Feature Game: Portsmouth vs MK Dons
Portsmouth: (3-4-1-2) Bazunu; Raggett, Robertson, Ogilvie; Romeo, Morrell, Williams, Hackett-Fairchild; Harness; Curtis, Hirst
MK Dons: (3-4-3) Cumming; O’Hora, Darling, Lewington; Kioso, O’Riley, Robson, Harvie; Corbeanu, Eisa, Twine
Preview: Play-off chasing pair Portsmouth and MK Dons will both be looking to strengthen their respective promotion pushes as they face off at Fratton Park.
Portsmouth come into this game off the back of two straight outings in the EFL Trophy, in which they progressed against Exeter City before going out at the hands of Cambridge United. They have not played in League One since 3rd January in which they also faced Mark Bonner’s side, and Danny Cowley will be looking for his side to get back to winning ways. They sit six points outside the play-offs with six games and are on an unbeaten run in the league stretching back to 19th October against Ipswich Town, and sitting in such a strong position, they will be confident of their chances going forward. They will be without Ellis Harrison, who moved on to Fleetwood Town since their last league outing. Clark Robertson return against United, while Ryan Tunnicliffe also returned after an injury layoff, and so will both be pushing for league starts here.
They face an MK Dons side that will come into this game off the back of a win in the derby against AFC Wimbledon. Theo Corbeanu made a good first impression to Dons fans after his inclusion in a front three after sealing his move away from Sheffield Wednesday, while goalkeeper Franco Ravizzoli also impressed as he came in between the sticks after the departure of Andrew Fisher to Swansea City. Liam Manning does have some selection dilemmas to contend with, principally in goal as Ravizzoli kept a clean sheet and did well, but they have welcomed Jamie Cumming in on loan this week after he cut short his loan with fellow League One side Gillingham, and could well be in line for a debut for the club here.
Prediction: Portsmouth 1-1 MK Dons
This is a game that I think manager Danny Cowley will look at and view as one in which they really need to get something from if they are to stay within a suitable distance from the play-offs, and I am backing them to get a share of the spoils at Fratton Park as a goal from Irish international Ronan Curtis is enough for them to secure a point after Twine has earlier given the visitors the lead.
One to Watch: Scott Twine – Any game that involves this man, he often stands out as the main attraction. The former Swindon Town man has been superb for MK Dons this term, with 11 goals and 8 assists so far, and against a Portsmouth side that will likely try and make it difficult for Dons to impose their usual game, his creative qualities will be key in breaking down the hosts.
Accrington Stanley vs Sunderland
Preview: Sunderland will be wanting to put in a response this weekend after their surprising defeat during midweek at the hands of Lincoln City, and they face Accrington Stanley on the road.
Accrington have only lost once in their last six league games and have picked up some impressive results at home this season. John Coleman’s men last weekend drew 1-1 with MK Dons, an impressive result when you bear in mind they had 10 men for an hour of the game. At the Wham, this season they have also beaten Rotherham, Bolton and Fleetwood and have picked up a strong 23 points from 13 league games. Defender Sam Sherring has returned to Bournemouth this week, but that won’t be a big loss with the defender only featuring 14 times for Stanley. Liam Coyle will be missing though as he sits out the first of a three-game suspension.
Sunderland were beaten in midweek by Lincoln with former player Chris Maguire putting them to the sword scoring a hat trick in a 3-1 victory. Lee Johnson has been missing several key players through Covid leading to him having to recall Anthony Patterson, Josh Hawkes and Jack Diamond from loans at League Two and National League clubs. The red card to Carl Winchester in midweek doesn’t help their lack of squad depth as he is unavailable this weekend, while Lee Johnson himself won’t be on the touchline after receiving a red card in midweek. Johnson is hoping that four or five players will return after the Covid outbreak, however their fitness isn’t guaranteed with many players struggling through side effects for a while longer.
