1. Can third-bottom Wigan end their winless run?
WIGAN stopped the rot last week, ending a run of four straight defeats with a 0-0 draw at home to Fulham. But Latics need a lot more than that if they are to get away from the wrong end of the Championship. Gary Caldwell’s men will be looking for their first win in seven tonight as they make the short trip to Preston, which has been brought forward to be shown live on Sky Sports. And they will have few better opportunities to get back to winning ways as Preston are just a point above them in 19th. Key men David Perkins and Nick Powell could also return to the starting line-up for Wigan.
2. Can Bury go top of League One?
BURY have sure bounced back from defeat by Oldham. The Shakers have since won four and drawn one, scoring 15 in the process. Last week’s 2-1 win at Swindon also put them third in League One, just a point behind local rivals Bolton, who had been setting the pace at the top of the table. Another win at home to Chesterfield on Saturday could send Bury top yet they were among the second-favourites for relegation in pre-season. However, manager David Flitcroft insists it is no surprise to him or his staff that the Shakers are up there, saying he knew the quality he had within his squad. “It’s probably surprised some of the pundits, who look at Bury as this little old club in League One, but we’ve got big ambitions,” he said.
CURZON ASHTON had to dig deep to see off Consett AFC in Tuesday night’s FA Cup replay in the north east and register their first win in six. Their last was a 4-2 victory at Altrincham in the National League North and the Nash have two more derbies to look forward to in the league over the weekend as they host STOCKPORT COUNTY on Saturday before visiting FC United on Tuesday night. Curzon have also been boosted by the return of former captain Alex Brown from retirement and he could start against Stockport. While the Nash are fourth-bottom in the table, County are in the top half after losing just one of their last six and the Hatters will be keen to maintain that momentum before hosting joint-leaders AFC Fylde on Tuesday night.
4. Who can pull clear in the Evo-Stik North?
It’s too early to read too much into the Evo-Stik North table, with it still looking lop-sided due to certain sides’ FA Cup involvement. But the likes of TRAFFORD and RADCLIFFE BOROUGH are now looking to kick on after winning in midweek, which saw them go joint-ninth with MOSSLEY. All three have the chance to establish themselves in the top half over the coming weeks, with Trafford and Mossley having two home games in the next four days while Boro visit Tadcaster on Saturday before hosting West Didsbury & Chorlton in the Manchester Premier Cup on Tuesday night.
5. Who will progress in the FA Vase?
WEST DIDSBURY & CHORLTON sit third in the North West Counties Premier but have a break from league action over the weekend as before visiting Radcliffe they play in the second qualifying round of the FA Vase. West pulled off a remarkable result at this stage of the competition last year, romping to a 15-1 win against Rotherham-based side Dinnington Town, before losing 5-4 in the next round against Morpeth Town, who Altrincham host in the FA Cup next weekend. This term West are away to Penistone Church, who Cheadle Town knocked out of the FA Cup earlier this season.
League One: BOLTON v Bradford, BURY v Chesterfield, OLDHAM v Swindon, Millwall v ROCHDALE.
National League / National League North: Guiseley v MACCLESFIELD TOWN / ALTRINCHAM v Boston United, CURZON ASHTON v STOCKPORT COUNTY, Tamworth v FC UNITED, SALFORD CITY v Brackley, Darlington v STALYBRIDGE CELTIC.
Evo-Stik Premier / North: ASHTON UNITED v Rushall Olympic / DROYLSDEN v Brighouse Town, HYDE UNITED v Bamber Bridge, MOSSLEY v Ossett Town, Tadcaster v RADCLIFFE BOROUGH, RAMSBOTTOM UNITED v Prescot Cables, TRAFFORD v Goole AFC.
FA Vase: AFC Liverpool v ABBEY HEY, Widnes v CHADDERTON, Alsager Town v STOCKPORT TOWN, NEW MILLS v Radford, Penistone Church v WEST DIDSBURY & CHORLTON.
North West Counties: MAINE ROAD v Squires Gate, CHEADLE TOWN v Eccleshall, PRESTWICH HEYS v Carlisle City.