THE BIG MATCH
Doncaster Rovers have been gathering momentum in their bid for an immediate promotion from npower League 1 and go into the first Saturday of 2013 with the chance to move into the top two.
Rovers are currently only outside the automatic promotion spots on goal difference so a draw in their home match against Colchester United would be enough to move them second, above Sheffield United, while a win might even see them go top, although they would have to be victorious by four goals to remove Tranmere Rovers from the summit.
With the Blades, Tranmere and Brentford - who are a point behind them in fourth - all in FA Cup third round action this weekend, this is a chance for Doncaster to take advantage and get points on the board.
And they also want to overcome a run without a home win going back to late November, though they felt they should have picked up all three points from a controversial 2-2 draw with Sheffield United on New Year's Day.
Club captain Rob Jones told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "We have an important game on Saturday and cannot dwell on what happened [against Sheffield United]. We need to put Tuesday to bed and put it out of our minds.
"There is no point having a hangover about a game we can now do nothing about. We have got to be mentally strong and move on, it is as simple as that.
"Yes, it was a kick in the teeth. But on the positive side of things, we played really well and scored two goals and could have scored a lot more."
It's an important game for Colchester too, who could find themselves in the bottom four by kick-off at the Keepmoat Stadium.
They start the weekend one place outside the relegation zone and two points clear after seven straight defeats - their latest a 3-0 reverse at Crawley Town - but with fourth-bottom Portsmouth in action at Walsall on Friday night, that could all change.
Defender Matt Heath told U's Player: "We've got to play each team away and at home, it doesn't matter what order it is. We'll be working hard to get those three points when we play Doncaster.
"If we knew what we were doing wrong we wouldn't be doing it. When we were winning we just wanted to recreate how we were playing and we've just got to think back to that.
"We are a good, honest bunch of lads here and we don't go out wanting to lose, or thinking we're going to lose, and it's going to be no different when we play Doncaster. We're going to be going out there thinking we're going to win."
KEEP AN EYE ON
Crewe Alexandra and Stevenage will both want to pull themselves closer to the npower League 1 Play-Off positions when they meet in Cheshire on Saturday.
The teams are 10th and 12th respectively going into the shortened fixture list this weekend and both know that a win will keep them right in the top six picture.
Crewe have 39 points, three adrift of sixth-placed Milton Keynes Dons, and could edge them for their position with a three-goal victory, while for Stevenage, a victory would see them move to 40 points and leave them ninth.
Steve Davis' Railwaymen have won five of their last six in League 1 and that run extends to eight wins from their last 12.
Ahead of the match, Goalkeeper Steve Phillips told The Sentinel: "There is a big difference between League 1 and League 2. I've played most of my career in League 1 and there is a big step up.
"The team last year was brilliant and Steve Davis has been very clever to bring in some great people to build his squad. A couple of signings might have raised eyebrows, but they have been quality.
"I can't believe we are not in the Play-Offs. We keep winning, but every week we are not in there just yet."
While Crewe have hit form to rise up the table, their opponents Stevenage have been going in the opposite direction with three successive defeats and only two wins from their last 10 fixtures.
That is a stark contrast to their early season form when they were right up with the leading pack and went unbeaten in League 1 until mid-October.
But manager Gary Smith is not going to press the panic button just yet and believes hard work is the key to ending the run.
He told www.stevenagefc.com: "The guys that have performed so admirably in the first half of the season have got some tough games coming up now because when things aren't going for you everything looks a difficulty. Crewe away, who have themselves been in a good vein of form, is not an easy task. Somehow, some way, we've got to put it right.
"It's like winning, you're almost waiting for it. When you're winning everything you seem to hit is full of confidence and belief.
"There's no way around it; you've got to keep working. These are the guys that have done so well and will continue to but this run has got to be snapped out of as soon as possible. We will regroup, we haven't got long and we are back into our stride again on Saturday."
ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION
The npower League 1 fixture list is truncated this weekend because of the third round of the FA Cup and there are just three more games taking place.
The first of those is on Friday night in front of the Sky Sports cameras as Walsall take on Portsmouth in a fixture between the sides currently 16th and 21st respectively.
Three wins from four gave Walsall a festive lift after their long run without a victory and now have the chance of a double against Pompey, having already tasted success at Fratton Park earlier this season.
Although they are in the bottom half of the table, the Saddlers are closer points-wise to the Play-Off places than the relegation zone as they sit 10 adrift of sixth-placed Milton Keynes Dons and 11 clear of the team fourth from bottom - Portsmouth.
Pompey's season continues to be turbulent and they haven't tasted three points since October 20th, a run of 12 games, and with just three draws in that time they have fallen into the relegation zone.
A win in Friday's match would be enough to get them out of the bottom four at the expense of Colchester United, who are immediately above them, but with Colchester then in action on Saturday it could prove to be only a slight respite.
Their last game saw them go down 5-0 at Swindon Town but boss Guy Whittingham is backing his players to bounce back in front of the cameras.
Saturday's other two fixtures see Swindon at home to Carlisle United and Scunthorpe United at home to Shrewsbury Town.
Swindon start the day fifth in the table and cannot move any higher than that, even with a win, but if they were to get the three points then they would move closer to the top two.
Paolo Di Canio's men would then be on 45 points but their proximity to the teams in the automatic promotion places would depend on the outcome of third-placed Doncaster Rovers' home game with Colchester United.
Swindon have won three on the bounce, including successive 5-0 beatings of Portsmouth and Tranmere Rovers, so will be boosted by those results as they look to continue their recent form.
Carlisle, on the other hand, are 17th with an eight-point cushion over the bottom four - though that could be cut by Portsmouth on Friday night.
The Cumbrians have found consistency hard to come by of late with three wins and six defeats from their previous nine fixtures, culminating in a 1-0 reverse at Crewe Alexandra on New Year's Day.
Scunthorpe's home fixture against Shrewsbury will see the hosts hoping to be able to get themselves out of the relegation zone.
The Iron start the weekend second from bottom on 21 points, one of three currently at that mark - alongside Bury and Portsmouth - but with the worst goal difference of the trio.
They have only won once since early November, while Shrewsbury, who travel sitting 18th on 28 points, are unbeaten in their last six with four draws in that period.
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