Prediction: Accrington Stanley 1-1 Sunderland
I’m expecting a tight match here between two fairly even sides. I think Accrington will take the lead, but will be pegged back late on to draw 1-1.
One to Watch: Colby Bishop – Accrington striker Bishop relishes games against big clubs at home. He’s already scored against Ipswich and MK Dons at the Wham this season and will look to add to them against a weakened Sunderland side.
AFC Wimbledon vs Morecambe
Preview: Two sides that are battling against relegation face off at Plough Lane as AFC Wimbledon entertain Morecambe.
AFC Wimbledon have lost their last three games all without scoring although all three were away from home. The worst of the defeats came last weekend when they were beaten 2-0 by National League side Boreham Wood, although I don’t think many fans will be happy with their 1-0 defeat away at rivals MK Dons in midweek either. They did well not to concede again after going down to 10 men in the first-half in midweek too when Nesta Guinness-Walker was sent-off and will be missing this weekend through suspension. The goal they conceded was due to bad playing out from the back and I think many people from the outside will start to question Mark Robinson’s plans. However, the fans still have his back, and it would take a terrible run of form to see his position questioned.
Morecambe were beaten last Sunday by Tottenham 3-1 in the FA Cup. It took Tottenham’s cavalry of Kane and Lucas Moura to break down Robinson’s men after Anthony O’Connor gave The Shrimps the lead. In Morecambe’s last league game, they came from 3-0 down at half-time to relegation rivals Doncaster to go on and win 4-3 thanks to a Cole Stockton brace alongside goals from Jonathan Obika and Toumani Diagouraga. In the first-half against Doncaster, they struggled to cope with Omar Bogle and his physicality and ability to be a battering ram against the defence. However, he came off after 35 minutes and Doncaster’s performance suffered as a result. Against Wimbledon, I expect Ollie Palmer to cause a threat as his game is similar to that of Bogle.
Prediction: AFC Wimbledon 3-1 Morecambe
Both of these sides like to play on the front foot, so I expect to see goals. I think AFC Wimbledon will run out as 3-1 winners, putting some distance between themselves and the relegation zone.
One to Watch: Cole Stockton – Morecambe striker Cole Stockton got his two goals to go back level as top goal scorer in League One last time out. Since then, Ross Stewart has scored three times meaning Stockton has some catching up to do. He has scored against relegation rivals Fleetwood and Doncaster already this season and will want to lift his side out the drop zone with another here.
Bolton Wanderers vs Ipswich Town
Preview: Ipswich Town will arrive at The UniBol in buoyant fashion as they take on Bolton Wanderers looking to extend their perfect start to life under new boss Kieran McKenna.
Bolton have now lost five games in a row in all competitions. The Trotters have only won twice in their last 13 league games and those came against Crewe and Doncaster who were both there for the taking when played against. Ian Evatt has been backed in January with Dion Charles coming in from Accrington to replace Eoin Doyle, who has returned to Ireland. They have also brought in full-back Marlon Fossey on loan from Fulham, midfielder Aaron Morley from Rochdale as well as James Trafford who arrives on loan from Man City. Evatt has also said that Bolton are getting players back such as Gethin Jones, who returned in midweek, while the club has no new Covid cases. The only notable injury is Elias Kachunga who is sidelined, and I think Bolton, although adding Dion Charles, are lacking up front.
Ipswich, on the other hand, have started life under Kieran McKenna excellently. In McKenna’s first game in charge, they beat Wycombe 1-0 at home before last weekend they blitzed Gillingham winning 4-0, blowing apart The Gills in the first 25 minutes going 3-0 up. McKenna changed the system and went to a 3-5-2 formation with Macauley Bonne and James Norwood forming a clinical partnership, both scoring here. Wes Burns was excellent down the right with the first two goals seeing him overlap and causing Gillingham a lot of problems. Sone Aluko played in behind the strike partnership and was excellent too and if any player deserves to be given some recognition since Paul Cook’s departure, I think Aluko deserves it. Ipswich were given a blow this week when goalkeeper Christian Walton was recalled by Brighton, however that doesn’t come into effect until after this weekend’s game.
