GW 34 – Ones to Watch

Matt: These midweek rounds haven’t gotten any easier/better as the season has progressed have they? I think we need to remove the word “bonus” from them for a while! Let’s see what occurs this weekend.

With the addition of the FA Cup Quarter Final ties AND the most welcome return of the Scottish Leagues One & Two, we’ve got something resembling a ‘normal’ gameweek at last – not a moment too soon! Now to hope it stays this way and we don’t suffer any further losses going forwards, as the season begins to edge towards its conclusion.

A foray into League One beckons for me in this week’s opener, as a resurgent¬†Bolton Wanderers will aim to continue their fantastic recent run of results in their match against Walsall. This is another one of those fixtures where the current form guide can really emphasise the differing fortunes of the two clubs; Wanderers sit top of it, with a quite incredible 29 points from the last 33 available (nine wins, two draws and not a single defeat in that time), whilst The Saddlers are rock bottom of it, with a paltry four points to their name over the same period of time. Their last win came on the 23rd of January at fellow strugglers Port Vale, which coincides with Bolton’s last defeat, so you can see how vastly different the two sides have performed since that date! Nicely perched in sixth spot in the table, just five points behind leaders Cheltenham Town, Bolton know that a win here could propel them to the verge of the automatic promotion places, a far cry from the first half of the campaign, when all the signs were it was going to be yet another season of woe for The Trotters and their long suffering fans. They’ve won four home games on the bounce at the University of Bolton Stadium, only scoring 6 goals in the process mind, so this shouldn’t necessarily be marked down as a possible goalfest for the home side, but with their genuine promotion aims matched against Walsall’s target of simply keeping their heads above the water in terms of getting sucked into a relegation scrap, Wanderers must surely be expecting to find the back of the net a time or two in this fixture.

It would be careless of me not to take a look at the offerings of the Scottish lower leagues after their reintroduction, and having done just that I’m heading into League Two for my second tip.¬†Stirling Albion were in eye-catching nick prior to the enforced break in their season, having won four and drawn one of their previous five outings, including back-to-back 3 goal returns away at Edinburgh City and then Berwick Rangers in the Scottish Cup. On Saturday they face basement side Brechin City, the team who have just one solitary win, one draw and a total of four points to their name so far this season. The good news for City is that they are far from being cut adrift and avoiding the wooden spoon and possible relegation is still very doable. The bad news is they have recorded just two clean sheets out of 14 competitive matches thus far, including some absolute pastings by the likes of Dundee Utd (6-2) & St Johnstone (7-0) (both League Cup), Edinburgh City (5-1), Stranraer (4-1) and indeed Stirling Albion themselves, who won 5-0 at Brechin’s Glebe Park ground in early November. Having conceded a league high of 24 goals on top of the cup hammerings, not to mention facing a side pushing for both a play-off spot and also a shot at the league title, it’s hard to envisage anything other than a few Stirling goals at the Forthbank Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Good luck to you all!