So, since the last review at the beginning of November, is our ‘indicator’ – based on past history panning out – predicting our future survival in League 1? Another three months gone, 15 more games down, and it’s time we look at what occurred and what is in store at the ‘business end of the season’.

The loss against Northampton should really not have come as a surprise to anyone as, along with Oxford over the years, they have been one of our bogey teams. This was a banker home loss on the indicator as we have only had three decent results against them ever since we reformed – two draws and a win.

But looking back over the last three months, the surprises on the pitch have definitely correlated to be the surprises we find in the table of expected and actual results. Overall, we have performed pretty much as expected: over this period, we were expected to get 10 points – and that is exactly what we got.

What is interesting, though, is a fair portion came from games where we were NOT expected to get them. Bradford away is the shining example of this, as the expected result was a 3-1 loss. To win was good; to win that way was exceptional. However, we have to temper this by pointing out that at home, the indicator says that we should have won, albeit 3-2.

Southend are another team we have a poor past record against, and the home game with them was another we were expected to lose. The win was not only welcome, but very important. Bristol Rovers away is, also, a totally unhappy hunting ground (I am still trying to work out why Meades played right-back when I went there to watch once), with an expected 2-0 loss pencilled in by the indicator, but again, a turn-up for the books and an impressive 3-1 win.

But outside of these, there is the nibbling tendency to undo all this good work by losing or not drawing games that we should have. Losing to Walsall at home when we should win; not getting the expected draw away at Portsmouth, followed by not winning when we should have at the Gills. However, the draw at the shit bowl meant we gained a point there on prediction, which was only to be negated at Bury, where we were expected to draw, but lost.

The other games, such as Peterborough, played to form, although the Wigan result – where having not played them before, I used the default score of a 1-0 home win – was an exception to the rule.

  • Click here for a full breakdown of predictions and results

So what comes next? Well Plymouth is an expected away win (1-2), so if we do achieve that, I claim the glory; Bristol Rovers at home should be a draw; Peterborough away is also a predicted win; and Blackburn at home, which completes our February fixture list, should be an easy win (using the default score as we’ve not played them at home in the past).

Looking further ahead, to the rest of the season, and we are predicted to pick up 22 points from the remaining 15 games. During this run-in period, it is found that teams that go down usually average only about a point per game. On the basis of the table after Northampton, the probable line for relegation will be drawn at about 46-47 points.

And whilst we all quite enjoyed January, this month has well and truly started with a vicious bite, and we need to somehow turn results around, otherwise it is quite easy to see us having a dry February in place of a dry January. In theory, things will change in line with the predictions over the next three games.

But as we have seen earlier in this article, this side never does what is generally expected of it: it always seems to do something different. I guess it’s why we still hope, but the hope continues to slowly kill us.

// Jim Potter


Strange how certain events in football can change a club’s course. Everything in the AFC Wimbledon garden seemed rosy up to that point Freddie Ladapo took a call from Chris Powell halfway through his medical at Kingsmeadow.

The way we handled that situation received widespread criticism and looking back, maybe the negative vibe created by publicly saying he’d legged it at the eleventh hour was the catalyst for our downturn in fortunes.

Events at the end of the January painted us as an unattractive proposition. Ladapo preferred Southend, and there was a whisper that Lyle Taylor had confirmed his future lies elsewhere, as he pencilled a deal for the summer.

Not the ideal window then: we failed to secure an exciting winger to bolster our options, and our star player took somewhat less interest as to what league we’ll be playing in next season.

From having a lot of positivity and momentum after Bradford, we seemed to be thrown off course – and just when we needed to show a bit of strength, we lost our captain. Unfortunate timing, but bad luck that was compounded by the manager replacing him with a player now past it at this level.

Lots has been said about team selection, formation, and tactics for both games this week, which I won’t repeat here. I agree with much of it, but what worries me most, having witnessed 90 minutes at Gigg Lane and 70 minutes at Kingsmeadow over the past week, is how we’ve been out-battled by fellow relegation strugglers.