Prediction: Bolton Wanderers 0-3 Ipswich Town
I think Ipswich will put Bolton to the sword here, winning another game comfortably. This time they will run out 3-0 winners.
One to Watch: Sam Morsy – Midfielder Sam Morsy has been excellent In McKenna’s two games in charge. He has made some great runs from midfield and constantly helped put the opposition defence on the back foot.
Cheltenham Town vs Charlton Athletic
Preview: Cheltenham Town will be eager to put an end to their poor recent run in the league as they host Charlton Athletic.
Cheltenham are winless in seven league games and have drawn their last couple of games 1-1 with Oxford and Burton. This week, The Robins have added young Aston Villa midfielder Aaron Ramsey on loan as well as full-back Reece Hutchinson who has been without a club since leaving Burton Albion in the summer. George Lloyd has returned from Port Vale after being out injured since mid-November. Chris Hussey has left the club in the meantime to go to Port Vale, which is a blow for Cheltenham while Kion Etete is set to sign for the club but won’t come in until after this weekend. Otherwise, Cheltenham still have competition for places although Dan N’Lundulu did pick up a knock last weekend, albeit should be fit here.
Charlton were awful in midweek against Crewe, when they were defeated 2-1 and struggled to do any of the basics correctly. They almost managed to get a point which would have been undeserved, however Elliott Lee’s stoppage-time strike was ruled out when it was adjudged Jonathan Leko had impeded the goalkeeper standing in an offside position. Charlton have now lost three league games in a row and Jonnie Jackson’s managerial credentials are starting to be tested for the first time since his appointment. Jayden Stockley was a big miss for Charlton and has been whilst they’ve been on this run, but Jackson was impressed by young Mason Burstow who came on and scored in midweek. Charlton will also be boosted by the return of Craig MacGillivray in goal who missed out in midweek after his wife went into labour.
Prediction: Cheltenham Town 0-2 Charlton Athletic
I think Charlton’s bad run will come to an end here, with them winning 2-0 and extending Cheltenham’s long run without a win.
One to Watch: Mason Burstow – 18-year-old Charlton striker Burstow has been brilliant in the EFL Cup this season and looks set to get a chance in the league here. The young forward will want to show that he’s good enough despite his young age.
Crewe Alexandra vs Shrewsbury Town
Preview: Crewe Alexandra will be looking to follow up their positive performance and result in midweek with another here as they welcome Shrewsbury Town to Gresty Road.
Crewe picked up an unlikely victory in midweek thanks to goals from Oliver Finney and Mikael Mandron. It means Crewe have now picked up nine points from their last five league games beating Charlton, Lincoln and Morecambe. The Railwaymen have also won five of their last seven games in all competitions at home and just gives them some momentum as they look to make an unlikely escape from the relegation zone. Chris Porter and Chris Long linked up really well up front with Long going through on goal a couple of times without being able to score. David Artell has said it will be a busy January for his side and he’s already lost Kayne Ramsey who was recalled from loan, while Owen Dale has eventually joined Blackpool after temporarily returning on loan.
Shrewsbury went to Liverpool last week and took the lead in the FA Cup. Steve Cotterill’s men were unable to stop the Merseysiders though with Liverpool coming back to win 4-1. In their last league game, they were victorious 2-0 at home to Sheffield Wednesday to extend their unbeaten league run to four games. They have tightened up defensively during that time, only conceding once in a 3-1 win over Cheltenham. After a good away trip to Anfield in a free hit, they’ll have to turn their minds back to the main priority with a defeat potentially dragging them back into relegation battle, especially as Crewe will come into this with confidence.
Prediction: Crewe Alexandra 0-2 Shrewsbury Town
Crewe will start this full of confidence, but I think Shrewsbury are a stronger side and that will shine through. The Shrews will be victorious 2-0 here, lifting themselves comfortably into mid-table.
