How the League One promotion chase will end

Rochdale fans must be wetting themselves with excitement. They’re currently top of League Two and face the prospect of leaving the division for the first time in 36 years.

In the division above, Norwich City fans are probably more expectant and they’re looking good for the title. For the rest of us battling it out at the top end of the table, though, it’s squeaky bum time.

Until Tuesday night, pacesetters Leeds were without a win in seven. Below them, Charlton had won one game in seven before last weekend. Huddersfield have lost three in a row. Swindon have just lost consecutive league games for the first time this season... seems like the nerves are getting to everybody.

And we all play each other in the denouement...

Leeds United
It's a long time since the FA Cup win at Old Trafford. Leeds were without a win in seven until beating Tranmere Rovers on Tuesday night. Jermaine Beckford bagged a brace in the 4-1 win and scored the equaliser during the Whites’ 1-0 draw at home to Brentford on Saturday, but had previously been without a goal in six.

They face Southampton, Millwall, Norwich and Swindon in their next four games, and Charlton and Bristol Rovers in the denouement. They have the best away record in the league, with nine wins.

Charlton Athletic
Charlton have won just three in their last eight and have drifted five points adrift of Leeds in second place. However, with Leeds facing all the teams around them in the next four games, Phil Parkinson’s side might fancy catching them.

That said, after a little local kickabout with Millwall this weekend, they face Huddersfield, MK Dons, Colchester and Southampton – and from a Swindon perspective, when they came to the County Ground they looked like one of the worst sides around the top of the division.

Colchester United
Anyone who saw Colchester’s televised win against Southend two weeks ago will know exactly why the Us home form is so good: their pitch resembles a sandpit.

Aidy Boothroyd’s side have the easiest run of games, too, facing five of the lower sides before back-to-back matches against Millwall and Swindon. They’ve lost twice at home all season, to Norwich and Leeds, and this form should be enough to see them over the line and into the play-offs.

The league’s form team with six wins in their last eight games. They’ll need to continue that form as they face Charlton and Leeds in the next two matches, although they boast the league’s best record against teams in the top half of the table.

Win their next two, or avoid defeat, and Kenny Jackett's men face a genteel stroll towards the end of the season – matches against Stockport, Brentford, Gillingham, Yeovil, Leyton Orient and Tranmere punctuated only by clashes with Colchester, Huddersfield and on the final day of the season, us...

Swindon Town
Three wins in eight isn’t the kind of form you want when entering the most crucial stage of the season. Before this week, opposing sides had been talking us up as outside shots at automatic promotion, but Swindon fans knew the frailties of Danny Wilson’s squad.

Back-to-back defeats will now test the Robins’ mettle. We have failed to win a game after going behind, so going ahead is proving crucial. Worse still, Charlie Austin and Billy Paynter – with 31 league goals between them – are without a goal in three. Saints, Leeds and Norwich to come in the next three weeks...

Huddersfield Town
League One’s big spenders are underachieving. Without a win in three, they face Charlton and Norwich in their next three games and could lose sight if those above them win.

Both those games are at home, but Lee Clark's side have the worst home record of any of the top eight. They also face a tricky tie at Leyton Orient, who have held Swindon and beaten Leeds in their last two home games.

MK Dons
Four wins in the last eight have seen Paul Ince’s side draw within five points of sixth place, but they face every team in the promotion shake-up between now and the end of the season. That could be a great opportunity, but it doesn't make for the easiest of run-ins.

Bristol Rovers
Rovers will have fewer easier afternoons than the one they enjoyed at our expense last weekend. Tactically they were spot on, hitting us on the break and showing clinical finishing in front of goal.

That’s three wins in a row for Paul Trollope’s side, and they don’t face another play-off rival until April 5, when they play MK Dons. Dark horses now they’ve ended their away-day hoodoo...

Saints may have left it too late, but neither Swindon nor Leeds – the next two visitors to St Mary’s – will relish travelling to the south coast. Alan Pardew's side put five past Huddersfield and Walsall and have won their last five at home.

However, consistency has been their problem, and a disappointing defeat away at Tranmere epitomised their fallibity. With Lee Barnard amongst the goals – he's got six in five games – they’ll be a match for anyone, but I’m hoping their minds will be on Wembley and the JPT final instead…

My top six (in order):
1.    Norwich City
2.    Leeds United
3.    Colchester United
4.    Millwall
5.    Swindon Town
6.    Bristol Rovers

More from Inside Swindon Town

League 1 Forum * 136-club News Directory Features * Interviews * News
Interact: TwitterFacebook * Forums