The race for promotion in Sky Bet League One is set to go up a gear when the sides finally return from the enforced break, with a number of teams harvesting ambitions of reaching the Championship.
The battle was put on a slight hold following the news that the Premier League and the EFL would be postponing their games until the 30th of April at the very earliest, but the teams involved can use this break as an opportunity to not only become fitter and stronger, but also to learn new tactics to bamboozle opponents during the final weeks of the season.
League One has been awfully tight so far this season with loads of teams still thinking that they can finish in one of the promotion places before the season comes to its natural conclusion. Teams as low down as Doncaster Rovers will be included in this feature as they could soar into the play-off places should they win their games in hand.
The likes of Ipswich Town and Gillingham are massive outsiders to finish in a top six place with the former really surprisingly not pushing for promotion at this late stage of the campaign. The Tractor Boys were amongst the early favourites to secure promotion this year following their dismal Championship performance last season. However, Paul Lambert appears as if he will be managing Town during a second successive League One campaign.
Here is the lowdown on all the League One contenders that could see themselves playing in the Championship in 2020/2021…
Coventry City look a shoo-in for promotion this season as Mark Robins has guided his team to the top of the League One table, with the Sky Blues boasting a five point lead on the teams below them as well as having a game in hand. Should they win that game in hand, with nine games left to play, it would take a monumental downturn in form for them to not be playing in the Championship next season.
City have hit form before the break with four wins in their last five games, perfect form as we approach the business end of the season. Coventry have boosted their hopes in recent weeks with wins over Sunderland and Ipswich but will have some tricky tests before the end of the campaign. Wycombe, Peterborough and Oxford are just three of the sides that Coventry will have to play at some point after the break.
Rotherham United look set to make a swift return to the Championship as they find themselves in second in League One with just nine games left to play. The Millers have been in a similar position before with the club bouncing between the second and third tier of English football for the last five years or so. However there appears to be swagger around Rotherham this season when compared to other sides that have won promotion from League One before.
A whole host of players are putting in a consistent level of performance for Paul Warne’s side this season with the likes of Michael Ihiekwe, Freddie Ladapo and Dan Barlaser all being highly impressive as they look set to return to the Championship.
The form side in the division at the time of writing, any conversation involving promotion out of League One this season must involve the U’s. Karl Robinson has worked wonders at the Kassam Stadium this season and his side have shown a real depth in character in recent weeks following the departure of key players in the January window. Tariqe Fosu and Shandon Baptise both left the club to join Brentford’s charge to the Premier League.
But five wins from their last five games has shown that Robinson’s men have seen them give themselves a real opportunity at winning promotion this season.
Portsmouth struggled at the start of the campaign but have grown into a new animal altogether since the turn of 2020 with Kenny Jackett’s side looking set to compete in the end of season play-offs. There were concerns that Portsmouth couldn’t score enough goals but in recent weeks that thesis has been blown out of the water with the likes of John Marquis really showing why Pompey splashed out on him in the summer.
In Jackett they have a manager who has promotion out of League One before with Millwall and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Pompey got so close last season with defeat to Sunderland in the play-off semi-finals but following some clever recruitment in the summer and January windows, 2020 could be the year that they play their football in the second tier.
Joey Barton has had Fleetwood playing some amazing football so far this season and the Cod Army could well be lining up as a Championship side for the first time in the club’s history next season. Those days in non-league must feel a lifetime ago for Fleetwood supporters as their club are right in the thick of a play-off tussle this season.
Barton has settled in relatively well to life in management, but his side have seen a huge lift in results in recent weeks that has seen them rise into fifth place. They could cement their place in the play-offs should they win their game in hand over 7th placed Sunderland, that would see a four-point gap open up between themselves and the Black Cats. With the form of both sides another factor, it would be hard to see Sunderland make up the ground before the end of the campaign.
Another of the early season favourites, Peterborough United appear to be having a much better time of it this year as they find themselves in the final play-off spot. Despite losing Marcus Maddison leaving for Hull City in the January window, Posh were able to keep hold of their talisman. There was reported interest in Ivan Toney by a host of Championship clubs, but they managed to keep him at the club.
Under Darragh McAnthony, the club are certainly in an ambitious and safe space with the Irish businessman harvesting ambitions of the club getting back into the Championship. Their clever recruitment in the January window with the like of Sammie Szmodics and Reece Brown arriving could well be the difference between sixth and seventh this season for Darren Ferguson’s men.
The Black Cats are having a torrid time of it during their spell in League One with promotion looking like a tall order for Phil Parkinson’s men at this very moment in time. At first glance, they are only a point off the play-offs but their form in recent weeks could see them fall back into mid table after a host of unimpressive performances.
Sunderland’s season appears to have turned on a couple of points. The start of the season was not what their supporters were hoping for and that saw Jack Ross leave the club. When Parkinson took the reins, they appeared to be making steady progress but once 2020 hit they went on a run that saw them climb up the table. They looked unbeatable at home as well as solid away from home, but the pendulum would swing the other way when they were able to get a draw at home to Fleetwood. Back-to-back defeats followed for Parkinson’s side as they now look unlikely of winning promotion, even if they finish in a top six place this year their form would suggest that they wouldn’t progress to the Wembley finale.
Wycombe have certainly tailed off in recent weeks following their unexpectedly good start this season. They were amongst the favourites to be relegated back into League Two following a close shave from relegation last time out, but manager Gareth Ainsworth was able to pull the club around and see them to safety. The tale of Ainsworth’s time in charge of Wycombe has been nothing short of remarkable and a promotion would take his status in the town to that of a legend.
Wycombe started this season in remarkable circumstances as they flew to the top of the table in the early months of the campaign, but they have fallen off in recent weeks which has seen them slip outside the play-offs. They currently look like an outside chance of winning promotion this season, but Wanderers fans will have enjoyed their campaign flirting with the idea of becoming a Championship side.
Doncaster winning promotion to the Championship seems like a long shot at this very moment in time but Rovers do have games in hand that could change the landscape of the promotion picture. They have two games in hand on the teams above them and should they collect a maximum number of points they would sail into the play-off places.
The campaign has gone similarly to last year, however, under the guidance of Darren Moore they have been inconsistent for the most part of the season which could see them fail to make the play-offs for this season. Donny did make the top six last year under Grant McCann but his move to Hull City in the summer certainly weakened the South Yorkshire side. Although they appear a long-shot for promotion, a couple of wins and Doncaster could put themselves in real contention.