One to Watch: Daniel Udoh – Shrewsbury striker Daniel Udoh has scored four goals in his last five games including one last weekend at Anfield. The striker has been a catalyst in Shrewsbury’s up-turn in form as he’s shown he can score an array of different goals.
Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic
Preview: Doncaster Rovers face a tough tie this weekend as they welcome high-flyers Wigan Athletic to The Keepmoat Stadium.
Doncaster followed up that 4-3 defeat against Morecambe with a 1-0 defeat away at Fleetwood last weekend. It’s hard to see how Doncaster can escape the drop with their current squad and current run of form which has only seen them win once in their last 11 league games, a run spanning back to October. Gary McSheffrey has discussed his interest in bringing in new signings with Doncaster linked with Michael Jacobs and John Joe O’Toole, but this week only striker Keiran Agard has been brought in to help the league’s lowest scorers this season.
Wigan haven’t lost a game in all competitions since October 26th when they were defeated by Lincoln in the league. It’s a run that spans back 14 games and sees The Latics sit fourth in League One with five games in hand on Wycombe and Sunderland directly above them while they have three on league leaders Rotherham. They have brought in striker Josh Magennis from Hull this week to help bolster an already strong attacking line up which sees competition for places up front, with them already having Will Keane, Callum Lang, Stephen Humphrys and Charlie Wyke to play there. The only worry I’d have for Wigan is the number of games they have to play may catch up with them later on in the season but for now I think their strong form continues.
Prediction: Doncaster Rovers 0-3 Wigan Athletic
Wigan will be comfortable winners here, making bottom side Doncaster really staring down the dark tunnel heading towards League Two. The Latics will run out comfortable 3-0 winners.
One to Watch: Thelo Aasgaard – Wigan winger Thelo Aasgaard came on and scored the winner against Blackburn in the FA Cup last weekend. The 19-year-old is involved in a tough battle for the winger spot, but whenever he’s been given the nod this season, he’s performed.
Fleetwood Town vs Rotherham United
Preview: Leaders Rotherham United will be aiming to strengthen their spot at the top of the table as they head on the road to face Fleetwood Town.
Fleetwood were victorious last weekend 1-0 away at fellow relegation rivals Doncaster. They won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Ellis Harrison on debut after he joined from fellow league one side Portsmouth. Fleetwood are also set to bring in experienced defenders Toto Nsiala and Zak Jules from Ipswich and MK Dons respectively. It looks to me like Fleetwood are looking to add experience to a youthful squad which has done well this season, and their additions could well be key in giving the squad the best possible chance of avoiding the drop. At home this season they have struggled defensively, conceding 20 goals in 12 league games, the 2nd most in the league and so will have to be improved here against a strong Millers outfit.
Rotherham went to extra-time last week and it took penalties for them to be defeated by QPR in the FA Cup. In their last league game, they narrowly scraped past Bolton 2-1 while before that they were beaten 1-0 by Accrington. I think there may just be a few cracks starting to appear in a Millers team and squad which has been excellent all season. It was strange to see Rotherham striker Freddie Ladapo hand in a transfer request last weekend, with the club confirming his current contract runs out in the summer. It came as a shock as Paul Warne prides himself on his man management as well as having a group that collectively will run through brick walls for each other. In last week’s FA Cup tie, they went with Grigg in Ladapo’s place while Josh Kayode I think will benefit most, with Ladapo looking likely not to feature again for the club or at least until this dispute is solved.
Prediction: Fleetwood Town 1-2 Rotherham United
I think Fleetwood will cause a few problems for Rotherham, but The Millers will still come out on top winning 2-1, coming from behind to do so.
One to Watch: Joshua Kayode – Rotherham striker Josh Kayode will definitely benefit from Ladapo not featuring. He impressed on loan for Carlisle last season, and I think given the chance he’ll be clinical in front of goal.
Gillingham vs Burton Albion
Preview: Gillingham will be eager to get off to a winning start under manager Steve Lovell to change their outlook as they host Burton Albion at The MEM.
