With just eight games remaining in the season, League One looks set to have one of it’s most dramatic endings in years.
As well as four teams being in the running for the second automatic promotion spot, as many as eight sides could be fearing their future in the division as they find themselves locked in a relegation fight at the foot of the table.
With Norwich now running away with the title, Leeds United’s well documented downfall has opened the door for Millwall, Swindon and Charlton to try and sneak their way into second place.
Leeds’ 1-0 defeat at Norwich was the Whites’ third on the bounce and they remain with only three wins to their name this calendar year and their eight point lead at the summit in December seeming like an all too distant memory.
Furthermore, with Swindon travelling to Elland Road on Saturday, the outlook for Leeds could even more bleak after the coming weekend. The Robins will certainly fancy their chances too after sneaking almost unnoticed into the upper reaches of the play-off places, and they will look to non-league sensation Charlie Austin to be on top form if they are to pick up a key victory. Since joining from Wessex Premier League side Poole Town, Austin has netted 16 times including a key winner in yesterday’s victory over Hartlepool and it is down to his and Kevin Paynter’s consistent scoring exploits that Swindon find themselves where they are.
London rivals Charlton and Millwall will be keeping a close eye on this fixture as they both sit within a point of Leeds. Millwall are arguably the form team in the division having lost only once in the league in 2010 and they can also boast a 4-0 home rout of the Addicks.
Despite some rather shaky form since the start of the year, it would be foolish to write off Phil Parkinson’s men. The Valley has been something of a fortress with only two home defeats all season and Charlton will look to consistently look to keep picking up points to stop the wheels falling off their promotion bandwagon.
Now to the battle to stay in the division. Following financial issues still lingering from last season, Stockport find themselves all but relegated in name but there are up to eight teams that could end up occupying the final three relegation places.
Although being seven points away from safety, Wycombe Wanderers have gone unbeaten in the month of March and with home games still to play against key relegation rivals, the Chairboys will be fighting right until the final day.
The other two relegation places are currently occupied by Southend and Tranmere but even 16th place Leyton Orient find themselves just three points clear of the drop zone and having a long look over their shoulder.
Gillingham, Oldham, Exeter and Hartlepool are also in the thick of the battle and with such little points seperating the teams it’s more than likely that one, or even multiple teams are to suffer final day heartbreak.
It has previously been the Championship that has held the reputation of being the most thrilling division in the Football League but League One looks to have taken over the mantle. With ex-Premiership sides littered all around the division it has also been the strongest that the league has ever been and these big names look set to contribute to some of the most gripping final few weeks that the division has ever seen.
Written by Tom Bowers