Feature Game: Sunderland vs Plymouth Argyle
Sunderland: (3-4-3) Hoffman; Wright, Flanagan, Doyle; Gooch, Neil, Winchester, Dajaku; Pritchard, Stewart, Broadhead
Plymouth Argyle: (3-5-2) Cooper; Wilson, Scarr, Gillesphey; Edwards, Camara, Houghton, Broom, Grant; Jephcott, Hardie
Preview: Two sides pushing for promotion from League One face off at The Stadium of Light as Plymouth Argyle are the visitors to the North East.
Sunderland come into this one off the back of a thumping win during midweek, as they well and truly put a poor Morecambe side to the side in scoring five unanswered goals to gain a crucial three points. Lee Johnson would have been pleased with the attacking endeavours on show from his side, and will hope that they can take that into their games going forward. Youngster Nathan Broadhead was amongst the thick of it as he grabbed two goals for his tally, with Lynden Gooch was also instrumental for The Black Cats as he provided two assists for The Black Cats. That win during midweek is their third in five league matches and extends their unbeaten run as they consolidated a play-off spot. Johnson will want to see them flex their muscle here in a tough game against a promotion rival.
Plymouth Argyle, meanwhile, arrive at The Stadium of Light with a new boss, with Stephen Schumacher having taken charge of the side for their draw during midweek against MK Dons. It was a good start for the assistant-turned-manager, as they came from behind to earn a share of the spoils on the road, and Schumacher and the travelling Green Army faithful would have been pleased and encouraged with what they saw in that one. Macauley Gillesphey did not have the best of evening’s at the heart of defence as he continues to fill in for the injured Brendan Galloway, and so Schumacher may be tempted to change that coming into this one. Schumacher will be hoping that they can put in a similarly strong showing on the road, but will want to see them make a better start to the game having started somewhat slowly during midweek.
Prediction: Sunderland 2-2 Plymouth Argyle
I expect this to be a high-scoring affair between two sides that play a nice brand of football. This will be a much tougher test for Sunderland than what they had in midweek, and against a Plymouth that have been arrive with a newfound sense of character and application under popular figure Schumacher, I am backing them to get a draw here. The game will 2-2, with goals from the two B’s and the two P’s – Broom, Broadhead, Pritchard and Panutche Camara.
One to Watch: Joe Edwards – With the attacking flair that The Black Cats possess, it is going to need a strong defensive display in wide areas from The Pilgrims and so Edwards may well provide that, especially in stopping Dajaku and keeping the likes of Pritchard quiet.
Accrington Stanley vs Bolton Wanderers
Preview: Bolton Wanderers will look to respond after a poor showing in midweek as they face Accrington Stanley on the road.
Accrington were brilliant last weekend in a 5-1 league victory over Fleetwood. However, all that hard work came undone when they faced AFC Wimbledon in midweek losing 2-0. On Tuesday they were outplayed by an opposition something I don’t expect to see happen with Accrington on their own turf. They normally bully opposition off the pitch but struggled against fellow relegation candidates. Colby Bishop has been brilliant for Accrington in recent weeks too. Since coming back from suspension Accrington had recorded back to back wins before Tuesday and he is key to upsetting Bolton’s makeshift defence which is without its captain and leader at the back.
Bolton have really struggled on their travels this season. On Tuesday night, they lost to Fleetwood 3-0 in what was a very comfortable victory for the home side. In their last five away league games they have not scored and have lost all of them. They have only won three of 10 away games and this weekend when travelling to close by Accrington they will be without central defender and captain Ricardo Santos who was given his marching orders against Fleetwood. Annoyingly for Ian Evatt he had just changed the system and brought on attacker Xavier Amaechi for a central defender five minutes prior and had to make another change to bring on another centre back. Having only kept one clean sheet away from home it is likely Alex Baptiste will come in for Santos, but I think they’ll continue to struggle defensively especially without their leader at the back.
Prediction: Accrington Stanley 1-1 Bolton Wanderers
The two sides will share the spoils here as Accrington take an early lead, but Bolton will push forward spurred on by thousands and get an equaliser.
