The Other 23: Half-Way Review – Part 1

After my four-parted attempt to predict the fortunes of our fellow League One sides back in August, I thought it would be interesting to see where my range of predictions currently stand at the half-way mark of the season.

Bradford City

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What I Predicted

Following on from a season where they reached two Wembley finals, many were predicting another good season for the Bantams. My prediction was no different as I anticipated a season in upper mid-table of the league.

How They’re Doing

After a bright start that included notable results such as a 4-0 win over Brentford, they have dropped off over the past couple of months. When we played them at the start of November they occupied a play-off berth but since then they’ve struggled to pick up wins and have since dropped to 12th position. The bright spot amidst their poor form have been the performances of Nahki Wells who is the league’s joint 2nd top scorer.

How Will They Do?

The seemingly inevitable departure of Nahki Wells in the coming transfer window will significantly weaken this Bradford. They’ll need a new pacey forward to thrive off the knock-downs that James Hanson produces or they’ll slide further into mid-table obscurity. The rumour is that Nouha Dicko has been identified as the man to potentially fill Wells’s shoes but they’ll need to move fast in order to secure the Wigan forward’s services. 12th in League One wouldn’t be a bad finish given Bradford’s not long distant travails in League Two, they’re in a rut at the moment but will remain tricky customers for any of the division’s top sides, especially at Valley Parade. That should be where they’ll just about remain.

Brentford

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What I Predicted

After a large recruitment drive in the summer following on from their double disappointment at the end of last season, Brentford seemed the best non-relegated side left in the division. My prediction was that they would be there or thereabouts this season.

How They’re Doing

They’re top of the league. Currently on a run of form mirroring Bournemouth of last season, the Bees have shrugged off the loss of Uwe Rosler and a sitting pretty at this moment in time. It’s largely been a team effort for Brentford with not one real stand out performer carrying the team by the scruff of its neck.

How Will They Do?

At this moment in time it’s hard to see Brentford dropping many points given their current form. New manager Mark Warburton should face a much tougher challenge than the one he is currently facing when Brentford inevitably come off the boil slightly. When that will be or even if that will happen is hard to tell. Brentford have a rather large squad and will be able to rotate  players who lose form. All of this is speculation though and they seem like pretty strong contenders for automatic promotion this season.

Bristol City

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What I Predicted

Despite being relegated and losing a few key players from their previous campaign Bristol City looked like a strong outfit having recruited high calibre players such as Frank Fielding, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Marlon Pack. In addition to having high calibre players they had a high calibre manager in Sean O’Driscoll. With this in mind I predicted that they would be either challenging for automatic promotion or the play-offs at the very least.

How They’re Doing

Bristol City seemed to have generated one of the largest differentials between pre-season expectations and current performances. After failing to win until the final week of October, Sean O’Driscoll had seemed to have started to steady the ship. However O’Driscoll was eventually sacked at the end of November and replaced by Steve Cotterill. It’s the start of January and there’s the feeling that Bristol City’s season has barely started and they’ve yet to really put a run of form together to suggest they’ll steer clear of danger.

How Will They Do?

Cotterill has begun his January recruitment with the signings of Tyrone Barnett and Karleigh Osborne, both relatively safe bets. The previous formula of having 10 work horses and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas having the freedom to do as he wants has largely failed to produce results despite the former Arsenal youngster arguably being the league’s stand-out player. It won’t be particularly pretty football but I can see Bristol City eventually pulling themselves clear over the next couple of months and they finish up relatively untroubled by relegation. Where they go next is another question entirely.

Carlisle United

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What I Predicted

Despite being one of the clubs with the lowest budgets in the division Carlisle were perceived to have underperformed in 2012/13. Previous campaigns under Greg Abbott had seen the Cumbrians survive comfortably with a couple of feint challenges to the play-offs thrown into the mix. I believed that Carlisle would see improvements this season having regrouped over the summer.

How They’re Doing

After spending the opening month of the season conceding goals like they were going out of fashion, Greg Abbott was eventually sacked. His replacement was caretaker manager Graham Kavanagh who has seen Carlisle pick up from looking like relegation certainties into 16th position, although only 3 points away from danger. A cavalcade of loan and short-term signings have been responsible for Carlisle’s turn around and they seem to be another club lacking a plan beyond the end of May.

How Will They Do?

With a few teams underperforming in the first half of the season and finding themselves in the lower reaches of the table, you’d expect competition for places above the bottom 4 to stiffen significantly. Carlisle may find themselves sucked into a battle for survival after their early momentum under Graham Kavanagh has now faded. They may be able to draft in a few loan players to aid their cause but the team and fans should be preparing themselves for a difficult second half of the season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish around, if not in, those bottom 4 places.

Colchester United

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What I Predicted

After scraping survival in the previous campaign, manager Joe Dunne had to work with a reduced budget in order to produce something better. I predicted that after securing key players such as Sanchez Watt and Craig Eastmond to permanent contracts, there was the sign of steady improvement at Colchester with a lower mid-table finish anticipated.

How They’re Doing

After a decent start to the season the Us struggled to cope with a spate of injuries that at one point left them with only 11 fit first-team players in early September. Colchester have had good days and bad days this season and find themselves in 15th which is almost exactly as I predicted. They have a number of young players learning their trade as professional footballers but there’s the sense that Joe Dunne is slowly building a side that will be upwardly mobile over the next couple of seasons.

How Will They Do?

Colchester will still be looking over their shoulder and their lack of experience means they’ll be capable of going on a poor run at any moment of time. They’ll need to continue to pick up points where they can to maintain their current lower mid-table status but they have enough about them to make the best teams in the division sweat. This season for Colchester is all about small improvements and if they stay where they are then they can count it as a success, which I believe they can achieve.

Crawley Town

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What I Predicted

Crawley started the season with a small squad but one that had by-and-large remained unchanged from the one that put together a decent tilt at challenging for the play-offs last season. However I anticipated that a small squad would count against them repeating the feat but that they had enough to have a safe season of mid-table anonymity.

How They’re Doing

Exactly what I said they would be doing. They’re 13th in the league, they’re not in danger of getting sucked into a relegation nor are they looking like a threat to the top 6. After starting quite well and notably outplaying Wolves at Molineux in August, they’ve dropped off the pace. The sacking of Richie Barker and replacing him with John Gregory seemed a strange move and one that stank of short-termism. Gregory has done as much as Crawley fans should be expecting of the team, maintaining the mid-table anonymity.

How Will They Do?

I see very little about this Crawley side that gives the impression that they won’t continue at around about mid-table this season. The sacking of Barker seemed unnecessary given that he was achieving almost above what Crawley should be expecting, they lucky to even be in the Football League let alone League One. Replacing him with John Gregory seems at best a move that will see them stay mid-table for this season at least. I can’t see them going on too bad a run for the rest of the season, they may finish lower than 13th but probably not by that much.

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