AFC Wimbledon have never lost to Chesterfield, a record they need to continue in their bid to stay in the Football League. Ian Lamont looks at their chances and favours the side near the bottom.
"Can the Dons do the double over the Spireites?" ran a mid-week preview tweet from AFC Wimbledon. The 1-0 win in August has been a rare high point for AFC Wimbledon and a double would be a collectors' item. They managed it four times last season but have not done so in this, their second Football League season. However, they have won two and drawn one of three games against Chesterfield.
The Chesterfield vibes are not good. Paul Cook talks of relief that they ended their losing streak with a victory over a Northampton side who rarely win away, but it remains their only win in six, a run which includes three defeats. Players talk of learning from mistakes. Chairman Dave Allen talks of the need to reduce their £7 million debt. There are few positive noises.
In contrast, Neal Ardley's recruitment of his former Millwall team-mate Gary Alexander is astute. The striker netted seven in 14 games in League Two for Crawley last season and 14 in 30 for Brentford in the first half of that campaign. For some reason he has not reproduced that this season, but his career record of 0.29 goals per season suggests he has the strike rate to help the Wombles climb off the foot of the division. What's more, Alexander already has one in two outings for the Dons. So, yes, there is every reason to forgive AFC Wimbledon a 3-0 defeat at leaders Port Vale, especially as Ardley blames himself for the negative tactics of playing five at the back to try to combat the Valiants. The price on the hosts is far too short.
Lay Chesterfield @ 1.768/11
Last season's 0-0 snore at the Rec at the turn of the year was when both teams were worrying about the drop and just before they both found a decent enough run to stay well clear. This season, both teams are right in the mire among a group of six teams cast adrift from the rest. Below that, just four points separate them and there's then a five point bridge to the next team. A repeat of 0-0 is priced 9.89/1 in the Correct Score market, but I fancy Aldershot, who won 2-0 at Home Park in August, will have the edge.
Plymouth's five points from their last three matches have all been at home - and bolstered by two 0-0 draws. They have two points from their past eight away games, while Dean Holdsworth's side have nine points from six games. The last time a toothless attack visited the Shots, Accrington lost 2-0. Dani Lopez or Danny Hylton should be able to prise open the visiting defence for three precious points, but a really tight scrap seems destined to finish with under 2.5 goals at 1.758/11.
Being an Oxford fan must be frustrating. They have a great stadium, the fifth best crowd averages in the division and plenty of (long-term) ambition from the board. Yet Chris Wilder's men sit mid-table, unable to turn James Constable into a 20-goal a season man and unable to sustain great form, as a terrific return of 21 points from nine games melted away with the mid-January snow. Midfielder Pete Leven's absence for the rest of the season is a huge loss. Constable has Oxford's only goal (gaining their only point) in three games.
Bristol Rovers, meanwhile, brim with confidence under new boss John Ward, if the way they battled to equalise in the fifth minute of injury time at Cheltenham is any guide. They have just one defeat in seven including four wins, since Ward's appointment. Especially likeable is that their 13 goals during his reign have come from 11 different players, demonstrating an 'all for one' spirit. Oxford rarely being beaten forces the caution of laying the hosts, rather than an outright away win tip.
Lay Oxford @ 2.111/10
If Stanley chief executive Rob Heys wasn't "contemplating" relegation a fortnight ago, he surely must be now. The chasing pack have sucked Accrington into the drop zone frame as Leam Richardson's men have failed to score in four games. Matched at 3.02/1 to be relegated this week, that price will start to look generous if they slip into the bottom two this weekend, which is perfectly possible. One of four new players, full-back Nicky Hunt, suffered concussion on his debut, an incident that just about sums up their fortune at the moment. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if John Coleman returned to help "young" manager Richardson at some point. Southend seem to have recovered after some poor form, although Michael Timlin's season-ending injury is a worry. Despite a good Johnstone's Paint Trophy run, Paul Sturrock's men need to maintain their promotion push with a third straight win.
Back Southend @ 2.1211/10