Posh - Thrilling play-off race set to go down to the wire

Will Luke James score the goals to shoot Posh into the League One play-offs? Picture: Joe Dent
Will Luke James score the goals to shoot Posh into the League One play-offs? Picture: Joe Dent
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The race for a place in the League One play-offs is hotting up with numerous teams chasing the two realistically available places. Alan Swann assesses the chances of those involved.

Posh manager Dave Robertson has no doubts his side are good enough to contest the League One play-offs for a second successive season.

But then he has to say that. I fancy they will just miss out after a titanic struggle with Bradford City that is set to go right down to the final day of the regular season on Sunday, May 3.

Obviously the current top four of Bristol City, Preston, Swindon and MK Dons will either be promoted automatically or they will be involved in the play-offs.

Bristol City will be champions and Preston’s pragmatic style will just pip Swindon’s flair and skill for second.

That leaves Swindon and MK Dons in the play-offs where they will certainly be joined by Sheffield United.

The Blades are not in the best of nick right now, but they have a huge squad and a favourable-looking run-in so it’s hard to see who stops them finishing fifth.

The final play-off slot is much harder to predict with any team down to Gillingham in 14th place having a decent shot at glory.

It will be interesting to see how Robertson reacts to his first defeat as Posh manager at Preston on Tuesday night, but he retains strong confidence in his playing squad.

Robertson said: “We might have lost a game, but we have won four of our last five matches so momentum and confidence are still on our side.”

Robertson insists that he is not interested in signing new players ahead of next Thursday’s (March 26) transfer deadline which I feel is a mistake.

I don’t see a natural goalscorer in the current squad and as games at the end of a long season are often tight and well-contested, a lethal finisher will often be the difference between a draw and a win.

I fancy Posh will beat Chesterfield at the ABAX Stadium this Saturday, but I fear that another home game the following Saturday against a resurgent Coventry team will be tough.

The appointment of Tony Mowbray as Coventry boss is a shrewd move.

The Sky Blues have won their last two matches and will be well-organised and hard to break down - they also possess enough powerful players capable of ploughing through a poor playing surface.

Posh will surely struggle to get anything from a trip to face Mark Cooper’s classy Swindon outfit, but they could negotiate their way through the rest of the fixtures with few alarms.

I predict a respectable 70-point finish for Posh , but I fear Bradford City might finish with a point more.

The Bantams will improve now that they have just League One to worry about and they have a couple of games in hand on Posh who have just a three-point cushion. There is very little to fear from the rest of the play-off contenders who will drop points galore in the run-in in my opinion Some, like Fleetwood and Rochdale, will be happy to finish in the top half.

Posh have already despatched Barnsley and Doncaster quite comfortably this season, although the trip to the former in April could still be a crucial fixture for both teams.

In what position do you think Posh will finish the League One season? E-mail alan.swann@jpress.co.uk or tweet to @PTAlanSwann.

THE RUN-IN - REMAINING FIXTURES FOR THE CLUBS CHASING THE PLAY-OFF SPOTS

SHEFFIELD UTD

Current position: 5th

Current points:55

Remaining games; 10.

v Port Vale (h) W

v Scunthorpe (h) W

v Crewe (h) W

v Barnsley (a) D

v Doncaster (h) W

v Oldham (a) W

v Yeovil (a) W

v Bradford (h) D

v Orient (a) D

v Chesterfield (h) W

Predicted points: 79

Predicted position:5th

Comment: I can’t see how ‘The Blades’ can fail to finish fourth. . I fancy them to win the play-offs also, but they need to find their best form before then.

BARNSLEY

Current position: 6th

Current points: 54

Remaining games: 9

v Preston (h) L

v Bristol City (a) L

v Sheff Utd (h) D

v Colchester (a) W

v Chesterfield (h) D

v Notts County (a) D

v Posh (h) D

v Bradford City (a) L

v Rochdale (h) W

Predicted points: 64

Predicted finish: 9th

Comment: I can’t see them getting more than a point from the next three matches and it will be a hard road back into contention from there.