One to Watch: Ethan Hamilton – Former Peterborough midfielder Ethan Hamilton was key in last weekend’s 5-1 victory over Fleetwood. Up against Bolton’s back line if he gets forward as frequently as he did last weekend, he will cause problems against a shaky defence.
Charlton Athletic vs Cambridge United
Preview: Cambridge United will look to build on their impressive win during midweek as they face Charlton Athletic away from home.
Charlton are still in interim charge by Jonnie Jackson who somehow still hasn’t been offered the job on a permanent basis. In his caretaker charge they suffered their first defeat when going to Shrewsbury two weeks before the FA Cup break and losing 1-0. The way they bounced back in midweek was superb especially when hosting Ipswich, a side expected to be challenging them for promotion. In a 2-0 victory, they stopped Ipswich having a shot on target and the forward partnership of Conor Washington and Jayden Stockley were brilliant in taking their opportunities.
Cambridge completely blew away Cheltenham on their travels in midweek. The U’s were superb in front of goal with Sam Smith and Joe Ironside taking their chances expertly. Joe Ironside in particular has impressed with him getting 11 goals already which is a superb feat for a striker at the bottom end of the table. Cambridge manager Mark Bonner has a great track record of getting strikers who haven’t been prolific in the past to score plenty of goals. It was Paul Mullin last season and to be fair to Ironside although he wasn’t the main man, he was key to helping Mullin score as many as he did last season. Sam Smith alongside him this year has also been great without the goals to show for it and against Charlton’s back three it will be interesting to see if they can disturb them.
Prediction: Charlton Athletic 2-1 Cambridge United
Charlton will take the lead here, but will be pegged back by Cambridge before Charlton score late, leading to pandemonium amongst the fans.
One to Watch: Jayden Stockley – Since coming back from suspension, Charlton striker Stockley has four goals in three games in all competitions. The target man has been excellent and scored eight goals in the eight games he’s played under Jackson.
Cheltenham Town vs Lincoln City
Preview: Lincoln City will look to put an end to their rotten run of results in the league as they face Cheltenham Town.
Cheltenham were very poor in midweek in their 5-0 defeat to Cambridge. It left manager Michael Duff giving his players the silent treatment with him refusing to even speak to his side at full time. Defensively they were shambolic as they let Sam Smith get through on goal with ease for the first before Matty Pollock put one in his own net. They gave Joe Ironside far too much time in the box and really have to respond this weekend against Lincoln. It was very uncharacteristic of Cheltenham at the Jonny Rocks Stadium where they have got some great wins over Oxford and Ipswich.
Lincoln are falling down the league with an appalling defeat away at Crewe in midweek the tip of the iceberg for the imps. Adam Jackson went off injured on Tuesday too for Lincoln and replacement Timothy Eyoma was later sent off when giving away a penalty for the 2nd goal. This is a big blip on Michael Appleton’s copybook as he was superb when managing in league one previously with Oxford. At the top end of the pitch Lincoln haven’t scored a league goal since October and after another blank in midweek Appleton said, “The only thing I can do is go on the pitch and finish it for them.” The Imps are without Anthony Scully and Tom Hopper while Appleton will be hoping for a bit of luck in the final third.
Prediction: Cheltenham Town 2-0 Lincoln City
Cheltenham will respond well from their midweek embarrassment against Cambridge. It won’t be a good game, but in a tight affair, Cheltenham will edge it with a couple of set pieces.
One to Watch: Hakeeb Adelakun – Lincoln winger Hakeeb Adelakun came closest to ending the goal drought on Tuesday night. His pace and power could be enough to disturb the Cheltenham defence.
Crewe Alexandra vs Sheffield Wednesday
Preview: Crewe Alexandra will hope they can get another positive result here after a win during midweek as they entertain Sheffield Wednesday at Gresty Road.
Crewe got a bit of luck in midweek getting two penalties and winning 2-0 at home to Lincoln. Crewe have won their last four games in all competitions without conceding. Although they might have had a bit of luck with them conceding plenty of shots on goal without conceding. Out of the 14 players that featured on Tuesday night 10 of them were academy graduates with the average age of the side that played being 22. Against Wednesday here they will most likely be under the cosh for a large proportion of the game whilst needing to make the most of set pieces.
