Luton then Barnsley, Sunderland, Portsmouth, Charlton and Doncaster? Who knows

This will be my last visit to our “ones to watch* series before the end of the season.

You’ll have to judge for yourself whether or not our readership, ably assisted by the Coventry Ninjas**, got it right at the beginning. For my part, with three of the five – Portsmouth, Charlton and Barnsley – fighting for second place and another two still with a chance of the playoffs I’m inclined to think they didn’t do too badly.

The problem is that the sixth club is Sunderland, and that’s who they are all fighting with.

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Coventry hanging on to Doncaster and Charlton as Portsmouth chase Barnsley, Sunderland and Luton.

Another international break brings an opportunity to revisit the six clubs our readers* and the Coventry ninjas**  chose way back in the summer, and I’ve added Doncaster and Luton Town, who thoroughly merit more than a mention.

I last visited this series at the end of January, when I had this to say:

“… before I go I must mention Coventry City. They will finish the month with only four points from a possible fifteen. February includes some winnable games but I can’t see them doing us any favours when they travel to Kenilworth Road. Mid-table safety looks to be their destiny and I’m almost certain they won’t be returning to this series.

But you never know, do you? That’s what football’s all about.”

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The League One breakaway: Peterborough dent Charlton’s progress

Part one of our mid-season review looked forward to the Christmas games.

Part two looked at what had happened up to New Year’s Day.

Part three was delayed until yesterday, and I’m taking the time to update that post after yesterday’s results. The first part of this one is the same as yesterday, given that we didn’t play. It’s the discussion   of the breakaway group that has changed:

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Portsmouth, Luton, Barnsley and Sunderland, plus Charlton – the League One breakaway group?

Part one of  our mid-season review looked forward to the Christmas games.

Part two looked at what had happened up to New Year’s Day.

Part three was meant to go out after the Luton game. Repetitive strain injury decided otherwise and I still have to take care so here’s what I’ve managed, with a focus on a couple of comments I made towards the end of that second part:

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Sixer’s Soapbox: Sunderland 1 Luton 1. Mazdas but no Maja

Malcom Dawson wrote this introduction wthout seeing Pete Sixsmith’s match report:

Lee Probert’s performance will undoubtedly dominate the headlines and let’s face it he was shocking. Consistent but shockingly consistent. Even before the penalty and the sendings off he was subjected to chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” and “you’re not fit to referee”.

What’s more, he appeared to blow for fouls commited by Sunderland players, immediately after it seemed he had ignored a similar infringement committed by a man in blue. And this is allowing for my bias. The home crowd might be partisan but they aren’t stupid.

Bad refereeing apart, the other talking point was the absence of Josh Maja. As I am at the fag end of a dose of bronchitis, I am inclined to go along with the manager’s assertion that he was ill. I hope they told the representative of Crystal Palace who was supposed to be coming to watch him. The official reason won’t be enough to stop the rumour mongers, though personally I still think he’ll stay, at least until the end of the season.

More worrying for me though is our inability to push home an advantage, a defence that has its shaky moments and the number of occasions we give the ball away needlessly.

I said before the game that avoiding defeat wouldn’t be a disaster, especially if Portsmouth lost but I left yesterday’s game frustrated at a failure to consolidate our promotion push.

How was Pete Sixsmith feeling as he left the ground and how did he rate yesterday’s performance? Let him enlighten you.

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Rate the ref: Sunderland v Luton Town

The 223 posts have been put in the spreadsheet. (Mr Probert didn’t score very well).

The poll has been removed as it’s being set up for the next game. Comments are below for you to read and add to:

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Sixer’s Sevens: Sunderland rue lack of killer finish as Luton are gifted a penalty

Jake: ‘too many draws.’ Fans: ‘if Lee Probert’s a Premier ref [insert your own insulting conclusion].’

SAFC made a return to the Stadium of Light, Pete Sixsmith made a return to the Stadum of Light and Mick Harford made return to Sunderland while Josh Maja didn’t, because he was sick, we’re told. I reckon a few thousand others will have been sick – as a parrot – after an inexplicable penalty which led to one of Pete’s texts labelling the ref as inept. I wonder how that will affect his  score when ‘rate the ref’ opens in 15 minutes

Pete sent more texts during and after the game, one of them seven words long.  You’ll find it below. It suggests there is an issue Jack Ross need to address, with or without Josh Maja, before we can breathe more easily. Expect more from Pete is due course …

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The First Time Ever I Saw Your Team: Luton Town

John McCormick writes, I’m  not sure whether or not I ever saw Luton during the sixties. Pete Sixsmith didn’t, so I doubt that I did.  I might have seen them in the game below but it’s unlikely as I was in my first year away and didn’t go back that often. I did go back two years later, though, when I was one of 53,000 that saw us cruise past Luton in a cup game. Can you guess what year that was without reading Pete’s piece?

What a stupid question. Why would anyone not want to read Pete’s piece?

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A Luton view on ‘best League One team by far’: not them, Sunderland or Portsmouth

Jake: ‘what a chance to go second!’

NB: Richard has now, at Monsieur Salut’s request, expanded on his acclaim for Barnsley. See below for the longer response to the relevant question

Monsieur Salut writes: back when played Luton Town at Kenilworth Road in the second game of the season, our Hatters’ Who are You? interviewee Richard Armstrong correctly predicted a 1-1 draw. He thought then that after the glory of promotion the previous season, Luton would be mid-table while we would reach the playoffs.

Given all that has happened since, with Luton second top one place ahead of us, it seemed a good idea to go back to him ahead of Saturday’s crucial return. What does Richard think now, how will Nathan Jones’s departure for the manager’s job at Stoke affect the Hatters and do Sunderland now look capable of winning automatic promotion? Read on and, if you’ve seen all the League One frontrunners, let us know whether you agree on who is best of the bunch ..

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Salut!’s Seasonal Summary. Part Two: from Bristol to Blackpool

By now you should have read part one of this series, the preview of the Christmas period which I wrote for the SAFC programme. You might even remember some of the words I wrote, especially the conclusion:

“Christmas and early January remain crucial, which for us means holding our own away and completing doubles over Bradford and Shrewsbury at home. I’m not one for predicting results or tempting fate, and am all too aware there are no easy games in this league but I think we can do that, and I can see us still being in contention when the decorations come down.”


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