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As the run-in to the 2013 season approaches, things couldn’t be tighter in Division 1. With any one of a probable ten teams still within a shout of promotion as we go into the 2nd to last Saturday of the season, any small twist or turn now could really turn the promotion race on its head.

BillytheBee has been chatting to fans from all the Top 10 promotion-chasing teams *. In a series of interviews, fans from Doncaster, Bournemouth, Yeovil, Sheffield Utd, Swindon, Tranmere, and even ‘not-so outsiders any more’ Walsall and Orient give us their vibes on the end-of-season run-in (we didn’t talk to Franchise FC aka MK Dons fans as we don’t recognise their club actually exists).

In our fourth interview, we bring you the thoughts of a fan of a team who were firm favourites for promotion and haven’t quite delivered the consistency required …. and one of a team who have had more chat about eccentric managers, transfer embargoes and management buy-outs than action on the actual pitch. We talk to Sheffield United fan Marc Lawton (before their win against Swindon) and Swindon fan Brett Taylor (after their loss against United) about their thoughts on the next few weeks.

How is your run-in looking? How do you think you will get on?

ML (SUFC): At the moment its hard to be confident of beating anyone consistently at home so on paper it looks a bit daunting. Next two games are Swindon (ed – you won that) and Brentford at home – where we’ve only won one of the last 8 …..

But after the events of last week who knows !!! – hopefully Chris Morgan can fire up the team and if we win the next two (ed – you won the first game after this interview was done .. Against Swindon), its very much in our hands .. I feel sorry for Danny Wilson. He seems like a really good bloke and in many ways it’s a harsh decision. But last season we played some attractive, attacking football and this time around its been far too negative and uninspiring.

I don’t think there are many Blades out there who could see us getting promoted after recent home performances. Something needed to change and Danny seemed reluctant to change it. However, the shake up may get us scoring again and bring the confidence back into the team. If it does we’ve got a great chance

In terms of players, we’ve really struggled to replace Shaun Miller up front who damaged his cruciate ligament against Scunthorpe in December and is sadly out for a while to come … we’ve never looked fluent up front since his injury and we struggled for goals early season before he got into the team.

In truth we’ve been unable to replace the quality players we’ve had to let go in the last 12 months (Quinn, Williamson, Lowton and Blackman, because of finances …. and of course Ched Evans who went to Prison)

If we’re going to go up we desperately need someone to step up and start scoring because at the moment theres no one you can rely on to put the ball in the net…

BT (STFC): Gradually Swindon’s automatic promotion bid has unravelled because of what has happened at the club since January. Firstly the owners declared they wanted to sell and were not prepared to put any more money in. They decided to give a month to find new owners. What resulted was a mess: Di Canio seemed to be outside the circle of trust and it was amazing that we stayed in the top six given there was a mounting injury list, and a transfer embargo.

All our rivals were able to strengthen their squads but our squad was getting smaller by the week. Di Canio indicated he was in an untenable position and then out of the blue the club sold our best player to one of our rivals (Richtie to Bournemouth) and Di Canio walked leaving his backroom staff in charge.

At that stage we were second and and playing Tranmere who were top. The players really pulled together and we won at Tranmere 3-1. It was a great preformance and the players seemed so together. However, straight after the game the backroom staff resigned.

The club was close to a takeover. However, the new owners did not seem to have much backing and the FA kept a transfer embargo until the very last day of the window. Managerless they decided to let two senior players take over the running of the team. We had two easy home games but drew one and lost one. Then MacDonald was appointed and we won at Coventry and hope was restored. Going to Brentford we were in a position to go top of the league but despite a great first half performance, we lost out and since then the performances have been lacking passion, heart and guile.

Most fans feel that Di Canio was responsible for making the players perform above their ability and McDonald is old school and lets the players go back to archaic preparation routines (i.e. more time off and off-field team building). Now we are sweating about not falling out of the playoffs positions. It’s still in our hands but we have Walsall and Leyton Orient in touching distance should the poor performances continue. All that said, given what has happened off the field it is amazing we are in the top six.

