5th Place- Doncaster Rovers
It has been a roller-coaster season for Donny. They have been in the promotion picture for the majority of the season despite incidents that have threatened to derail their season. Firstly, various postponements due to Covid related issues, weather and their FA Cup run mean Rovers have played one of the fewest amounts of games in the division and have as many as 4 games in hand on leaders Hull. Then during the January transfer window skipper Ben Whiteman departed to join Preston.
Perhaps the biggest blow of all saw Darren Moore leave at the start of this month to join fellow Yorkshire side and Championship strugglers Sheffield Wednesday. Moore’s departure followed Doncaster’s worst run of form of the season after 5 games without a win which included 4 losses. That run of form was actually preceded by a run of nine wins in ten which had taken Donny from play-off hopefuls to real promotion contenders. Ironically since losing their manager Doncaster have won back to back games to move up to fifth, six points off top spot with games in hand.
Donny did the double over us thanks to two 1-0 victories. The first came on Halloween thanks to a superb strike by the above mentioned Ben Whiteman. While that victory was deserved in my opinion, the return fixture was the complete opposite. Taylor Richards scored a soft goal early on that proved deceive despite the fact we had two penalties saved and missed some great opportunities to at least get a point. I did find some satisfaction that in mid-February Doncaster themselves missed two penalties in a 4-1 defeat to Sunderland.
6th Place- Portsmouth
When talking about the nearly men of this division, Portsmouth have to come into that category. Top flight football was still being played at Fratton Park in 2010 and they were FA Cup winners two years earlier. They were to reach another FA Cup final in 2010 but had already been relegated having entered administration, the first side in Premier League history to do so and were given a nine point deduction. Championship soon became League One as financial problems never went away, with now Imps boss Michael Appleton one of the managers tasked with trying to turnaround the club fortunes.
Appleton left to join Blackpool after just over a year at the club with Portsmouth in a perilous financial position. Due to the financial situation of the club, another 10 point deduction was issued in December of 2012. While relegation to League Two was to follow, long-awaited positive news was on the horizon. April 2013 saw Pompey exit administration and PST (Pompey Supporter’s Trust) takeover the club. Four years in England’s fourth tier followed in which the club were finally debt free thanks the heroics of the fans. Things were finally looking up by 2017 when promotion back to League One was confirmed.
Now we finally get onto the Kenny Jackett era. In the past three seasons they have flirted with promotion. Five points was the gap to the Play-Offs in their first League One season and in 2018-19 they finished fourth to set up a two legged Semi-Final against Sunderland, arguably the two biggest sides in the division. Both games were rather drab affairs but Sunderland prevailed following victory at the Stadium of Light in the first leg and a goalless draw down at Fratton Park in the second. In last seasons shortened League One campaign Portsmouth finished a place lower than the previous campaign on PPG but still made the Play-Offs.
Both games against Oxford ended in draws meaning a penalty shootout was needed to separate the sides. Agonisingly for Jackett’s men they lost on penalties to continue their atrocious record in the Play-Offs, no wins in eight attempts.
This season had started better and after defeating Hull in late December they topped the table. But since the turn of the year things have began to unravel. Only Rochdale are in worse form in the division and a woeful thrashing to Northampton last time out saw calls for Jackett to go louden.
Portsmouth were the best side I have seen so far this season when they came to Sincil Bank in November. They tore us to pieces and the eventual 3-1 scoreline arguably could have been greater. The return fixture at Fratton Park turned on the dismissal of Whatmough for the hosts after half an hour. Rogers netted the winner with ten to go to secure what felt like a massive victory at the time. Portsmouth and their fans deserve better that their current position, they were the best set of fans I have ever seen at Sincil Bank and I hope they can turn their fortunes around.