Note: With yet another international break at the top of English football, we have decided to take a look at the promotion and relegation picture in the top four leagues in England. You can find the Premier League version here and the Championship version here.
Most of the clubs in League One have played five times since our last look at the standings – and have played 17 matches total – so it seems appropriate to take another look at how things are shaking out. As a reminder, the top two clubs are automatically promoted to the Championship, with the third- through sixth-place teams competing for promotion via a playoff. Last season, Wigan Athletic (1st), Bolton Wanderers (2nd), and Rotherham United (playoff winner) earned promotion.
The top of the league table currently looks like this:
Portsmouth maintains their three point lead over the second place club, though now that club is Sunderland, one of the four clubs in the league that has only played 16 matches to this point. Portsmouth hasn’t lost in five matches to reach this point (3-2-0), but Sunderland is currently working on an eight game unbeaten streak since their lone loss on the season (6-2-0). Sunderland was one of the three clubs relegated from the Championship last season, so they are hoping for a quick bounce back up after this season, while Portsmouth is looking to improve on their 8th place finish last season. Both are currently situated to do so, and with Portsmouth not playing again until 24 November, Sunderland has a chance to challenge them for first.
Also in the mix for the automatic promotion is the highest scoring team in League One. Peterborough United started the season 6-1-0, but has found the last ten matches a bit more difficult, going 4-2-4 to finally fall out of the top two. A return to their early season form would help the club improve on their 9th place finish from a year ago, though they have to be pleased with their improvement from this point last season, when they sat in 11th place with a 7-4-6 record through 17 matches. A return to the Championship would be the first visit for Peterborough since a two season stint ended with relegation after a 22nd place finish in 2012-13.
Barnsley joined Sunderland in relegation after last season, so they too are hoping for a quick return back to the Championship. Like Sunderland, they have only played in 16 matches thus far on the season, giving them a slight advantage over the clubs above and below them. It also helps that they have the second-best goal differential in the league after surrendering the second fewest goals. This could be a product of playing one less match, and they do face a tough challenge this weekend from Accrington Stanley, but for now, Barnsley is at least in position to qualify for the playoff and fight their way back to the Championship.
At the bottom of the league, the bottom four clubs face relegation to League Two, with Oldham Athletic, Northampton Town, Milton Keynes Dons, and Bury facing the music last season. Three of the four clubs “in the red” last version remain there, though their order has been shuffled a bit, and all clubs featured on this list have completed 17 matches so they have no excuse.
The bottom of the League One table currently looks like this:
Bradford City has plummeted to the bottom of the league on the strength (weakness?) of losing six matches in a row. They have also outscored only one other club – AFC Wimbledon – who are also fighting through a losing streak of their own (they’ve lost seven in a row, a streak that started, coincidentally, with a loss to Bradford City). Bradford City sacked their manager after starting the season 2-0-4, and new manager David Hopkin hasn’t fared much better, going 1-1-9 since taking over for Michael Collins. Wimbledon has also replaced their manager, though it just happened a couple of days ago, so they hope that they can find some success with whoever replaces Neal Ardley.
Oxford United managed to climb out of the cellar from our last look at the standings, helped partly by their six match unbeaten streak (2-4-0). This is their third consecutive season in League One after being promoted from League Two after finishing second during the 2015-16 season, and they entered the season hoping to improve on their 16th place finish from last year. One redeeming point in their recent play has been the shrinking of their goal differential – they now have a lower goal differential than five other clubs – so I would anticipate that Oxford United will find themselves in a much better position when we look at the standings again at the midway point.
Until next time…