League One throws up twice as many exciting relegation battles as it does key promotion clashes.
Any one of twelve teams could be dragged into the mire over the next few weeks, with so few points separating those at the bottom and those in mid table.
The key clashes are between clubs in the bottom four, eager not to lose ground on those around them. This weekend, Bristol Rovers face Shrewsbury and one player will be in the stands torn between the two clubs.
Stefan Payne emerged from the National League with Dover, scoring 40 goals in 98 outings. He’d played at Gillingham as a youngster, but found his feet in the fifth tier. It earned him a move to Barnsley, but later he wound up at Shrewsbury on loan.
His time at the New Meadow was successful and after a loan spell he joined permanently. 14 goals in 51 outings followed, before he moved to Bristol Rovers. That’s who now hold his registration, but after a shocking run of form for the Gas, he’s back on loan with the Shrews.
His last goal, rather ironically, came for Bristol against Shrewsbury in the reverse fixture, but this weekend he’ll play no part. A clause in his loan deal sees him sitting in the stands, unable to perform against his parent club. But where will his priorities lay?
Should he be rooting for the club who owns him, or the club who gave him plenty of League One football?
His Bristol Rovers days are surely numbered, not only because he’s been loaned out, but because he’s with a relegation rivals too. He couldn’t go anywhere else, he played for them earlier in the season so was tied to either them or Graham Coughlan’s Rovers.
Whilst he might not admit it, deep down he won’t want either team to do that well. Bristol Rovers have farmed him out and the last thing he wants to see is them score a couple of goals and justify their decision. On the other hand, if Shrewsbury win the vital clash without him in the side, he could find himself frozen out at yet another side.
It’s a tough situation to be in, but for his future prosperity he’ll surely be hoping for a dour 0-0 draw where both sets of strikers spurn good chances. He might not admit it, but when his two clubs come face to face it would benefit him if neither came out of it with any credit.