Why are the sides promoted from League Two struggling in League One?


The three sides promoted out of League Two at the end of last season; Lincoln City, MK Dons and Tranmere Rovers; all appear towards the bottom end of the League One standings a third of the way through the 2019-20 campaign.

But why is that? What are the differences between the two divisions? And is it a surprise?

First of all, let’s hear what the managers think about it…

Rovers travel to fellow promoted side MK Dons on Saturday afternoon.

Take a look at our match preview feature ahead of the game at Stadium MK and a look at the injury situation for Tranmere going into the encounter.

In their pre-match press conferences, both Micky Mellon and MK Dons boss Paul Tisdale were asked the question which forms the title of this article.

This is how the Tranmere manager responded:

It’s a tough jump up. That’s the facts. I think the results have shown that.

Mellon also suggested that his side is closer to the side which won promotion at the end of last term, so they are perhaps a better example of the adjustment between the two divisions. More on that shortly.

Dons manager Tisdale somewhat batted off the question and said:

I can honestly say I’ve got no idea, because I’m so focused on what we’re doing. And we’re a third of the way into the season. It’s not for me to say how they’re (Lincoln and Tranmere) getting on.

Before we get into the discussion of why the three teams are struggling somewhat, let’s first of all say that none of the three clubs sit in the relegation zone in the division (bottom three). But, perhaps, it was predicted that they would be doing better than their current league position suggests.

Let’s begin with the League Two champions from 2018-19, Lincoln City.

The Red Imps won the division by six points last term, and over the summer, signed a number of promising young players from higher division clubs, both on loan and on permanent deals.

They got off to a flyer at the beginning of the season, winning their first three league matches in impressive style.

Since then, though, it has been a different story and a downward trend with only two more victories from the last 12 league outings.

Of course, their season has suffered the disruption of losing their management duo of the Cowley brothers, Danny and Nicky, to Championship side Huddersfield Town.

Michael Appleton has been brought in to replace them, but it’s always going to be difficult following and trying to back up the success they had brought to the club over the past three years or so.

MK Dons also had a fairly good start to the season, but since mid-September, have picked up just a solitary point from their last eight league matches.

Like Rovers, they have had their injury problems, and this certainly won’t have helped their cause.

They haven’t scored many goals, which is possibly their main problem. Level on points and goal difference with Tranmere, Dons have netted five fewer goals than Micky Mellon’s side, hitting the back of the net just 12 times from 15 league fixtures.

In more general terms, the quality of the football in League One is a notable step up from League Two. Quick, slick passing football is more on the agenda in this division, and some of the sides that Rovers have faced this season play this style very effectively.

There doesn’t seem to be as many long balls. It is a change from some of the more rough and ready approach utilised in the league below. And a change from the League One that Rovers last experienced in 2013-14, where that style was more common.

So, to conclude, there are numerous individual reasons why the three teams are struggling towards the lower end of the League One table. The quality gap between Leagues One and Two is certainly noticeable, but the clubs in question have also had to deal with things like managerial change and injury crises which cannot have helped their progress.

I take you back to the comments made by Paul Tisdale earlier in the piece. We are only a third of the way into the campaign. There’s a long way to go and it’ll be interesting to see where the three teams finish up come May.

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