Wednesday were brilliant in midweek when holding Portsmouth to a 0-0 draw. The Owls held Pompey at bay superbly with Bailey Peacock-Farrell a stand out performer producing some excellent saves. The makeshift back three was made up of full back Liam Palmer, utility man Callum Paterson who has played mainly up front for Wednesday and Marvin Johnson a left midfielder. Defensively, they were superb in stopping Portsmouth from carving out many chances. It was a game that Wednesday in years gone by would have lost. For this one Chey Dunkley and Ciaran Brennan will still be out injured as Wednesday’s injury list expands. Lee Gregory came off injured on Tuesday night, but I think that was just a lack of game time while Massimo Luongo will now be out for three games through suspension. Josh Windass is likely to come back in too after being rested in midweek.
Prediction: Crewe Alexandra 1-2 Sheffield Wednesday
The hosts will give Wednesday an early scare, but the owls will just be too good for them coming from behind to win the game.
One to Watch: Liam Palmer – Wednesday boyhood fan Liam Palmer will be key here up against Mikael Mandron. He’s the only player to play every game for The Owls this season.
Doncaster Rovers vs Shrewsbury Town
Preview: Doncaster Rovers will hope they can turn their poor form around as they host Shrewsbury Town.
Doncaster are under interim management with Gary McSheffrey taking over for now from previous boss Richie Wellens who lost his job last weekend. However, they have lost five games in all competitions in a row. A run that McSheffrey couldn’t stop on Tuesday night when they played Oxford at home. They were lucky it was only a 2-1 defeat against Oxford in midweek and on another day, they could have been beaten by four or five. That being said when they got a chance the dons took it and were very close to coming away with a point. These are the sort of games they need to start winning if they are to even attempt to challenge for survival.
Shrewsbury were very unfortunate in midweek to lose at Wigan. They were the better team and were only beaten in the last minute thanks to a screamer by Thelo Aasgaard. Shrews do struggle away from home and haven’t won a league game away from home yet this season. They have only picked up two points and scored only six goals in 10 away league games. However they came so close against Wigan on Tuesday and having beaten Charlton which many teams have struggled to do since Jonnie Jackson took over and drawing before that with Sunderland I think there will be a real belief amongst the side that they can get a result here.
Prediction: Doncaster Rovers 0-1 Shrewsbury Town
Shrewsbury will come out on top with a victory over their relegation rivals here.
One to Watch: Daniel Udoh – Shrewsbury striker Daniel Udoh has been key to their side in recent weeks. He had scored in three league games in a row before Wednesday and even then, would have scored if Ryan Bowman hadn’t tapped in on the line.
Fleetwood Town vs Gillingham
Preview: Steve Evans will be hoping that his sides fortunes can change coming into this one as they face Fleetwood Town at Highbury.
Fleetwood were brilliant on Tuesday night in victory over Bolton winning 3-0 thanks to goals from Ged Garner and Harrison Biggins. Both of whom are young players and encapsulate everything Stephen Crainey has been doing since taking over as interim manager. Tuesday’s win ended a terrible run of 11 games in all competitions without a victory for the cod army. They will be hoping this is the start of a good run for the side especially playing here against a Gillingham side that is depleted and void of confidence. Callum Morton has been brilliant for Fleetwood creating chances and scoring goals even in a struggling side.
Gillingham took the lead against Rotherham on Tuesday night and that was as good as it got for Steve Evans on his return to the New York Stadium. They were outplayed by Rotherham and struggled to deal with their crosses into the box. They gave Rotherham a route back into the game and really didn’t learn from that. The fact they gave away two penalties sums up Gillingham’s performance and now their squad is more depleted after Ryan Jackson’s red card in the second half. They only named four substitutes in midweek and will most likely be only able to name three this weekend.
Prediction: Fleetwood Town 3-0 Gillingham
Fleetwood will run riot again here beating Gillingham in a similar way they tore apart Bolton in midweek.
One to Watch: Ged Garner – Fleetwood striker Ged Garner has seven goals in his last 14 league games. He knows how to find the back of the net and will be key here in beating Gillingham.
MK Dons vs Oxford United
Preview: MK Dons will look to continue their strong run of results in the league as they welcome Oxford United to Stadium MK this weekend.
