THE BIG MATCH

There's a number of significant fixtures at the foot of the npower League 1 table this week as 22nd-placed Scunthorpe United host Bury, who sit 23rd.

The Iron are on 17 points but the Shakers only trail them by two. Shrewsbury Town, who sit immediately outside the relegation places, are also on 17 points, meaning a win for either side in the match at Glanford Park could dramatically change where they sit in the standings.

Despite their lowly league position, both sides come into the game having picked up plenty of points recently.

The hosts, Scunthorpe, come into the match off the back of two wins and a draw - the draw coming at home to Play-Off chasing Notts County on Saturday.

Iron boss Brian Laws will want to follow that valuable draw up with another positive performance, but is wary of the threat that the Shakers pose.

"It will be a very tough game, but they all are," the 52-year-old told Iron Player.

"We have to give them [Bury] respect because they are a team who can beat you on any given day.

"However, our thoughts are always on ourselves and if we perform to our ability we will give anybody a good game, as we did on Saturday against Notts County.

"It will be a tough game but there are a lot of hard ones ahead of us.

"We certainly believe that this is a winnable game, and if we can achieve a win it will give us a little bit of breathing space between ourselves and the bottom four - that's how important the game is for both teams.

"That's the incentive for the players. We've squashed the league a little bit now and the points deficit is a lot smaller. There is one point between five clubs and we know that the next win can catapult us out of the position we're in.

"That's how tight it will be now for a good while. We'll continue to keep going and whether we win, lose or draw, it's not going to affect our thought process either."

Bury's form has picked up over recent weeks, too, and they have three wins and a draw in their last five, but were defeated 2-0 on Saturday away against Colchester United.

Kevin Blackwell will be eager to see his side bounce back in what could arguably described as a relegation six-pointer.

In the team news, Scunthorpe welcome back Josh Walker from suspension, while the visitors will be without striking duo Andy Bishop and David Healy.

KEEP AN EYE ON

The other important clash at the bottom of npower League 1 sees Hartlepool United entertain 21st-placed Oldham Athletic.

Following a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Coventry City at the weekend, the Pools now find themselves nine points from safety, with just eight points from their 18 games played.

The match against fellow-strugglers Oldham will provide them with the perfect opportunity to get their first win in 15 matches, though.

First-team coach John Hughes, who recently took over at the club following the departure of Neale Cooper, believes the players need to up their game and take the behind-the-scenes work out onto the field.

"I've been in there as a captain and as a manager and I've dragged guys by the scruff of the neck to turn things around," the former Livingston boss told SportMail.

"But I can't always go in and hit them [the players] with a big stick, I need to sit back and analyse it and then improve it.

"I can do all this talking and all the work with them in training but they have to take it on board and when the curtain goes up implement it."

The Latics have lost four of their last five matches in npower League 1 - the most recent being a 4-1 defeat against Bournemouth - but will want to change that record on their visit to the North East.

A win for Oldham could lift them as high as 16th, providing other results go their way, and manager Paul Dickov knows how important the Hartlepool fixture, and their upcoming match with Shrewsbury Town, is.

He told www.oldhamathletic.co.uk: "The next two games are massive and are six-pointers. There is no getting away from that and the minimum we are looking for is six points.

"Hartlepool also had a poor result at the weekend and their new manager [John Hughes] will be looking for a reaction in the same way as I will be from my players.

"We all have to dig in. It is alright having good footballers but, when the chips are down, they need to show their mettle."

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

Tranmere Rovers' lead at the summit of npower League 1 has been cut to just two points and they will hope to stave off the threat of second-placed Sheffield United when they host Walsall.

Ronnie Moore's men are in a sticky patch of form but will be confident of a win against the Saddlers, who haven't won in nine league outings.

Sheffield United will remain in pursuit of Rovers when they take on Crewe Alexandra. The Blades will take over at the top if they win and the current leaders lose.

With just one loss this season, Sheffield United are one of npower League 1's form sides, as are Bournemouth.

Since returning to the South Coast club, Eddie Howe has inspired a revival that has lifted the Cherries up to 11th and just four points off the Play-Off pack. Their impressive run was extended with a 4-1 victory over Oldham Athletic at the weekend.

Next up for Howe's men is Stevenage, who have slipped down the standings after two successive defeats but remain in the Play-Offs.

Swindon Town, Milton Keynes Dons and Crawley Town occupy the other places within the Play-Offs.

On Tuesday, Paolo Di Canio's men host Brentford knowing that a win for the Bees would draw them level on points with the Robins in the division.

Elsewhere, Karl Robinson's Dons travel to Shrewsbury Town and Crawley entertain Gary Johnson's Yeovil Town.

Notts County and Preston North End are two other sides in and around the Play-Off mix in npower League 1 and they meet at Deepdale.

Not far behind is Colchester United and Coventry City, who both struggled in the early stages of the season but have improved off the back of managerial changes to now sit mid-table. Just three points separate the sides - Colchester with the upper hand - as they go head-to-head on Tuesday night.

Portsmouth and Carlisle United have both slipped into danger at the foot of the division and they host Doncaster Rovers and Leyton Orient respectively, in the remaining League 1 fixtures.

Click here for all the midweek action