The League One season kicked off with two new ‘big boys’ after the relegation of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Peterborough – and many tipped them for promotion straight back to the Championship. Sheffield United hoped to take the step that their city rivals Wednesday had done two seasons before, while Brentford had to put their cruel play off heart-break behind them if they were to stand a chance of promotion.
What ensued was a remarkable season across the whole of the division.
Before any ball had been kicked there was immediate drama surrounding the future of Coventry City. The club had been placed in administration and failed to climb out of trouble. The threat of liquidation loomed over the club, who also had to move from the Ricoh Arena to Northampton for a ground share.
Disgruntled fans had an anxious wait to see if they would be allowed to take part in the league -10 points were taken from the club but the Football League allowed them to start the season, albeit with a defeat away to Crawley.
Against all odds the Sky Blues managed to preserve their League One status, finishing four points above the relegation places. If they were to have the 10 extra points the club would have finished in ninth place – overall a season that fans can look back on with a sense of pride.
The race for the title was eventually won by Wolves, and in some style too. The club set an all time record points tally for the third tier of English football with a very impressive 103 points, alongside a goal difference of 58 and just five league defeats.
Brentford lost manager Uwe Rosler to Wigan half way through their campaign but claimed second spot after an excellent upturn under new man Mark Warburton, who over saw 17 league wins in 27 games at the helm. While they were unable to keep pace with the dominant Wolves they still sealed the second automatic promotion place with ease – eight points clear of the play off places.
The race for the play-offs was an altogether tighter affair. Leyton Orient sealed themselves third place after they had become the league’s early pace setters – winning 10 and drawing two of their first 12 games, scoring 31 goals in the process. Poor results against the top two ultimately condemned the O’s to a play off third place.
Behind just on goal difference was Rotherham United who made an amazing impact after being promoted from league Two the season before. The goals of club top scorer Kieran Agard, who scored 22 league goals – just two off the league’s top scorer Britt Assombalonga, helped fire them to fourth place and a play off showdown with fifth placed Preston North End.
North End themselves finished just a point behind their play off opponents as they searched to climb out of the country’s third tier at the third time of asking. Automatic promotion proved to be too tough a task and they ultimately fell at the first play off hurdle too, losing to Rotherham 4 – 2 on aggregate. Relegated Peterborough made up the last play off position but well off the pace of the league’s leading teams.
Rotherham eventually sealed a dramatic penalty victory over Orient at Wembley to cap a fantastic season for the Millers, coming from two goals down to take the game to extra time and penalties.
Something has to be said of the remarkable turnaround achieved by Nigel Clough after he took charge of Sheffield United. The Blades second from bottom as late as February, but fast forward to the end of the season and the astounding turn around is a stark contrast to their abysmal start – the club were just seven points shy of the play offs in seventh.
With Shrewsbury Town and Stevenage cast adrift, the battle to avoid the final two relegation spots went down to the last day of the season with four teams fighting to avoid the drop. Tranmere, Notts County, Carlisle and Crewe were all in danger of dropping into the fourth tier of English football. Carlisle won just one game in their last 15 attempts and a loss to champions Wolves saw them drop out of League One.
Elsewhere, Tranmere conceded twice in the last ten minutes to surrender vital points that could have saved their season. But results went against them and their 13 year stay in League One was ended. The club had been in trouble all season and the suspension of manager Ronnie Moore in February for breaking the Football Association’s betting rules impacted on the club, with the 61-year-old sacked in April following an investigation.
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