MK Dons drew on Wednesday night with Plymouth 1-1. Tennai Watson scored his first ever senior goal in midweek with the Reading academy graduate slotting home after great work from Scott Twine. Twine was given the freedom of the pitch for the goal and with Oxford having such an attacking midfield trio normally I imagine he could be key to the dons chances. The Dons could have won it on another day if Troy Parrott’s shot was two inches lower and could have lost it if Jordan Garrick’s shot was a few inches wider. MK Dons will be hoping to carry on their impressive home form which has seen them only lose two of 10 home league games this season, but they will have to do it without Max Watters who is still nursing a knock he got a few weeks back against Sheffield Wednesday.
Oxford were victorious in midweek away to Doncaster. They missed a whole host of chances after they went 1-0 up and could have been 3 or 4-0 up before Doncaster equalised. They could have rued their missed chances when Donny equalised, however up popped James Henry. Oxford’s Mr reliable has a habit of popping up with winning goals in games. The midfielder has scored seven goals this season for the yellows and in all seven Oxford have gained three points. Coming into this one the return of most key players from the covid outbreak will be tested as to if it has any lasting effects on the players fitness
Prediction: MK Dons 2-0 Oxford United
MK Dons will be victorious here, tearing Oxford apart in midfield winning that battle which is key to the outcome of this game.
One to Watch: Mo Eisa – MK Dons have a plethora of strikers with goal-scoring pedigree. Eisa was brilliant at Cheltenham and in his first season at Peterborough, however he still hasn’t found that form since and will be looking to here against Oxford’s back line.
Portsmouth vs Morecambe
Preview: Stephen Robinson will be looking for a response from his side after their poor showing in midweek as they travel to Fratton Park to face a resurgent Pompey side.
Portsmouth were impressive in midweek, however they really struggled to take all three points against Sheffield Wednesday. They did get a point and their long unbeaten run is now extended to eight league games. George Hirst was a constant menace against the side he started his career at. Hirst and Ronan Curtis were both very good in an attacking sense, but the lack of cutting edge will worry The Cowley’s, especially after they only just managed to beat Gillingham in the league game before that, scoring late on. The key to Portsmouth getting a result will be Marcus Harness, who was very quiet in midweek and will need to turn up against Morecambe this weekend.
Morecambe have only won one game in their last eleven in the league. On Tuesday night they were defeated 5-0 by Sunderland with manager Stephen Robinson saying he was “humiliated and embarrassed by the result.” The worry for Morecambe is they are now only a point outside the relegation zone and are struggling. They have conceded the most goals in the league by a mile with 42 goals now being conceded in 20 games. They need to find a way to stop shipping these goals especially on their travels where they have conceded 25 goals. I think it shows how reliant they were on Cole Stockton in the early part out scoring their opposition, but Robinson has to find a way to stop leaking goals.
Prediction: Portsmouth 5-0 Morecambe
Portsmouth will still be livid with them not being clinical in front of goal in midweek. They will react in a positive manner here, putting Morecambe to the sword.
One to Watch: Ronan Curtis – Portsmouth attacker Ronan Curtis was brilliant in midweek without getting a goal to show for it. He will be determined to finally get a goal to go as Portsmouth’s outright highest goal-scorer this century, with him currently level with Yakubu.
Rotherham United vs Burton Albion
Preview: The Millers are almost certainly on the march in League One and will look to continue that as they entertain Burton Albion.
Rotherham continued their unbeaten run to an impressive 19 games. They have scored 20 goals in their last six games at the New York stadium. They constantly cause problems from set pieces and by getting men into the box from crosses as Gillingham found out in midweek when the millers ran out 5-1 winners. The only blot on their copybook came early on when they conceded however they responded expertly capitalising on Gillingham’s generous defending. The spine of this Rotherham team has not changed drastically for a while and having the experience of Richard Wood, Michael Ihiekwe, Ben Wiles and Michael Smith through the heart of the team is pivotal as they’ve all experienced promotion previously with the millers.
