• Nathan Smith


THE CHAMPIONSHIP – Reading vs AFC Bournemouth (29th January – KO 8pm)

Many expected Reading to falter after their great start to the season, however they have been moving along nicely in the league as they sit in 5th. Veljko Paunovic has done a fantastic job turning Reading back into a top half Championship side at the very least, and they are currently on a five match unbeaten run in the league. Having only conceded two goals during this run, the Royals defence are proving to be quite the force with the experience of Michael Morrison and the youth of Tom McIntyre.

It is currently not going so well for Bournemouth in recent weeks, having not won in their last three league games, including two humbling 1-0 defeats to Derby and Luton. Boosted by the arrival of former England international Jack Wilshere, the Cherries scored a convincing 2-1 win against Crawley Town which will certainly boost their confidence. Goal scoring has seemingly been the problem in recent weeks, and that was shown even in their recent win against Crawley, where Jason Tindall’s side converted only two of their 29 shots.

These two sides are both in the play-off hunt, and while Reading are in form and Bournemouth are out of it, both sides will be looking to make a big statement in front of the TV cameras.

LEAGUE ONE – Lincoln City vs Doncaster Rovers (30th January – KO 3pm)

League One’s leaders Lincoln City have responded perfectly to their defeats at the hands of Sunderland and Shrewsbury. Since then, Michael Appleton’s side have not lost in their last seven games in all competitions and having taken back the top spot. Appleton has built a side with just the right mix of young prospects and experienced heads, which has played a big part in this unexpected promotion push. The likes of Anthony Scully and Brennan Johnson have caught the eye as of late and will look to cause their opponents problems on Saturday.

Doncaster were thrashed by West Ham in the FA Cup by four goals to nil, but don’t let that distract you from the fact that they currently sit fourth in the league and are mounting an impressive promotion push under Darren Moore. The former West Brom manager has won his last three league games and have continued to push on despite the loss of Ben Whiteman earlier on in the January window. Similar to Appleton, Moore has a great blend of young and older players and is reaping the benefits of good recruitment.

Doncaster currently sit six points behind Lincoln, but with two games in hand so a win for Rovers would be huge, but Lincoln will be looking to stop Moore’s side in their tracks and build a bigger gap between them and the chasing pack.

LEAGUE TWO – Morecambe vs Tranmere Rovers (30th January – KO 3pm)

When you think of Morecambe, you tend to think of perennial League Two strugglers, but Derek Adams has completely changed that as his team currently sits in third place in the league. Coming off the back of two excellent wins against Colchester United and Exeter City, the Shrimpers are looking to end 14 years in League Two and gain promotion into League One with only their second top ten finish in that time. Midfielder Adam Phillips has played a big part in Morecambe’s rise, contributing towards 14 goals this season and will be hoping to continue to add to that on Saturday.

When Tranmere received a drubbing at the hands of Exeter City in December, many thought that the appointment of Keith Hill was a big mistake, especially considering the form caretaker manager Ian Dawes had them in. But ever since then, Rovers have only lost one league game in their past seven and look deadly in front of goal, netting eight in their last three games. The form of James Vaughan has certainly been a bright spot for Hill’s side this season with the former Everton man scoring fourteen goals.

With both sides in form and chasing promotion, it is set to be a very interesting game between two sides that tend to score goals.

WILDCARD – Crewe Alexandra vs Ipswich Town (30th January – KO 3pm)

Crewe have had an excellent start to life in League One, sitting comfortably in ninth. David Artell’s team have gone toe to toe with every team they have played and have certainly been entertaining. Crewe play an exciting brand of football but Artell may want his defence to sharpen up as they have not kept a clean sheet in the league since the 17th of November. Coming off the back of losing club captain Perry Ng, and a poor 4-1 defeat to Gillingham, a win against out of form Ipswich could help lift the mood around Gresty Road.

There is currently a lot of pressure on Paul Lambert and the atmosphere around the club is currently a negative won. A look at the form would show you two wins in their last five league games which isn’t that bad for a promotion chasing side, but with both of those victories coming against lowly Burton Albion, you can start to see why Ipswich fans want a change. Sitting in tenth, Ipswich have simply not scored enough to be up in the automatic hunt, and while they have a relatively solid defence, Lambert will need to get his side firing again if he wants to get his side promoted.

This is a important game for Ipswich, who risk their season turning into another year of underachievement, while a win for Crewe would prove that they can bounce back from losing their star man.