Northampton are a big ugly side with players like O’Toole and Crooks in midfield, but we also lost all our battles against a Bury team of average stature. So what I’ve seen on the pitch this week indicates it’s mentality, rather than physicality, that’s letting us down.

And I wonder if that comes from the manager. Because when we win or pick up a few decent results, there is a slight air of arrogance that comes across: taking the credit for our good performances with, crucially, an undertone that we knew we were pretty good all along and have just been waiting to climb up to our rightful position in the league.

Does that transmit to the players? I hope not, because the reality is that we’ve got a bang average squad for this level – and we need to fight and scrap with 100 per cent effort for every point.

We didn’t take to the pitch at Gigg Lane looking like a team thinking that way. The home team did, and they put us on the back foot from the referee’s first whistle.

If we had the approach Bury demonstrated – that we can’t afford to leave anything on the pitch in any game between now and May – I think we’d have picked up a couple of results and be sitting comfortably in mid-table.

But we only seem capable of showing the necessary fight when we slip into the relegation places. Maybe an alarm bell rings in the players’ lounge; maybe the management get them fired up. But whatever happens, they put in one or two battling performances that drag us up and out of the bottom four again.

So no matter what lies behind our inconsistency, it’s put us right back in the relegation battle, and if we don’t sort it out, there is a danger of us going down.

That said: I’m not going to panic just yet.

With the wonderful work franchise are doing, there’s probably only one relegation place available to us and with the right mentality, we should be able to finish above one of Fleetwood, Blackpool, or Oldham. Clubs like Northampton and Southend are already pulling away from trouble, leaving us and the above-mentioned to fight over that last place in Division 4.

Anyway, as I’ve got this far into the match report without mentioning the Northampton game, I’ll deal with it very quickly.

The positives were Robbo returning to the bench, and that we scored from a set piece. The negatives were every other set piece, Northampton scoring three, and how easily Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had the better of Neal Ardley tactically. They seemed to be strolling through the middle of us second half – well, certainly for the 25 minutes of it I hung around for, at least.

My MOTM I’m going with Liam Trotter again. Had a decent game and put that early chance on a plate for Pigott – what a different afternoon it might have been if Joe had provided the finish it deserved.

Player Ratings Long 6; Fuller 7, Oshilaja 6, Charles 7, Francomb 6; Forrester 5, Soares 6, Trotter 7; Barcham 5, Pigott 5, Taylor 6.

Up Next Plymouth on Tuesday may see even fewer of us in attendance than the 131 at Bury. I’m going to predict a 4-0 home win, because you know what we’re like when everyone expects we’ll get hammered, and we could really do with a surprise point or three to stop the rot.

// Andy Dixon – @andydixon975


Some games you know very early on you’re not getting anything and, five minutes in, Saturday felt like one of those days.

I travelled not expecting much and a chat in the pub with a Millers fan did nothing for my expectations. He described a well organised team that are working really hard for each other: not a team with any star players, but a hard-working group on a good run and full of confidence.

Neal’s pre-match comments suggested this was a good opportunity to find out how far we’ve come as a team and how we’d measure up against one of the better sides in the division.

And there’s no doubt we’ve made significant progress in recent weeks, but when pitted against a team challenging for promotion, we got a bit of a reality check.

It’s not that we played badly. We were well organised, full of energy, and matched them in many departments – it’s just that we lack that little bit of quality that you need to get something from games like this.

In tough away games in February, you need performances from your big players. We didn’t get one and it may be just me, but is Lyle starting to look like a player in his last few months with the club?

We set up in our now familiar 3-5-2; the only change from Valley Parade seeing Robinson wheeled out in place of Barry Fuller, who was missing because of calf injury.

I had my doubts about Robbo when we got the team news. He didn’t have a bad game but his distribution would have been more at home at Twickenham. Jon Meades hasn’t been in the best of form, but I’d still have preferred him to come in for Barry.

The cynic in me wonders whether Neal feels he has to justify Robbo’s contract with the odd appearance. It’s well known they are close mates and many of us were surprised he got another deal.