Burton were flat in their defeat on their travels in midweek to Wycombe. The Brewers defended poorly with the second goal being poor defensively from one long goal kick. They were unable to deal with Sam Vokes then and I fear they will struggle to deal with Rotherham’s big men Freddie Ladapo and Michael Smith. They did manage to pull a goal back, but it wasn’t through good attacking play more a slice of luck and battling from a long throw in. The fact they were chasing the game and struggled to have a shot on target that tested David Stockdale is a big worry. Add to that the fact they were knocked out of the FA Cup last weekend by League Two opposition and I think Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has plenty to worry about right now.
Prediction: Rotherham United 2-1 Burton Albion
The Millers are looking in fine form of late, and they are going to take some stopping if Warne is not to make it a hattrick of League One promotions. I think they will edge the win here.
One to Watch: Mickel Miller – Mickel Miller for the Millers was brilliant on Tuesday night. He scored and won a penalty. His constant running at defences and ability to strike a ball will definitely put fear in oppositions minds.
Wigan Athletic vs Ipswich Town
Preview: Wigan Athletic will aim to build on their late win during midweek and at least stay level on points with leaders Rotherham United and 3rd-placed Wycombe Wanderers as they face Ipswich Town.
Wigan know how to get results. The Latics weren’t brilliant in midweek but did win thanks to a brilliant late goal from Thelo Asgaard to save their blushes. The goal from the Norwegian was rewarded with a new contract on Thursday keeping him at the DW until 2026. It’s not the first late goal Wigan have scored this season in fact the Latics now have 12 goals this season in the last 10 minutes of games. Leam Richardson has shown how strong the depth of his squad in making plenty of changes from last week’s FA Cup success over Colchester. It’s hard not to be impressed with this young manager and young squad’s reaction to what was a traumatic incident involving Charlie Wyke on the training ground a couple of weeks ago. The fact they’ve managed to recover mentally and keep winning is testimony to everyone at the club.
What has gone wrong at Ipswich? Last weekend saw the tractor boys struggle at home to League Two opposition Barrow and was the end for Paul Cook. In interim charge now is John McGreal and things didn’t start well for the former Colchester manager when they went to Charlton and lost 2-0. They were awful and didn’t even manage to have a shot on target. It was easily their worst performance of the season and left fans arguing with the players at full time. The players I expected to see lead Ipswich towards a promotion fight this season just have not been good enough. Sam Morsy and Scott Fraser particularly I expected better from with Morsy given a 2 rating from the local press in that dismal display on Tuesday. They have to get better quickly.
Prediction: Wigan Athletic 3-0 Ipswich Town
Ipswich will once again return home travel sick after 2nd placed Wigan compile their misery.
One to Watch: Callum Lang – Wigan youngster Callum Lang has been brilliant since coming back in January. This season he has seven league goals to his name and has five goals in his last five in all competitions.
Wycombe Wanderers vs AFC Wimbledon
Preview: Wycombe Wanderers will look to potentially go top of League One outright as they host AFC Wimbledon at Adams Park.
Wycombe did what they do well in grinding out a good win against Burton on Tuesday night winning 2-1. Brandon Hanlon was excellent in the first coming with his individual brilliance while the second came from a simple goal kick and Wycombe making the most of the second ball, something they pride themselves on. Gareth Ainsworth will be disappointed with the goal they conceded though with a Burton long throw causing the side problems. They did not do the things you’d associate them with, which is just clearing the ball. I also think David Stockdale should have done better, but they managed to grind out the win like they seem to do.
AFC Wimbledon manager Mark Robinson said Tuesday night was the best his side have played since he took over as manager. Not many teams go to Accrington and come away after getting a comfortable three points. However, Wimbledon managed to do so thanks to a brilliant performance. The main man at the moment causing problems for oppositions is Ayoub Assal the 19-year-old has four goals in his last three games and has started to link up brilliantly with striker Ollie Palmer. They are now four unbeaten in league and cup but this is their biggest challenge since losing to Portsmouth.
Prediction: Wycombe Wanderers 2-1 AFC Wimbledon
Wycombe will again prevail victorious with a 2-1 win. They will go 1-0 up but be pegged back by Wimbledon before going on to win the game.
One to Watch: Sam Vokes – Wycombe target man Sam Vokes will be keying in bullying a young Wimbledon defence. His strength and power when attacking is enough to worry the Wycombe defence.