Away from the returning Premier League and Championship this weekend, there are a few fixtures to keep an eye on as teams at the top — and bottom — of the lower divisions look to pick up points in their bids for promotion, and against relegation, respectively.
Let’s take a closer look at where the most interesting games might be. They may not all be high-scoring thrillers that keep the statisticians at Stratabet busy long into the night, but there is an element of intrigue in each.
League One: Wigan (2nd) v Bradford (4th)
Once a potentially enthralling Rugby League encounter, this season Wigan and Bradford are fighting it out in League One football, with six points separating them in the table going into this clash. Bradford will be hoping to narrow that gap to three by Saturday tea time. Stuart McCall’s men will need to keep Wigan’s Newcastle loanee Ivan Toney quiet for an afternoon if they are to bounce back from their disappointment at home to strugglers Plymouth last weekend. Wigan favourite Will Grigg’s flammability, meanwhile, is in question — he’s not scored since September.
Gillingham (22nd) v Walsall (17th)
The Gills’ brand new manager Steve Lovell is under no illusion– being in the bottom four at this time of year is not an ideal place to be. They’re in the relegation zone and will be hoping to leave it via the skylight rather than the cellar, and they can do themselves some favours by beating John Whitney’s men this weekend. The Walsall manager is under some pressure at the moment, and another defeat like the Saddlers’ 2-1 cup exit at the hands of little Newport could mean that Whitney is shown the door in time to get home for Strictly Come Dancing.
League Two: Chesterfield (24th) v Exeter (3rd)
Credit to Exeter that they haven’t been laid too low by defeat in the playoff final by Blackpool in June; they’re right back in the promotion hunt. However, they’ve only picked up five points from a possible fifteen, so they’ll be all the keener to add to Chesterfield’s misery this weekend. Recently-appointed Spireites boss Jack Lester can’t buy a win right now; 2-1 ahead against Swindon last weekend, a penalty in the sixth minute of time added on denied them two crucial points. The league positions here belie a game that could well be competitive.
Coventry (6th) v Lincoln (8th)
Only goal difference separates these sides in the table, with Mark Robins’ men ahead due to the league’s best defence– just nine goals against in seventeen games. The next best belongs to their visitors on Saturday, Lincoln, who have conceded just fifteen. If there’s a winner in this one, it’s likely to be by a scoreline of 1-0. Given that both teams like to play on the counter-attack, is it possible that they will completely cancel one another out, or are we in for a clash-of-the-titans style explosive display? The latter seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened.
By 5pm on Saturday, then, the eight clubs concerned will know a bit more about how their season could shake out.