Thursday, 8 November 2018

League 1: October Review

League 1 is beginning to get very interesting month after a very intriguing October with plenty of quality goals, football and the usual controversies and pressures the 3rd tier brings. Portsmouth continue to lead the way after an excellent month with Peterborough hot on their heels in 2nd place. While Sunderland, Barnsley, Luton and Accrington Stanley make up the top 6. While Bradford, Wimbledon, Plymouth and Oxford Utd make up the bottom 4 but the bottom half of the table is extremely tight with teams clustered together.

Portsmouth enjoyed another excellent month with Pompey perched very nicely at the top with just 1 defeat in their 6 games as well as 3 wins in that time. Their only blemish being a very disappointing home defeat to Gillingham at the start of the month. Kenny Jackett has turned them into a machine on their travels with Pompey having the best away record in the entire country and are still unbeaten on the road this season. Peterborough ended October in 2nd place after by their standards a pretty average month. 3 wins, 1 draw and 2 defeats mean they trail Pompey at the top by 3 points. Steve Evans’ side problems in October have certainly been their home form with both defeats coming at the ABBEX stadium against Accrington and a heavy 4-0 to Barnsley. Evans will be disappointed with their recent home form but will be pleased with Posh’s start overall. One side on a mammoth charge is 3rd place Sunderland after an unbeaten October as well being on a 4-match winning streak. Sunderland are steamrolling their opponents and Jack Ross will be delighted with the quality of football his side are playing. Josh Maja in particular is flourishing under the highly regarded Scot with the young striker notching 9 league goals while others such as Chris Maguire and Aiden McGeady are also in excellent form. Sunderland are turning into the contenders we expected and no doubt with a game in hand over the top 2, Jack Ross will be confident his side can keep their impressive run going. The rest of the top 6 is made up of Barnsley, Luton and Accrington. Daniel Stendel has started very well at Barnsley and October has continued in that same fashion with the Tykes collecting 12 points from a possible 18. Kieffer Moore has continued his good start to the season while the likes of Brad Potts, George Moncur and Cameron McGeehan are beginning to sparkle under the German’s high press and exciting football. The tykes lie in 4th place and remain in touching distance of the top 2. Luton are also going extremely well following promotion back to League 1. Nathan Jones has kept last season’s momentum going and the Hatters are flying playing some excellent football and getting the results to boot. 5 wins from 6 in October for Luton with a defeat to Barnsley being their only disappointment. 28 points from their first 16 games of the season is a brilliant start for the Hatters and no doubt Jones will want their good run to continue during November. Accrington Stanley have taken to League 1 like a duck to water and are thoroughly enjoying their debut season in the third tier. While they did lose 2 of their 6 games during October, Stanley won 3 of them and looking completely at home. The dream of back to back promotions is certainly not out of the question for the club with arguably the lowest budget in the 3rd tier. John Coleman continues to do a wonderful job both on and off the pitch with astute signings like Offrande Zanzala who is beginning to shine following his move from Derby. The young striker has notched 4 goals all in the month of October and he is certainly enjoying his season.

Other sides enjoying October included Coventry, Fleetwood and Southend. The sky blues of Coventry are absolutely soaring right now after 5 straight league wins. Mark Robins’ side have charged from the middle section of the bottom half right up to 7th place and only outside the play-off places on goal difference. The sky blues haven’t won 5 league games on the spin since the 1960s and suddenly, they have turned into promotion contenders. Efficiency has proved key to Coventry’s run with the players taking their chances in front of goal and proving difficult to break down defensively. But Coventry have also shown desire in their terrific run highlighted in their comeback victory at the Valley against Charlton. That win at the beginning of October really ignited Coventry’s season and this terrific run and Robins will hope their positive form continues going into a packed November. The Cod Army of Fleetwood and The Shrimpers of Southend also had relatively good Octobers both collecting 10 points from their 6 games including 3 wins. Joey Barton has made a good start to life in management and no doubt is aiming to get Fleetwood closer to the top likewise Chris Powell and Southend will be hoping to push towards that top 6 in the coming weeks but inconsistency is costing both sides, and both will want to start November well to give them the best chance of catching the top 6.

