Third Tier Magic

GARETH WALKER of League Express looks ahead to this weekend’s League I contests

WHILE attention in the Betfred Championship this weekend switches firmly to the Summer Bash in Blackpool, there is also a full round of fixtures in the increasingly intriguing League One.
Eight weeks into the new season, and just five points separate leaders Whitehaven from eighth placed Coventry Bears in one of the most even third tiers in memory.
In fact, North Wales Crusaders in ninth would have been in a play-off spot now had their one-point defeat at London Skolars gone the other way.
And when you throw in the fact that bottom club Keighley would actually have been top but for their 12-point deduction for a change in ownership, it’s clear to see that League One is a terrific competition in 2019.
Teams are exchanging positions on a weekly basis, and the likes of the Skolars and Bears continue to upset their more established opponents.
Coventry’s outstanding 41-30 win over Workington last weekend has pushed Town outside a play-off spot for now and keeps Tom Tsang’s very much in the race, level with the Cumbrians on six points having played one game less.
Jermaine Coleman’s Skolars are up to second having edged out the Crusaders for a fifth win from eight matches to date, alongside a draw that keeps them level on points with pacesetters Haven.
This weekend the capital club host Doncaster – a team tipped to challenge for top spot but that has lost four of its seven matches to date.
Another defeat would see the Dons fall seven points behind the Skolars, a significant amount in such a short season.
There are four fascinating matches the following day on Sunday.
Whitehaven travel to a North Wales team that has been fully competitive all season – a fact underlined by their positive points difference despite five losses from seven.
Newcastle Thunder – who should now be settling in to life under new coach Simon Finnigan by now – entertain a Cougars side that could yet become involved in the top six race despite that heavy points deduction, although they have little margin for error.
Oldham – another of the pre-season favourites – take on a Coventry team that surely won’t be underestimated by any more rivals given their continuing progress.
And in Cumbria Workington, another club with a new boss in Chris Thorman, will be keen to get back on track against a Hunslet team that set the early pace.
It promises to be another fascinating weekend of action – and don’t write any outcome off.

Gareth Walker is the Championship news correspondent of League Express and writes a weekly Championship Focus column.