rochdale have settled in well in the middle division after an excruciatingly long wait to get here. Defeat away at Orient will have knocked them off their stride somewhat, but as with most teams, they only have to wait till the next game for a chance to get back among the play-offs.
Dale fans though may share their manager’s view that the O’s equaliser from the spot was created by an incorrect decision by the ref to award the penalty, and another goal to take the game 2-1 means Orient move out of the relegation places. Yeovil and Swindon meanwhile, threw their all into a local derby and potential six-pointer at Huish Park and Robins fans, whose team’s away form has let them down this season, may have felt hopeful when they took the lead.
The Glovers meanwhile have only won one at home all season and were determined to end a poor run when they equalised just before half-time and amounted a 3-1 lead shortly after the restart. A share of the points was salvaged in dramatic fashion by two goals from Swindon in the last three minutes, with a spectacular strike from Jon-Paul McGovern sending the away fans home delighted, and perhaps a little relieved having given away the initial lead.
Bristol Rovers 1-1 Carlisle
Injury hit Carlisle United are starting to feeling the bite-back after a positive start to the season and fielded a highly unusual 3-4-3 formation when they visited Bristol Rovers. The Pirates, who had scored 4 goals in the last two games, scored again, but despite coming into this on the back of two defeats, the Cumbrians had also scored 4 in 2 and grabbed a late equaliser.
The travelling fans may have taken a point away from home against a strong Bristolian outfit before the game, but were left wondering what might have been on the long journey home after the league’s joint second top-scorer, Gary Madine had a penalty saved deep into injury time. They drop 2 places from 8th to 10th while Rovers, who could have jumped to 7th remain unchanged in 12th.
So in summary, lots of goals, lots of movement… Unbeaten home records lost and bounce-backs consolidated. A weekend for League One fans to feel smugly superior at the diversity and drama created in what is probably the least reported on division. Another full complement of games comes around this Tuesday and maybe this time the pundits will watch more closely.