THE BIG MATCH

The stand-out fixture in npower League 1 this weekend sees Walsall travel to the Keepmoat Stadium to take on Doncaster Rovers.

It's a significant game for both sides with the Saddlers eager to close the gap between themselves and the Play-Offs, and Doncaster in with a chance of moving to the summit with a victory.

Dean Smith's Walsall come into the match in good form having won seven of their last nine outings, a run that followed 16 games without a victory, and their recent revival has seen them rise to ninth, just four points behind Sheffield United in the lowest Play-Off place.

On the opening day of the campaign, the Saddlers were soundly beaten 3-0 by Doncaster and, despite their good form, 41-year-old Smith is expecting another difficult challenge.

The former Leyton Orient and Sheffield Wednesday player told The Star: "Doncaster have got quality throughout their side. They've been up there all season as we expected after the opening day.

"On that occasion we saw plenty of the ball and played some good stuff - it's just they were more clinical on the day.

"With 15 games to go, we've found ourselves in a good position but by the same token, we know we've got some difficult encounters ahead and they don't come much tougher than going to Doncaster on Saturday."

Whilst Walsall are vying for a place in the Play-Off pack, Doncaster are in a fight for top spot.

Rovers currently sit second in the table, level on points with leaders Tranmere Rovers with a game in hand, but missed the chance to go top last weekend. Tranmere lost their game against Carlisle United but Brian Flynn's men failed to take advantage as they were also on the end of a loss, 2-0 to Bury.

That defeat was only their second on the road this term but they have not been as productive at the Keepmoat Stadium, where they have fallen to five defeats.

And Flynn, who was appointed following Dean Saunders' departure to Wolverhampton Wanderers, believes Walsall will cause his side problems, which they must stand up to if they want to notch up three points.

"I like Walsall. Their strength is going forward and attacking teams," the 57-year-old told The Star.

"I've seen them numerous times this season and I've always been impressed with how they've played.

"I'm expecting an open game and I like those because I think we can score goals.

"Our back five will have to keep things very tight because give Walsall an inch and they'll use it."

KEEP AN EYE ON

If Doncaster drop points against Walsall, Swindon Town could replace them in the automatic promotion places, and they host Hartlepool United this weekend.

The Robins currently lie third, two points behind both Doncaster and Tranmere, so could even go top if they overcome the struggling Pools and other results go in their favour.

They come into Saturday's fixture unbeaten in 10 games, with their most recent result a 1-0 win against Colchester United on Tuesday night, and captain Alan McCormack is looking for that form to continue.

The 29-year-old told www.swindontownfc.co.uk: "Hopefully we can put on another performance against Hartlepool and dominate the game.

"We have been very good of late at home. We will have to play our own game and make sure we keep our concentration to work towards the result we want.

"There has been lots of talk about events off the pitch but as players we just concentrate on our game.

"We just get on with our jobs and you could see the spirit of the lads with the result at Colchester.

"The group is very tight here and we all back each other as staff and players."

Hartlepool are battling at the other end of the table trying to maintain their League 1 status and they recorded back-to-back victories for the first time this season by beating Notts County 2-1 last time out, a week after overcoming Portsmouth 3-1.

The Pools are 10 points adrift of safety and midfielder Simon Walton knows time is running out, although he insists the squad still believe they can avoid relegation.

The former Plymouth Argyle man told the Hartlepool Mail: "The situation we're in, it has taken us longer than it should have to start producing this form.

"We've realised now this is it, there's no second chances - it's last chance saloon stuff. But the belief is there that we can survive.

"There will be ups and downs but we have to use these standards [the last two wins] as the benchmark for the rest of the season.

"It's Swindon next and we seem to do well away from home and have won at the likes of Sheffield United and Portsmouth, so we'll take confidence from that this weekend."

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

Tranmere Rovers will hope to maintain their position at the summit, and fend off the chasing teams, when they visit Leyton Orient.

Ronnie Moore's men have lost two of their last three, while Russell Slade's O's are unbeaten in four league matches, although they were defeated 1-0 in the first leg of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Southern Area Final against Southend United in midweek.

Bournemouth, Brentford and Sheffield United sit alongside the Swindon in the Play-Offs and this weekend they all face teams in the bottom half of the division.

Of those three sides, the Cherries are the only team guaranteed to still in be in the Play-Offs with the Robins come full-time and they host troubled Portsmouth.

Brentford are without a win in three on 50 points and entertain Bury, while the Blades are winless in five, with 48 points, and visit 18th-placed Shrewsbury Town.

The two sides who are struggling for form could be replaced in the top six this weekend by either Yeovil Town and Coventry City, who sit seventh and eighth respectively and meet at the Ricoh Arena.

The Glovers are in full flow and have won their last five, scoring 12 and conceding just two, while the Sky Blues have won three of their last four, including a morale-boosting 2-1 triumph against promotion rivals Sheffield United last weekend.

That wasn't their most recent result, though, as they went down 3-0 to Crewe Alexandra in the first leg of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Northern Area Final on Tuesday.

The Railwaymen are on the road to Meadow Lane this time around to take on Notts County, who are managerless following the dismissal of Keith Curle. County's development squad manager Chris Kiwomya will be in charge for the visit of Crewe, and he is in the running for the permanent position so will be keen to pick up three points.

Stevenage are the latest team to get a result against the Magpies, winning 2-0 at the Lamex Stadium last weekend, and they make the long trip to Carlisle United on Saturday.

Oldham Athletic also remain without a permanent boss, after the departure of Paul Dickov, and they host Milton Keynes Dons, who have slipped to 11th following a run of one win in six.

Elsewhere, there's a big match in Essex this weekend as Colchester United and Preston North End, who sit 19th and 17th respectively, go head-to-head.

The remaining fixture in the division is at Glanford Park, where 20th-placed Scunthorpe United host mid-table Crawley Town.

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