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The chosen Ones

Much of the focus in League One this campaign has been on the struggles of pre-season favourites Sheffield United and Bristol City.

Last Updated: 05/12/13 at 13:15 Post Comment

Perfect pairing: Orient's Mooney (L) and Lisbie have rifled in a combined 23

Perfect pairing: Orient's Mooney (L) and Lisbie have rifled in a combined 23

Both of these clubs should be at the top of the food chain in this division but have failed to fire and been left in the slipstream of about 12 clubs who will fancy a play-off place at the very least.

Top marks so far must go to a Leyton Orient side who have blazed a trail with an attacking flair that is easy on the eye, and an experienced strike-force in Kevin Lisbie and David Mooney.

Lisbie and Mooney are profiting from two widemen - Dean Cox and Moses Odubajo - who provide great service and a goal threat in their own right, with the four players plundering 41 goals in all competitions and not looking like slowing down.

Hot on the O's heels are Kenny Jackett's Wolves, who are second only on goal difference after matching their less-illustrious rivals' tally of 43 points from 19 games.

Having shown enough ambition to hang on to the brilliant Bakary Sako and agreeing to Jackett's plea to recruit James Henry on loan from his previous club Millwall, Wanderers have given themselves a greater chance of an immediate Championship return.

Wolves, who have recorded 10 clean sheets, prey on the weak.

In 11 games against bottom-half sides they remain unbeaten, winning 10 and drawing once, but having suffered just their second loss of the season, which ended an 11-game run without defeat, Kenny will be looking for an immediate response.

Sako's craft and creativity will be key but the Molineux men can't afford to lose 12-goal top scorer Leigh Griffiths to injury or suspension.

Experience

Trying to close the six-point gap on these two leaders are form sides Preston and Brentford.

Preston are on an eight-game unbeaten run, including an impressive win over Orient, and seem to raise their game for the better opposition, so that big-game mentality and experience should serve them well at the business end of the season.

Too many draws and a shortage of goals (28, the joint-least with Peterborough in the top six) will have to be addressed.

But in Simon Grayson, North End possess the golden ticket, with their manager having three League One promotions already on his CV.

Brentford, along with Preston, were my favourites for automatic promotion this season as Uwe Rosler has recruited a very strong and competitive squad down at Griffin Park.

Alan McCormack, Will Grigg and George Savile are just three of the summer signings to have supplemented the players left heartbroken by Yeovil at Wembley last year.

Retaining the nucleus of that squad was pivotal in preventing Brentford from harbouring the bitter taste of that play-off final failure and that could inspire the Bees to go one better this time around.

Incredible

Rosler's drive, passion and desire are all reasons why he has embraced and graced English football, while his knowledge, preparation and attention to detail mark him out as a special manager - but anyone who has read his book or has been lucky enough to meet him personally, will know he is also an incredible man.

Peterborough fans will be breathing a huge sigh of relief after bringing a five-game losing streak - and a run of one point out of 18 - to an end with a fine 1-0 win over promotion rivals Wolves last time out.

Posh's automatic promotion hopes had hit the skids, with just four goals scored in seven games; that is very un-Peterborough of them but their season has been like that, too.

Thirty-one points from a possible 36 at the start of the season signified that they meant business in their quest to return to the Championship but this has been a different Posh to other League One years.

Not so much a swashbuckling approach and trying to outscore the opposition, they have been more conservative, failing to score five times and finding it difficult at home with the pitch not helping them play a high-tempo, passing game.

Chairman and manager are not best pleased at the moment but they will be hoping the bad run is over and that the eight-point gap that has emerged between them and the top two will not be too debilitating - and in Lee Tomlin, Britt Assombalonga and Grant McCann they have match-winners, too, so everything is still to play for.

Funds

Meanwhile, Rotherham's season and future gets brighter by the day.

A five-game unbeaten run, quality additions to the squad and chairman Tony Stewart breaking the news to worried fans that manager Steve Evans, linked with the hot-seat at near neighbours Sheffield Wednesday, is going nowhere.

United have a fine new stadium, and an ambitious chairman who is backing his manager with funds to bring in players over what could be a pivotal Christmas period, with Newcastle's James Tavernier and Haris Vukcic and Wigan's Nouha Dicko all arriving.

Additions were a must for Rotherham to maintain their progression and after Evans had been vocal about the ability but not scoring prowess of his strikers, the signing that could make the biggest difference is Dicko.

Dicko and Tavernier started last time out against Gillingham and both got on the score sheet, while Vukcic made a cameo appearance as a substitute so the Millers' squad now looks like one capable of preserving a top-six position.

In a division that is very competitive, I look all the way down to 12th-placed MK Dons as potential play-off contenders - so who would have thought at the start of the season that we would be talking about a title race that Sheffield United and Bristol City are out of before Christmas.

Football is a funny old game.

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