Gillingham were terrible in defeat last weekend when they were beaten 4-0 by Ipswich. It spelt the end of Steve Evans’ reign in charge. This week, Gillingham dropped to 23rd in the league and are now seven points from safety having played two more games than AFC Wimbledon who occupy the spot just outside the relegation zone. Just when Gills fans thought it couldn’t get worse, goalkeeper Jamie Cummings was recalled by Chelsea before being sent to League One rivals MK Dons. Steve Lovell is in caretaker charge and has said he hasn’t enjoyed their style of play so far this season. Lovell won’t be able to change this overnight, especially as this Gills squad is thin on the ground anyway, not helped by the fact Daniel Phillips saw red last weekend and will therefore miss this.
Burton drew 1-1 with Cheltenham thanks to a goal from Daniel Jebbison, while it was a shock to many that Kane Hemmings played no part. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink confirmed after the game that the club have accepted a bid for the striker from an unnamed club before Tranmere finally confirmed his signing. Burton quickly replaced him by announcing the signing of Gassan Ahadme from Norwich City on a permanent deal, with the youngster having spent the first part of the season on loan with fellow League One side Portsmouth. The Brewers sit comfortably in mid-table and won’t go up or down this season, but Hasselbaink won’t want that to make his team complacent.
Prediction: Gillingham 0-1 Burton Albion
Burton will come out on top against a poor Gillingham side. I expect a marked improvement from Gillingham, but they won’t have enough to keep out Burton, especially without Jamie Cumming in net.
One to Watch: Daniel Jebbison – In Kane Hemmings’ absence, someone needs to step up and be Burton’s goal-scoring threat. In Sheffield United loanee Jebbison, I believe they have a natural goal scorer, but he just hasn’t had the chance to show it yet.
Lincoln City vs Cambridge United
Preview: Lincoln City will be looking to continue their recent upturn in fortunes as they entertain Cambridge United at Sincil Bank.
I have said throughout most of the season that if Lincoln got a striker in, they would be a better team. Last week, before facing Oxford they brought in Morgan Whittaker on loan from Swansea and they won 2-0. They followed that up in midweek with a victory over Sunderland thanks to a Chris Maguire hattrick. It was an impressive result on paper, but even more impressive when you consider the fact Lincoln only named four subs. Lincoln have brought in Whittaker’s teammate at Swansea and fellow striker Liam Cullen on loan this week, while Michael Appleton has said they will remain active in the transfer market looking for a replacement for Lewis Montsma, who has suffered a knee injury. Max Melbourne was recalled from Stevenage, but isn’t seen as a long-term replacement. If Lincoln do bring in anyone new from now on, I’d expect them to be a permanent addition rather than a loan, with them already having four players on loan and only five able to be used in a match day squad. Anthony Scully will come into the side here returning after missing Saturday’s game through injury.
Cambridge come into this off one of the best results of the season for Mark Bonner’s side. Bonner’s men last weekend went to Newcastle and came away with a 1-0 victory against one of the world’s most expensive clubs. They rode their luck, took their chance and goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov had an exceptional game for them to be one of the giant killers of the round. Mark Bonner’s side followed that up with a victory over Portsmouth in the EFL Trophy last 16. The side has been a bit out of shape at the back, with normal left-back Jack Iredale having to slot in at centre back alongside Jubril Okedina. Sam Sherring has come into the team arriving on loan from Bournemouth having spent the first half of the season on loan at Accrington. I expect to see him come in at central defence and help Cambridge to improve defensively, although a clean sheet against Newcastle isn’t bad and they will be looking to take the confidence from the two cup victories into the bread and butter of the league.
Prediction: Lincoln City 1-1 Cambridge United
I believe this will be a tightly contested affair with two teams at a similar level. Earlier in the season, it did finish 5-1, but here I think it will be a close 1-1 draw this time around.
