There are four matches this evening in League One, two of which you could say directly affect the Imps.
However, all four affect us. After all, we’re safe from relegation and therefore we’re likely to be in this division next season unless of course we strike it lucky with promotion. If we do stay put, the battle at the bottom will directly affect us. If we go up, then we still need to understand how the like of Bristol Rovers, Burton and Shrewsbury are doing, as we have them all to play.
With that in mind, I’ve had a look at all four of tonight’s matches, what they mean for the Imps and what to expect. Before we do, here is a reminder of the current league table.
Two that won’t affect our position
Burton v Shrewsbury
Neither of these two are going to catch us, but we do have both still to play. We go to Burton on April 10th, and then to Shrewsbury a week later. They’re two huge games, as we should be taking three points from them, but both sides are dangerous. We saw that in losing 1-0 to Shrewsbury in December, whilst Burton are second only to Sunderland in the eight-game form table. Of course, our draw with Sunderland this weekend made a mockery of form and anyone can beat anyone at any time.
Who will win this? Since their upturn in fortunes back in December, Shrewsbury have struggled to remain consistent, although they have only lost four league matches since we thrashed them in the EFL Trophy. Goals are one of their problems, they have only bagged more than two on one occasion since mid-November. On the other hand, Burton are flying, although a draw and a defeat in their last two games has halted the six-game streak they were on. I’m backing a draw here, despite Burton’s recent good form. The last two games they have lost have both been against a back three, rather than a back four which is what Shrewsbury play. They have beaten two sides with a back three in their recent run, but one of those games was against ten men (Bristol Rovers), and another needed an own goal to win it (Charlton).
SW Predicts – Draw
Bristol Rovers v Swindon
With the greatest of respect, this is not going to be one for the purists. Both sides are fighting for their lives, neither can trouble the Imps, although we do have Bristol Rovers to play, on April 17th. Swindon don’t have a bad record over the last eight matches, with three wins (Crewe, Northampton and Fleetwood) and a draw against us, whereas Rovers are a little worse. The two teams are level on points, 34, and seven shy of the team above them which is Burton. Below them, Wigan are in the relegation zone on 34, and such is the goal difference that a defeat by three goals for either side would see them drop into the bottom four without playing, and having played more games than any of their other relegation rivals.
Expect a battle, not a free-flowing game with nice football to watch. It won’t be a contest between two direct ball teams and my gut feeling is that Rovers have enough quality to steal the game by a narrow margin. Swindon’s form, albeit including four successive defeats before Saturday’s win, has masked deeper problems there. John Sheridan is not popular, the owner seems to be the same and I think they’re a side yet to reach their nadir this season, whereas Joey Barton should have enough to keep the Gas up.