Hindsight make us all wise of course (and I haven’t forgotten Robbo played a massive part in our promotion), but he’s not League One quality now and those wages could have been better spent elsewhere.

Anyway, we started okay at the New York stadium, but Rotherham took the lead on 14 minutes. A clever ball to the back post found Michael Smith isolated with Andy Barcham; Smith got the better of him and slotted home for 1-0.

I didn’t fancy us to get back in it.

Lyle has been great for the club and scored some fantastic goals. None of us will forget the one at Wembley, the individual brilliance at Northampton, or that one against Franchise at Kingsmeadow.

But on a cold February day in Rotherham you need a hard-nosed centre forward who will roll his sleeves up and get stuck in. We’ve got a prima-donna with half an eye on what deal might be coming his way in the summer.

Don’t get me wrong: Taylor will score more goals this season and play a crucial role in keeping us up, but I look forward to replacing him with someone whose first priority is the team – not himself. I think a Tom Elliot type would have given the Rotherham defence a better workout and I hope Neal can develop Joe Pigott or work his magic again in the summer transfer window.

But it’s not only Lyle. Andy Barcham looks dangerous against bottom half clubs, and Cody McDonald proved what he can do against a struggling defence only last week. But when they come up against decent teams at this level, we just don’t trouble them. With the exception of Harry’s scuffed effort late on I can’t remember one really dangerous situation for us, or their keeper having to make a save.

I’m not criticising the players or the manager, that’s the quality our budget gets us and that’s how it will be until Plough Lane revenues increase our spending power.

So we never looked like scoring, but we did have decent possession and territory in the second half, and you could argue we had the better of that period. So although the second goal on 92 minutes was disappointing, I don’t think there was any doubt that Rotherham deserved the points.

The Oppo Lots of good qualities I’ve mentioned and two ex-wombles playing well for them. Smudger got a lot of stick at Gigg Lane, but it’s hard to perform at your best on a sinking ship. I thought he looked much better in a Rotherham shirt and will score the goals needed to keep them in the top six. Semi Ajayi looked a bit green in his loan spell with us, and I can’t remember exactly how that ended. Was he one of those that mysteriously disappeared back to his club mid-loan? Well, he’s filled out a bit now and looked very accomplished at the centre of the Millers defence. I’ve seen most clubs in the division and I think Rotherham have an excellent chance of the play-offs: they may even win them.

My MOTM Jimmy Abdou gets my vote this week. Another excellent performance in midfield in which he reminded me of Dannie Bulman at his pestering best, but with that extra bit of quality when he gets on the ball or makes a pass. I’ve seen people question why Jimmy didn’t get a run in the team sooner, but he’s had an injury, a suspension, and international duty. As soon as he’s had a regular start he’s shown why Neal brought him in. He only became available after the Liam Trotter deal was done, and I think there’ll be a contract on the table after his testimonial at Millwall.

Player Ratings Long 7; Charles 7 Oshilaja 8 Robinson 5; Francomb 7, Soares 6, Trotter 6, Abdou 8, Barcham 6; McDonald 6, Taylor 5.

Up Next We may not have had the quality to match Rotherham but we’ve proved recently that we can hold our own against the bottom half teams. If we’re up for it on Tuesday night I think we’ll have too much for league’s bottom club. There may be one or two changes – we know Neal is going to have to use the squad to get through February – and I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts this week. Kennedy could come in for Barcham, and we might see Meades given a start – either at the back or in midfield.

Joe Pigott wont have to wait too long for a start so he might play 90 minutes. That gives us the option to rest Cody and bring him on around the hour mark to give Lyle a breather.

Whilst I remain confident that we’ll pull away from trouble, these are three crucial games coming up. Northampton and Plymouth are both improving and neither will be the banker points they appeared to be a month or two back, so we need to make the most of the game with Bury – and I expect to be traveling back down the M1 with three points on Tuesday night.

// Andy Dixon – @andydixon975