Wednesday, 3 October 2018

League 1: September Review (Matchday 7-10)

League 1 brought its usual entertainment throughout September with some excellent football, quality goals and managers beginning to feel the heat with the season really beginning to click into gear. Portsmouth are absolutely flying along with Peterborough at the top. While Plymouth, Oxford, Bradford and Gillingham make up the bottom 4.

It has been a wonderful opening couple of months for Portsmouth and Kenny Jackett. Pompey are the only unbeaten side left in League 1 notching 24 points from their opening 10 games. They are looking very strong indeed and goals are firmly finding the opposition’s net. There is a real buzz around the whole football club and no doubt they will carry this momentum going into October. Peterborough are also going well. Despite a complete squad change from last season, Steve Evans has managed to get his new side to gel quickly and they are also going well in the top 2. Jason Cummings and Sikiri Dembele have caught the eye during the opening months of the season and no doubt Evans will want their form to continue going into October.

Doncaster, Accrington Stanley and Scunthorpe have all had a strong September. Grant McCann has made a brilliant start in charge of Doncaster with Rovers storming into 3rd place in League 1 after 4 straight league wins. Rovers are really in a purple patch of form as is striker John Marquis who is slowly finding his best form. Newly promoted Accrington Stanley are also going well with John Coleman’s side winning their last 2 games and unbeaten in 4 during September. Accrington have been a breath of fresh air in their first ever season in the third of English football. While they are not a team of stars, they are defying all expectations as a team and really have a strong belief and confidence installed by their magnificent manager John Coleman. One man who is taking his first steps in a new job is Stuart McCall at Scunthorpe and he has started well in the hot seat losing just once so far. McCall has managed to get Scunthorpe going after a slow start to the season which cost Nick Daws his job. Unbeaten throughout September emphasises the good job done so far by McCall with club sat in 10th place.

However, the season has been very disappointing for Gillingham, Oxford Utd and Bradford. Gillingham started brilliantly winning their opening 2 games however, just 2 points from the next 8 games have seen the Gills fall down the table and drop into the bottom 4. Steve Lovell is struggling to buy a win from somewhere and while goals haven’t necessarily dried up, their defence is shipping far too many goals and Lovell must sort their defence and quickly if they are going to improve in October. Another side severely struggling is Oxford Utd who just cannot seem to stop conceding or get themselves going in matches. Karl Robinson’s side have won just once in the league this season and goals are very much proving allusive with the U’s struggling to find the net consistently. Their form at the Kassam Stadium is also very poor with the U’s losing their last 2 home games against Coventry and Walsall and they kick off their October run of games at home to Luton. Their away form is also abject with the U’s yet to win on the road this season with their only point coming in a goalless draw with fellow strugglers Wycombe. Oxford Utd must improve fast with the club performing well below expectations and the pressure is really beginning to increase on Karl Robinson and could the club be forced to make a managerial change? Only time will tell. One side that did make a managerial switch is Bradford who replaced Michael Collins after just 6 league games in charge with former Livingston manager David Hopkin. Hopkin boasts back to back promotions on his CV having guided Livingston from the Scottish First Division to the Scottish Premiership before leaving in the summer. However, Hopkin has had a very difficult start losing 3 of his first 4 league games in charge with just a solitary point so far leaving the Bantams 22nd in the table. Hopkin’s first match in charge away at Blackpool started brilliantly with the Bradford 2-0 with 10 minutes to go but Terry McPhillips’ Blackpool rescued a remarkable win leaving the Bantams severely low on confidence and this has low moral has carried in Hopkin’s other matches in charge. The Bantams are usually competing for promotion but if they are to do that, Hopkin must find a winning formula and fast during October or they could be facing a relegation battle.

However, one side severely struggling even worse than the previous 3 clubs are Plymouth Argyle. The Pilgrims are rooted to the bottom of League 1 with just 3 points from their opening 10 games which is an even worse start than last season. Credit Derek Adams for last season’s remarkable charge narrowly missing out on the play-offs. However, Plymouth just can’t buy a win or get themselves going in matches. They are struggling on all fronts with goals proving allusive and their defence leaking far too many goals. Adams has criticised his team on several occasions including talismanic figures like Graham Carey and Ruben Lameiras facing tough backlash. Moral and confidence is low in the playing squad and they desperately need something to change in their season whether that be a lucky win or a change in management. However, off the pitch a change in chairman could well prove to be an issue with long serving James Brent deciding to step down after rescuing the club from liquidation. This could be a factor in their poor start, but their form must drastically improve just to give the fans, something to cheer and fast otherwise Plymouth won’t be lucky as they were last season.

League 1 is slowly beginning to take shape and certainly by the end of October we will begin to see where clubs’ seasons could be heading. There some big games coming up in October including Sunderland vs Peterborough, Peterborough vs Barnsley, Oxford Utd vs Plymouth, Charlton vs Barnsley, Doncaster vs Sunderland and Plymouth vs Gillingham. September brought quality and entertainment and no doubt October will do just the same and no doubt the pressure on managers will increase and the hypothetical axe could be falling on someone else.

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