The so-called ‘big sides’ in npower League One have, for the most part, lived up to expectations by occupying the leading positions in the table.
And it is the likes of Charlton Athletic and the two Sheffield sides who will be looking to get out of the division as quickly as possible to try to match both Norwich City and Southampton (probably) by gaining back-to-back promotions to return to English football’s top tier.
Charlton Athletic have been the stand-out side in League One this season. Championship football beckons for Chris Powell’s side as his side top the table on 82 points, eight clear of second-placed Sheffield Wednesday. Three defeats in their last five matches show that nerves are kicking-in, but it would take a very brave person to suggest the Addicks won’t go up automatically.
Sheffield Wednesday lead the chasing pack with 74 points, one clear of fierce rivals Sheffield United having played a game more. As new manager Dave Jones is given little time to settle in, Wednesday are in good form after going unbeaten in their last seven games. Realistically, the two Sheffield sides and Huddersfield Town are all vying for the second automatic promotion place, and it really is too close to call right now.
Sheffield United lie in third place on 73 points and have just eight games remaining. Ched Evans, the division’s second best goalscorer will be vital for United in the run-in, and with the vastly experienced Danny Wilson at the helm, it could be this combination that ultimately sees them grab second spot.
Fourth-placed Huddersfield Town will no doubt be feeling a sense of deja-vu having being in this position the same time last year. Losing in the play-off final last year will have spurred them on to go that one step better this campaign, and it is still very possible. Dismissing Lee Clark was considered by many to be a bewildering decision, but it has not ultimately destabilised the side, as they lie just three points off second place and have a game in hand. And in goal machine Jordan Rhodes (33 goals), hitting the back of the net is the least of their worries.
The MK Dons and Carlisle United make up the final two play-off spots. The Dons look a near on certainty for a top-six finish, nine points ahead of 7th place and a vastly superior goal difference (+31). Carlisle in 6th are now just three points ahead of Stevenage. It looks like these two sides will battle it out with Notts County for the final play-off position. Stevenage have the best recent form, with no defeat in their last eight games. It is unlikely that any of the three sides will go up via the play-offs, as on paper they look weaker, but you just never know. As John Motson once said, ‘expect the unexpected’.