THE BIG MATCH

Bournemouth and Sheffield United both harbour ambitions of promotion in npower League 1 and three points could take either to the summit of the division on Saturday when they meet on the South Coast.

The Cherries come into the fixture sitting second, level with leaders Swindon Town and third-placed Doncaster Rovers, while the Blades are one point adrift in fourth.

Bournemouth were defeated for only the second time in 22 league games and dropped their first points in six last weekend, losing 2-0 to Preston North End.

Eddie Howe's team have rapidly climbed the table since his re-appointment in October and their target is to now win the league.

Defender Steve Cook believes the Cherries need to return to form immediately to get back in the title race.

He explained to www.afcb.co.uk: "We want to win the league so we have to rally around and focus on us winning games, and getting a winners medal at the end of the season.

"Saturday is a big game for us. It's perfect for us to try and get a much needed three points."

The Blades are heading into the fixture on the back of three successive league victories, against Shrewsbury Town, Bury and Colchester United.

Their recent good form came after a poor January, when they picked up just two points from a possible nine.

Manager Danny Wilson's aim is to build some momentum heading into the latter stages of the season to strengthen their promotion push.

"We have seen this season that teams have been a bit up and down and ultimately it will come down to consistency," he told www.sufc.co.uk.

"The league table can change from game-to-game and as we saw to our benefit last week - three wins on the bounce can make a huge difference to your perspective.

"We knew throughout January we needed to up our performances and thankfully we have responded positively.

"To get an automatic promotion place requires a lot of belief, commitment and consistency. If you don't do it between now and the end of the season you will slip away and we are determined to remain resolute in our approach.

"We head to Bournemouth full of confidence and after their defeat at Preston; you could say the pressure is on them at the weekend."

KEEP AN EYE ON

Two other sides within touching distance of top spot go head-to-head at the Keepmoat Stadium, where Doncaster Rovers host in-form Yeovil Town.

Rovers are third in the table but are level on points with Bournemouth and leaders Swindon Town. They are out of form, though, with none of their four matches in February ending in victory.

They have lost against Bury and Walsall this month, and have picked up draws against Milton Keynes Dons and Crawley Town in their two most recent matches.

Boss Brian Flynn wants his side to claim the place at the summit this weekend, he told The Star: "Top spot is something that we've not tasted yet. I want to taste it and I hope the players want to taste it as well.

"I get that sense from them, there seems to be a disappointment. That disappointment is a good thing for me because they're not settling.

"We just can't keep giving other teams the chance to get on top of us."

It won't be easy for Doncaster, however, as they meet the league's in-form side in Yeovil Town. The Glovers have won their last eight successive league fixtures, conceding just three and scoring 19 in the process.

Much of the recent praise has been heaped on striker Paddy Madden, who has notched 10 goals in his last seven outings - goals that have helped Yeovil break into the Play-Off places and within a point of Doncaster.

Manager Gary Johnson is delighted with his side's position and recent performances but will not underestimate their fellow promotion-chasers this weekend.

"It is a fantastic run and we have done it very well, in as much as we have not been lucky," the manager explained to Glovers Player. "You can be lucky for one or two wins but you can't be lucky for eight wins.

"I don't think it's any fluke but we've got to keep going and we've got to be now is very strong because as you get to the business end of the season that is when you have really got to pull it off and really be bold.

"Our next game up against Doncaster is very important. They are up there because they are one of the better teams in the league.

"You can talk about your own team but what you have to got to do is respect your opposition, and you've got to thoroughly know their strengths and weaknesses."

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

At the bottom, Hartlepool United will hope to continue their five-game unbeaten run and climb the table further when they visit 19th-placed Scunthorpe United.

Pools sit 23rd, on 24 points, and have clambered from the bottom of the table to be within nine points of safety heading into the weekend's schedule. They will find it difficult against Scunthorpe, though, who have also had a resurgence of late.

Brian Laws' men picked up two wins in 12 games before winning three of their last four - the only defeat being to Yeovil Town last time out.

The only side below Hartlepool in the table is Portsmouth, and they travel to Boundary Park where they meet another side in the relegation scrap - Oldham Athletic.

Pompey haven't secured a win since late October, while the Latics have two successive league victories - against Milton Keynes Dons and Stevenage.

The two other teams making up the bottom four are Bury, who are at Notts County on Friday night, and Colchester United, who entertain Tranmere Rovers.

The Shakers are 22nd in the table, six points adrift of Oldham, and have suffered successive 2-0 losses, while the 11th-placed Magpies are without a win in their last four fixtures.

Colchester could haul themselves out of the drop zone with a win in their match against Tranmere, who need the three points to get their promotion push back on track after four consecutive losses.

Brentford are hot on the heels of Ronnie Moore's men and they take on Walsall. The Bees will be up against it as ninth-placed Saddlers are in scintillating form - winning six of their last eight.

Coventry City sit between the Brentford and Walsall in the table and they meet Crewe Alexandra for the second time this week.

The two teams met on Wednesday night with a place in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Final on the line, and despite a 2-0 win for the Sky Blues it wasn't enough to overturn Crewe's 3-0 first leg advantage, so revenge will be on the agenda for the Sky Blues at the Ricoh Arena.

Another side on the wrong end of a Johnstone's Paint Trophy Arena Final result was Leyton Orient, who lost out to Southend United, and they are at home to Crawley Town in the league this weekend.

Elsewhere, leaders Swindon Town will put their 11-game undefeated streak on the line against 17th-placed Preston North End at the County Ground.

Rounding off this weekend's npower League 1 fixture list is Carlisle United, who host Milton Keynes Dons, and Stevenage, who travel to Shrewsbury Town.

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