What teams are you worried about that may steal your thunder? Why?

ML: Clearly Bournemouth are on a great run and their last 3 all look winnable, so they’re the ones I think everyone is chasing..

In terms of Sheffield Utd’s fixtures, nothing looks easy at the moment but strangely I think Portsmouth away could be much tougher than it looks. The fans have finally taken the club out of administration and its their last home game of the season so it could be a big passionate crowd celebrating the beginning of the end of their recent nightmare so it could be the worst time to face them.

BT: I think the standard in league one is pretty poor and I don’t think anybody stands out. Walsall and Bournemouth strike me as the best footballing teams I have seen but most teams seem like Div 2 teams – big players depending in physical presence. In my opinion Swindon have also been one of the best footballing teams but lacked a consistent goalscorer. If we had had a 20 plus striker we would have seen off more of the bottom teams and not ended up shooting ourselves in the foot a lot of the times

What’s your heart saying? What’s your head saying?

ML: Having run The Fishy League Table Predictor a couple of times I think its going to be incredibly tight between ourselves, the Bees, Donny and Bournemouth – Both scenarios show a point or two between us all with one of them suggesting the top 3 will be decided by goal difference

My head says I can’t see where the goals are coming from and United will be looking at the play-offs. But my heart says if we can beat Swindon on Saturday and restore confidence we can have a strong finish and get automatic promotion still

Overall I’d be very surprised if it doesn’t come down to the last day of the season…

BT: The head says we will make the playoffs however we will not progress because we have such poor form going into them. I think Doncaster and Bournemouth will go up automatically and that will go to the last game as will the last playoff place. The worst scenario for us would be getting knocked out by Yeovil. We see them as real country bumpkins. The team most feared would be Bournemouth even though Brentford are the only team to do the double on us this season

What league position do you think you will finish in?

ML: Head says 4th, Heart says 2nd for Sheffield

BT: 6th for Swindon

If you get to the playoffs, who would you want? Why? Who would you want to avoid? Why?

ML : Dont think there is a Blade out there that would fancy the Playoffs against anyone – 4 finals to date, 4 defeats, no goals scored. But we’ve got to break the run at some point so hope springs eternal whoever we face.

To be honest I don’t think theres been a lot to choose from between the teams in the top 6 this season so I dont have any preferences. If we got to the final I think I’d rather play Yeovil, just because we would have a much bigger following at Wembley which would hopefully give us an advantage..

BT: My ideal scenario would be Swindon to play Yeovil in the first stage and then Sheffield in the final. Going into the final as underdogs is sometimes an advantage and we would sell out against Sheffield so a great atmosphere and day out would be guaranteed. No Swindon fan expects us to win at the new Wembley. We have been there 2 times in the last 3 seasons and both times the team did not turn up and we lost. At the old Wembley we played 3 times and never lost

Could you survive in the Championship?

ML: Hate to say it but at the moment I don’t think United could. It’s certainly hard to see us in anything other than a relegation battle, unless we can significantly strengthen the squad, which isnt something we’ve been in a position to do for the last few seasons

BT: With the old owners and Di Canio, Swindon could have survived and done well. They new owners have no evident backing and out current manager is operating at relegation form, so if we go up I would expect us to go straight back down

Michael Appleton was at your game on Saturday. Rumour has it he wants to buy both clubs so he can then manage you both

ML: Rumour he’ll do all 92 clubs by the next World Cup. He’s gone well downhill after leaving Bristol City

BT: More chance of Di Canio coming back for the playoffs to be honest

* Top 10 as of Sunday 14th April

You can read the thoughts and Yeovil and Tranmere fans here
You can read the thought of Orient and Walsall fans here
You can read the thoughts of Bournemouth and Doncaster fans here