A Season’s Past Division 3 1985-86

24 teams competed for promotion and survival in Division 3 in 1985/86 with some well-established sides including the likes of Derby County, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Bolton but it was an unheralded side from Berkshire that stole the show on their way to a second promotion in 3 years.

Managed by Ian Branfoot, Reading surprised everyone by getting off to an amazing start, winning their first 13 matches and remaining unbeaten until a defeat to Bury in late October! After 13 games Reading already had 39 points and were 16 points clear of second placed Walsall. Powering the Royals was goal machine Trevor Senior who, in the 13 game winning start, had scored 11 times! Meanwhile eventual runners up, Plymouth Argyle had got off to a slow start and were sat down in 12th after 13 matches.

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The shock defeat at home to Darlington in November was a mere blip for Reading who won all four of their matches in December and were sat 19 points clear of Derby in second and 21 points ahead of third placed Plymouth at the turn off the year.

At the bottom it was a woeful season for Wolverhampton Wanderers, they managed only 11 wins throughout the whole campaign and finished second from bottom. Darlington pulled off the great escape after looking certain to go down due to a terrible start. The Quakers managed just two win during their opening 15 games which included an eight game losing streak that left them eight points from safety but a decent November and an impressive 13 games unbeaten from February until near the end of April saw the club pull away from the relegation zone eventually finishing 13th.

Swansea City were not able to turn their fortunes around and struggled for form all season. The only consolation for the Swans was that their fierce rivals Cardiff were also abject that season and both were relegated to the Fourth Division along-side Wolverhampton Wanderers and Lincoln City.

Reading’s form did slow down after the new year but promotion was secured with 5 games to go thanks to a 1-1 draw at Darlington that left them 13 points clear of fourth placed Plymouth and the title was secured one game later. Plymouth and Derby would join Reading in promotion with Wigan missing out by just one point.

Trevor Senior finished as top scorer for the Royals with 27 goals in side that also included record appearance maker Martin Hicks (500 league appearances in total) and a young Michael Gilkes who would go on to be one of Reading’s most popular players in modern history.

 

Table

Pos Team Pl W D L F A GD Pts
1 Reading 46 29 7 10 67 51 +16 94
2 Plymouth Argyle 46 26 9 11 88 53 +35 87
3 Derby County 46 23 15 8 80 41 +39 84
4 Wigan Athletic 46 23 14 9 82 48 +34 83
5 Gillingham 46 22 13 11 81 54 +27 79
6 Walsall 46 22 9 15 90 64 +26 75
7 York City 46 20 11 15 77 58 +19 71
8 Notts County 46 19 14 13 71 60 +11 71
9 Bristol City 46 18 14 14 69 60 +9 68
10 Brentford 46 18 12 16 58 61 −3 66
11 Doncaster Rovers 46 16 16 14 45 52 −7 64
12 Blackpool 46 17 12 17 66 55 +11 63
13 Darlington 46 15 13 18 61 78 −17 58
14 Rotherham United 46 15 12 19 61 59 +2 57
15 Bournemouth 46 15 9 22 65 72 −7 54
16 Bristol Rovers 46 14 12 20 51 75 −24 54
17 Chesterfield 46 13 14 19 61 64 −3 53
18 Bolton Wanderers 46 15 8 23 54 68 −14 53
19 Newport County 46 11 18 17 52 65 −13 51
20 Bury 46 12 13 21 63 67 −4 49
21 Lincoln City 46 10 16 20 55 77 −22 46
22 Cardiff City 46 12 9 25 53 83 −30 45
23 Wolverhampton Wanderers 46 11 10 25 57 98 −41 43
24 Swansea City 46 11 10 25 43 87 −44 43

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