The first international break of the season arrives this weekend, but there is no need for domestic football fans to despair.
League One and League Two continue, and there are plenty of points of interest ahead of the fixtures in those divisions.
1. Crowds returning to normal
The reformed and rebranded Checkatrade Trophy kicked off in midweek, and it’s fair to say it didn’t capture the imagination of Football League fans. Attendances were down in every ground - just 461 people turned up to watch AFC Wimbledon play Swansea’s development squad, whilst Port Vale’s game against Derby saw the Valiants record their lowest crowd for 30 years.
Whether that was because of the organised #BTeamBoycott or simply because of a general lack of interest in the competition is not conclusive. Either way, supporters will be returning in their droves this weekend for the bread and butter of league matches, with Portsmouth set to top the League Two attendance charts as they host Crawley.
2. Lavery making his Blades bow after Steel City switch
Canadian-born Northern Ireland striker Caolan Lavery became only the 30th player in history to cross the Steel City divide when he made the move from Sheffield Wednesday to Sheffield United just before the transfer deadline. He joins a star-studded Blades strikeforce which also includes Billy Sharp and Leon Clarke as United seek to claim that elusive promotion from the third tier.
Lavery arrives with a point to prove after telling BBC Radio Sheffield of his frustration that figures behind the scenes at Hillsborough were “trying to stop him playing football.”
The striker may not feature from the start for the Blades at Gillingham this weekend as he lacks match practice, but will be looking to hit the ground running to win over any United fans who are sceptical about his cross-city switch.
3. Pressure growing on Tisdale
Paul Tisdale is the longest-serving manager in the Football League, having spent over a decade at Exeter City. However, the Grecians’ slow start – they sit second-bottom after losing four of their first five fixtures – has increased the scrutiny on the boss, who named himself on the bench in Exeter’s 4-2 Checkatrade Trophy defeat at Oxford in midweek.
Particularly disappointing for the club’s faithful has been the home form. City have won just twice in front of their own fans since last October, instead relying on their impressive record on the road to get by. A trip to Colchester this weekend, then, is perhaps just what the doctor ordered for Tisdale as he seeks to claim back the trust of a fanbase that is growing increasingly agitated.
4. Derby day in Northampton
Just 22 miles separate Northampton Town and MK Dons, and the television cameras are descending on Sixfields for this Sunday lunchtime clash. It is the first league meeting between the two sides since 2009, but two FA Cup battles last season whetted the appetite and proved there is some spice in this fixture.
Dons fans would argue that this is far from their biggest derby of the season, with that arriving in their long-awaited first league clash with AFC Wimbledon in December. However, nothing lights up a local rivalry like a former player scoring for the opposition, and Alex Revell could be the man to do just that. The former Dons striker has told The Northampton Chronicle that he will enjoy a full celebration if he finds the net for the hosts, which could be worth tuning in for.
5. Promotion favourites meet at The Den
Millwall overcame Bradford in last season’s League One play-off semi-finals, but the troubling scenes at The Den following the second leg left a sour taste in the mouths of travelling Bantams fans. This weekend sees the first meeting of the clubs since that occasion in May, with both looking to build on strong starts to the season.
Bradford travel south in second place, having recovered well from losing manager Phil Parkinson to Bolton in the summer. Millwall, meanwhile, sit just one point below their opponents as Neil Harris hopes to go one better than last season and guide his side back into the Championship after a two-year absence.
Saturday’s clash will be an acid test for both of these teams as they test their promotion credentials, with both expected to be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.