In contrast, times are proving tough for the current bottom 4. Bradford, Wimbledon, Plymouth and Oxford are struggling to get their seasons up and running. Bradford are rooted to the bottom of the table and have already changed manager this season. David Hopkin is desperately struggling to get the Bantams going having collected just 4 points in his 10 league games in charge. The Bantams are on a dreadful run having lost 5 in a row and there is mounting pressure both on and off the pitch for improvement with the fans majorly unhappy with the club’s German owners. Bradford are severely poor defensively conceding 30 goals in their 16 games this season and are winless at Valley Parade this season. The problems are beginning to mount at the club and the pressure is further increasing and surely if this poor run continues, the Bradford hierarchy may be forced into a 2nd managerial change of the season and we are only just about to enter November. Despite this, there is a saving grace for the Bantams as AFC Wimbledon are on an even more dreadful run than them having lost all 6 of their league games during October. Fans favourite Neal Ardley is under increasing pressure and is desperate for a victory somewhere to ignite their season once again. They started the season brilliantly unbeaten in their opening 3 matches but have won just 2 of the next 13 losing the other 11. While the board have publicly back club legend Ardley, the fans are growing increasingly frustrated with the football and position in the table. Since joining the football league in 2011, Wimbledon hadn’t lost 6 on the spin until now and Ardley must get them going otherwise they are starting at their first football league relegation since reforming in 2004. Goals are proving allusive for Ardley’s men with Wimbledon notching just 11 league goals and you cannot win games if you don’t score goals. Both Bradford and Wimbledon are desperate to turn their seasons around and could the managerial axe fall on both clubs during November? Only time will tell but their form must improve, and fast otherwise relegation is inevitable even at this early stage of the season. Despite both clubs remaining in the bottom 4, October did see improvement for both Plymouth and Oxford Utd. The Pilgrims of Plymouth collected 10 points from their 6 games lifting them up to 22nd. Derek Adams however is still under pressure from the fans even sparking a rift between him and the fans following comments he made after their 3-1 win over Gillingham. Plymouth are very much making up for a dreadful first 2 months of the campaign, but a more encouraging October has installed some confidence into the players. Oxford Utd meanwhile are on the best run of the season despite still sitting in the bottom 4. The U’s are unbeaten in their last 5 games winning twice. Karl Robinson is slowly getting his side to gel and more importantly take their chances in front of goal.  The U’s are improving and are now only outside the bottom 4 on goal difference. Like Plymouth, Oxford are also making up for a poor first 2 months of the season but are moving in the right direction.

However, sides who didn’t enjoy October included Charlton, Doncaster and Scunthorpe. Lee Bowyer will be extremely disappointed with his Charlton side having lost 3 of their 5 games and winning just once. A poor month for the Addicks have seen Charlton side into mid table having started October in the top 6. Doncaster also endured a poor October losing 4 of their 6 games seeing them slide out of the top 6 and down to 10th. Grant McCann will be hoping November is the month to recapture their early season form. Goals are proving tough in recent matches and keeping them out is also an issue having been excellently tight at the back during the opening months of the season. However, Charlton and Doncaster poor month doesn’t compare to how bad Scunthorpe’s was. Stuart McCall started excellently staying unbeaten in his first 5 games winning twice however, 5 straight defeats have followed, and the Iron are hovering nervously above the bottom 4. McCall is no doubt frustrated having seen his side excelled during September but majorly decline in October. The Iron are well below expectations and McCall must them going again to push them up the right end of the table.

October was excellent yet again and no doubt November will be the same with some mouth-watering games to come including Accrington vs Barnsley, Coventry vs Peterborough, Sunderland vs Barnsley, Bradford vs Oxford, Burton vs Coventry and Scunthorpe vs Portsmouth. October gave us an insight into the direction of teams’ season and no doubt November will offer further clarity. But the football league is so unpredictable so anything could happen. The pressure will increase on managers as the season begins to reach its busiest period and will the managerial axe fall in the month of November? Only points and form during November will gives an idea.

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