January 5th - Charlton vs Sunderland
In the hysteria of the opening game of the season, it’s quite easy to forget that the Addicks looked like one of the best sides we’ve faced this season, even at that early stage, and it’s no surprise that they are right up there with us in the promotion race.
At the time of writing, Charlton have scored an average if 1.64 goals per games this year and the strike force of Lyle Taylor and Karlan Ahearne-Grant are both already in double figures.
Our trip to The Valley will require a positive outcome - a defeat would risk the side piling pressure on themselves with Charlton breathing down our neck and then facing Luton at home seven days later.
January 12th - Sunderland vs Luton Town
As attested to above, our main competitor for automatic promotion appears to be The Hatters, who are on a fantastic run of form and currently sit just above us, although they have played two more games than the Lads.
The two games in hand are currently a comfort, but could soon become a concern if we fail to take points from Nathan Jones’ side in the New Year.
It’s a huge, huge game in the promotion race and taking maximum points from the match will put us in a fantastic position to get some daylight between second and third place.
February 12th - Sunderland vs Blackpool
It’s all good and well looking at the two games in hand we have, but whichever way the Charlton and Luton games go the visit of the Seasiders in mid February is hugely important to our chances of promotion.
Lose/draw the above matches and Luton are still more than able to be caught with a win in our rearranged games, alternatively if we win the Luton game then we use these games to start putting some serious distance between ourselves and the teams from third to sixth.
This being the first of the games in hand - nothing less than three points will do. Blackpool are having a fairly decent season and sit comfortably in mid-table; however, we’ll still be huge favourites to win the game and we must make sure we do.
TBA - Accrington vs Sunderland
Despite a date not yet being confirmed, our rearranged visit to the Wham Stadium, much like the Blackpool game, is of massive importance.
It was hard to judge either side on a waterlogged pitch at the beginning of the December, as we both battled horrendous conditions before finally succumbing to torrential rain in the 72nd minute.
Stanley have upset a few teams this season and have had a very steady first season in League One after last season’s promotion. The hope would be that the game is rearranged for late April time, with the Lancashire team sitting comfortable in mid-table with not a great deal to play for apart from pride. That might calm a few nerves in another must win game for Jack Ross’ side.
April 13th - Sunderland vs Coventry
Why does Coventry at home stick out you may ask? Well, this weekend sees Luton Town visit The Valley in a game that will likely decide which team is most likely to challenge us for second spot, assuming none of the three teams have a huge variable in their performances from the first part of the season.
Although you can never be 100% certain if Sunderland, Luton and Charlton will all be sitting in similar positions comes April, you’d be hard pushed to find a League One fan who thinks they’ll be too much change to the top three or four positions come season’s end.
Assuming that is so, a win over Coventry City at the Stadium of Light will hopefully make the match-up between the Addicks and the Hatters a second thought as we begin to see the pathway back to the Championship.