One to Watch: Chris Maguire – Lincoln attacker Chris Maguire scored a great hattrick in midweek and will look to add to this, this weekend. The attacker took all his opportunities well and with some back up in forward areas I expect to see him improve.
Sheffield Wednesday vs Plymouth Argyle
Preview: Plymouth Argyle face a potentially tricky test of their play-off credentials as they head to Hillsborough to face play-off chasing Sheffield Wednesday.
Sheffield Wednesday return to Hillsborough after back-to-back away defeats to Sunderland and Shrewsbury. They had a week off last weekend which will help bring injured players back up to speed. Wednesday haven’t played a home league game since the 23rd of November when they beat MK Dons 2-1. Massimo Luongo is set to return from suspension after his red card against Portsmouth, while Josh Windass could return from injury after another spell out. Wednesday fans were disappointed to see Theo Corbeanu recalled by Wolves before being sent to fellow play-off chasers MK Dons. This is a huge game for The Owls, with a win likely to see them go three points behind the play-off places, while a defeat in my opinion sees their play-off chances finished.
Plymouth have won back-to-back league games and beat Championship side Birmingham in the FA Cup last weekend in extra-time after Ryan Law came off the bench to score the winner. Argyle will again be without key midfielder Panutche Camara, who is away on international duty with Guinea-Bissau while defender Brandon Galloway is still sidelined through injury. The team have struggled with Covid absentees throughout the month with Ryan Broom, George Cooper and Luke Jephcott all missing for last week’s tie. James Wilson was also missing with a back injury, and they have brought in a replacement this week with Huddersfield loanee Romoney Crichlow coming in after spending the first-half of the season at Swindon Town.
Prediction: Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Plymouth Argyle
This is a game that both sides will see as one in which they need to get something from if they are to keep up their assent for a play-off place, and so I think it will end in a draw.
One to Watch: Ryan Hardie – Plymouth striker Ryan Hardie has nine league goals and four assists. He hasn’t featured yet this year, but if he does start here, I expect him to cause Wednesday’s back-three some problems.
Wycombe Wanderers vs Oxford United
Preview: Two of the promotion contenders face off at Adams Park as Wycombe Wanderers welcome Oxford United.
Wycombe drew 3-3 with Sunderland last weekend, scoring a late equaliser to salvage a point against their promotion rivals. They followed this up with a comfortable 2-0 away victory over Bolton in midweek and come into this just a point behind both of the top two. It’s an M40 derby and Wycombe’s greatest rivalry in the league. They have once again sold out their car park for this one and last time these two played earlier in the season they both parked their defensive buses brilliantly, drawing 0-0. They will be without Sullay Kaikai who is away with Sierra Leone at the African Cup of Nations, while they welcomed back Anthony Stewart last week from injury before Ryan Tafazolli came back in during midweek, and so will both be looking for starts here and will play a key role if they are to contain this Oxford United side.
Oxford United were beaten last weekend by Lincoln City 2-0. They sit 6th in the league table and there is six points between themselves and Wycombe who occupy third place. Oxford could really leave a marker here for their play-off hopes and leave Wycombe looking behind them at the chasing pack having played the joint most games in the league. They have had an excellent midfield balance this season, but it may be disrupted this weekend. Last weekend, they were not only beaten, but holding midfielder Herbie Kane was sent-off late on in the 2nd half and will therefore be missing here, while fellow midfielder Cameron Brannagan went off injured in the first-half last weekend. Other midfielder Mark Sykes is linked with a move to Huddersfield after a great first-half of the season and with plenty of Championship interest his head may have been turned.
Prediction: Wycombe Wanderers 2-1 Oxford United
Wycombe will be winners here in a great affair between two strong League One sides. They will secure victory by two goals to one, seeing them go into the automatic promotion spots.
One to Watch: Brandon Hanlan – Wycombe striker Brandon Hanlan scored in midweek and although he hasn’t scored many goals, he’s been an excellent partner alongside Sam Vokes. His goal in midweek should help his confidence and see him go on a strong goal-scoring run.