THE BIG MATCH

Doncaster Rovers' surge for the npower League 1 title, and promotion back to the npower Championship at the first time of asking, is firmly on track and next up for them is a match against Tranmere Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium on Saturday.

Rovers are top of the league with a two-point cushion but have only won three of their last six fixtures - losing to Milton Keynes Dons and Coventry City, and drawing with lowly Portsmouth.

Last time out the Yorkshire outfit pulled off a 1-0 victory over fellow promotion contenders Swindon Town, courtesy of Jamie McCombe's 80th-minute header, but despite the strong win manager Brian Flynn expressed that the game against Tranmere is "the important one."

The 57-year-old told www.doncasterroversfc.co.uk: "This week was always going to be a big week. We didn't start brightly against Coventry but we were excellent from start to finish against Swindon, we have to continue that against Tranmere.

"They've had a good season, up until the last five or six games. Ronnie [Moore] knows what it takes to get success in this division and I think he's tried to implement that this season; they're not out of it yet, they're well in with the pack."

Tranmere Rovers' quest for a Play-Off berth has stuttered of late and they dropped out of the top six over the Easter weekend.

Rovers come into the game on a run of two wins in their last eight outings and with consecutive 1-0 defeats, against Sheffield United and Portsmouth, to their name - form that has left them two points adrift of sixth-placed Yeovil Town.

Boss Ronnie Moore has called for a big performance from his players against the league leaders. The 60-year-old told www.tranmererovers.co.uk: "It has been a fantastic season and we don't want it to fizzle out. We need 11 warriors now. Whoever I pick to play on Saturday needs to be committed totally because it's such a vital game for us.

"It's one of the most important games we've had this season. It's time to get the sleeves rolled up and have a real good go. If we go down fighting then we go down fighting, but let's go with a bit of spirit, a bit of determination and a bit of will power.

"We can't show any fear, we've got to go and play and enjoy it. Being where we are is fantastic but being where we are and finishing seventh, eighth or ninth, it won't rest very nicely in my stomach.

"For everything they've given this season, just one more little push and we're basically nearly there."

KEEP AN EYE ON

Time is running out for the teams at the wrong of the table to make a push for survival and the bottom two meet at Victoria Park, where Hartlepool United host Bury with the loser likely to have their relegation all but confirmed.

The 24th-placed Pools are eight points from safety with just 12 available, meaning if they lose and 20th-placed Oldham Athletic win, their fate will be sealed.

Bury, meanwhile, are only a point and a place better off but with an extra game remaining. John Hughes' side built up momentum with a seven-game undefeated run through late January and February but are without a victory, and a goal, in the eight matches since.

With so much riding on Saturday's match, Hughes has told his players they must have a "cup final outlook" heading into it.

The former Livingston boss told The Northern Echo: "I hoped I wouldn't need a big team talk - against a team we had to catch.

"This is must-win, win it and we have a wee chance. If it doesn't go our way then it could be the final nail."

Bury haven't fared much better over recent weeks, winning just once in their last seven outings, and, besides Hartlepool, they have the worst away form in the league.

On their travels, the Shakers have only taken one three-point haul since beating Scunthorpe United back in November, 11 away league games ago, and despite being unhappy with the results, boss Kevin Blackwell has expressed his pleasure with his side's recent performances.

The former Sheffield United boss explained to the Bury Times: "The lads have been playing well for quite a while now and that's the frustrating thing, they haven't got the reward their performances have deserved.

"The squad is threadbare, but they are all giving everything and I think that is to their credit."

ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION

There's another meeting of two promotion hopefuls, at the Banks's Stadium, where Sheffield United are entertained by Walsall.

The Blades come into the weekend sitting fourth, four points adrift of second and three points above seventh-placed Tranmere, thanks to only one defeat in their last 10 outings.

That single defeat came three games ago against Stevenage but since then they have beaten Tranmere 1-0 and drawn with Carlisle United.

The eighth-placed Saddlers are also on strong form as they are currently riding a 12-game unbeaten streak, which includes a comprehensive 4-0 win over Coventry City on Easter Monday.

The two sides that are separating Sheffield United and leaders Doncaster, Bournemouth and Brentford, face tough tasks this weekend against Notts County and Coventry respectively.

The Cherries are the division's in-form side having taken maximum points from their last five fixtures leaving them second and just two points behind Doncaster, and they face a Magpies side looking to bounce back from two successive 2-1 defeats. Coventry, on the other hand, entertain third-placed Brentford, whose defeat against Milton Keynes Dons left them three points behind Bournemouth.

Completing the top six is Swindon Town in fifth, who aren't in action this weekend, and Yeovil Town. The Glovers are two points above Tranmere having played a game less, and entertain Shrewsbury Town, who are undefeated in their last four matches.

At the other end of the table, occupying the bottom four alongside Bury and Hartlepool is Portsmouth and Scunthorpe United. Pompey are at home to an inconsistent Stevenage - they have lost four, drawn one and won three of their last eight games - while the Iron travel to Deepdale where they'll meet Preston North End, who haven't gained maximum points from any of their last four fixtures.

Oldham Athletic are the side in the sights of the bottom four and they host Carlisle United on Saturday. The Latics are outside the drop zone on goal difference only but have games in hand over the teams around them.

Rounding off this weekend's League 1 schedule is Leyton Orient and Milton Keynes Dons, who take on Colchester United and Crawley Town respectively.

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