With the Christmas period upon us, it heralds one of the busiest periods in the English Football calendar, with all teams faced with a hectic schedule of matches.
We take a look back at how our local teams have fared so far this season, and what awaits them over the next month.
Despite an injury crisis that has seen top scorer Tyrese Campbell ruled out for the season, Stoke City will be heading into the Christmas period with a sense of satisfaction and optimism that has been absent for much of the last three years.
The Potters are currently eighth in the Championship, and are right in the fight for the playoff places, being just three points behind fourth placed Swansea.
The major positive for O’Neil will be the performance of Josef Bursik in goal, with the Under-23’s keeper filling in exceptionally after injuries to Adam Davies and Angus Gunn.
Bursik has kept five clean sheets in his eight appearances this season, and is approaching 200 minutes without conceding a goal.
Stoke’s Christmas calendar sees them play Championship fixtures against Blackburn Rovers (home) on December 19, Coventry City (away) on Boxing Day, Nottingham Forrest on December 29, and Bournemouth (home) on January 2; they also play Tottenham (home) in the EFL Cup on December 23.
It has been a miserable start to the season for Burton Albion, who have managed just two wins from 18 games and currently sit bottom of League One, five points from safety.
The Brewers have so far kept faith with manager Jake Buxton, who is in his first season of management after Nigel Clough’s departure at the end of last season.
However, Burton had managed a four-game unbeaten run, before they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Ipswich in their last game.
Unfortunately, that was Burton’s ninth defeat of the season, and means that their focus over the festive period will be on trying to keep their survival chances alive.
Burton’s Christmas fixture list sees them play games against Doncaster Rovers at home on December 19, Lincoln City away on Boxing Day, Wigan Athletic at home on December 29 and Oxford at home on January 2.
Of all the local League One teams, Alex have had by far the most calm and secure first period of the season, as they find themselves comfortable in mid-table.
The Railwaymen currently sit eleventh, but are only four points away from the playoff places, and have a nine-point cushion to the relegation zone.
David Artell’s side are also showing useful patch of form; they are currently on a four-game unbeaten run, which includes three wins.
However, the Alex are having to contend without captain Perry Ng, who has served half of a six-match ban for spitting during the FA Cup loss to Cheltenham Town.
More positively, Crewe have been able to welcome spectators back to their Gretsy Road stadium after the latest lockdown, with fans present for the wins over Northampton and Plymouth.
Crewe’s festive fixtures see them face Wimbledon away on December 19, Fleetwood Town on December 26, Rochdale away on December 29 and Shrewsbury away on January 2.
Another team who have had a tough start to the season, Shrewsbury Town parted company with manager Sam Ricketts after just one win from their first 13 games had left them marooned in the relegation zone.
The Shrews form has turned around since then, and are yet to lose a League One game under new manager Steve Cotterill.
Two wins and two draws in the four games since Cotterill took over have seen Shrewsbury close the gap on safety, and are now just one point away from safety.
The Shrews welcomed their fans back for their game with Accrington Stanley on December 2, but will not see them again until after Christmas, after their game against Sunderland tomorrow was postponed due to a covid outbreak among the Black Cats.
As a result, Shrewsbury will face Doncaster Rovers away on December 22, Wigan Athletic away on Boxing Day, Blackpool at home on December 29, and Crewe Alexandria at home on January 2.
After a strong start to their League Two campaign saw them considered as promotion contenders, Port Vale have fallen away over the last two months and now sit 14th.
Prior to their 6-3 win over Bolton Wanderers at the start of this month, Vale had been on a run of five straight defeats in the league, and have not kept a clean sheet since a 2-0 win over Scunthorpe in October.
However, the Valiants are still in a relatively safe position, as they sit just four points off the playoff places and have an eleven-point cushion to the relegation zone.
John Askey’s side are unbeaten in their last three games – having followed the Bolton win with draws against Colchester United and Forest Green Rovers – and will be looking to revitalise their promotion push over the holidays.
Over the Christmas period, Port Vale face Walsall away on December 19, Barrow at home on Boxing Day, Bradford City away on December 29 and Mansfield Town away on January 2.