POSH

Current position: 7th

Current points: 53

Remaining games: 9

v Chesterfield (h) W

v Coventry (h) L

v Scunthorpe (a) D

v Walsall (h) W

v Swindon (a) L

v Crewe (h) W

v Barnsley (a) D

v Crawley (h) W

v Oldham (a) W

Predicted points: 70

Predicted finish: 7th

Comment: A couple of ‘gimmes’ to finish the season, but I fear Posh might just miss out even though I see them losing just two more matches.

CHESTERFIELD

Current position: 8th

Current points: 51

Remaining games: 10

v Posh (a) L

v Walsall (h) D

v Bradford City (a) L

v Yeovil (a) W

v Crewe (h) W

v Barnsley (a) D

v Colchester (h) W

v Oldham (a) W

v Bristol City (h) L

v Sheff Utd (a) L

Predicted points: 65

Predicted finish: 8th

Comment: Two hard games at the end of a long campaign could catch them out. This Saturday’s match at Posh is therefore huge for them.

FLEETWOOD

Current position: 9th

Current points: 51

Remaining games: 9

v Bradford City (a) L

v Preston (h) L

v Gillingham (a) D

v Yeovil (h) W

v Walsall (a) L

v MK Dons (h) D

v Doncaster (a) D

v Colchester (h) W

v Port Vale (a) D

Predicted points: 61

Predicted finish: 12th

Comment: They’ve surpassed expectations so far, but they don’t have the quality required to get into the top six by the beginning of May.

ROCHDALE

Current position: 10th

Current points: 50

Remaining games: 11

v Scunthorpe (h) W

v Oldham (a) W

v Yeovil (h) W

v Preston (a) L

v Port Vale (h) D

v Doncaster (a) L

v Swindon (h) L

v Gillingham (a) D

v Leyton Orient (h) D

v MK Dons (h) L

v Barnsley (a) L

Predicted points: 62

Predicted finish: 10th

Comment: A small squad will catch Dale out, but not before they thrust themselves into the thick of the play-off race with three wins in a row.

BRADFORD CITY

Current position: 11th

Current points: 50

Remaining games: 11

v Fleetwood (h) W

v Oldham (h) W

v Chesterfield (h) W

v Doncaster (a) D

v Preston (h) L

v Gillingham (a) D

v Bristol City (h) L

v Sheff Utd (a) D

v Barnsley (h) W

v Crewe (a) W

v Scunthorpe (a) W

Predicted points: 71

Predicted finish: 6th

Comment: I expect City to catch up and pass the rest of the play-off contenders now that they are free of FA Cup distractions. Some tough games left though.

DONCASTER

Current position: 12th

Current points: 50

Remaining games: 9

v Coventry (a) L

v MK Dons (a) L

v Bradford (h) D

v Sheff Utd (a) L

v Rochdale (h) W

v Leyton Orient (a) L

v Fleetwood (h) D

v Notts County (a) W

v Scunthorpe (h) W

Predicted points: 61

Predicted finish: 11th

Comment: Lost form at just the wrong time and I can’t see them recovering in time to make another challenge. Mid-table obscurity beckons.

PORT VALE

Current position: 13th

Current points: 48

Remaining games: 9

v Sheff Utd (a) L

v Leyton Orient (a) L

v Colchester (h) W

v Rochdale (a) D

v MK Dons (h) L

v Scunthorpe (a) D

v Preston (h) L

v Yeovil (a) W

v Fleetwood (h) D

Predicted points: 57

Predicted finish: 14th

Comment: Lost their last two matches and will probably lose their next two. They will then be too far back to be realistic contenders.

GILLINGHAM

Current position: 14th

Current points: 47

Remaining games: 9

v Colchester (h) W

v Crawley (a) D

v Fleetwood (h) D

v Leyton Orient (a) L

v Bradford City (h) D

v Preston (a) L

v Rochdale (h) D

v Scunthorpe (a) W

v Notts County (h) W

Predicted points: 60

Predicted finish: 13th.

Comment: Enjoyed a great run under a good young manager, but they will fizzle out soon enough. Good home form might keep them in touch.