Sky Bet League One MD#2 – Weekend Preview

Feature Game: MK Dons vs Sheffield Wednesday

Two promotion contenders – and two teams that went out in the play-off semi-finals last season – meet off at Stadium MK as MK Dons host Sheffield Wednesday.

Liam Manning takes charge of MK Dons for his second season running, and after impressing in his first season at Stadium MK, he will be looking to go one step further this season.

Darren Moore, meanwhile, will have the pressure on his shoulders to deliver The Owls promotion, having got into the play-offs last season and investing heavily during the summer.

Match Overview
MK Dons come into the weekend looking to bounce back after their defeat on the opening day, losing out to Cambridge United on the road. As expected, Liam Manning switched to a back-four, away from the 3-man defensive system that worked so well last year, and I expect that part of the problem was being able to adjust to a different way of playing. It was also the first time that they have taken to the field for a long time without the services of Scott Twine and Harry Darling, and so understandably it may take a while for us to see the best version of MK Dons. Manning may be forced into one change, with McEachran going off with an injury eight minutes before the end of the first-half, and so Johnson may come in as he did from the bench against Cambridge United.

Sheffield Wednesday will be looking to build on a draw after they were made to settle for a point on home soil last weekend against Portsmouth. Darren Moore will be looking for defensive improvements from his side after they conceded three in the second-half, and so both Palmer and Famewo may well be pushing for a start this weekend. One change that Moore will definitely have to make is in the forward department, with Lee Gregory being sent-off against Pompey and so he will miss out; former Rotherham United forward Michael Smith is likely to come into the side in his place for his first start as an Owl. Dele-Bashiru impressed on the opening day with two goals, and he will be looking to build on that form.

Key Player: Barry Bannan
Barry Bannan scored a wonder goal against MK Dons last season and he will again be key to The Owls’ chances of being in the top seven and in the mix for promotion this season.

Barnsley vs Cheltenham Town
Barnsley manager Michael Duff was beaten by Plymouth in his first game in charge last weekend. The former Cheltenham manager comes up against his former club in just his second game in charge. Last weekend they were beaten 1-0 by Plymouth and operated with a 3-5-2 formation. The biggest surprise though was Duff went with youngster Jack Aitchison alongside Devante Cole up front leaving new signing James Norwood to make his debut off the bench. Barnsley have also added Manchester City forward Slobodan Tedic on loan until the end of the season. Tedic has had loan spells at PEC Zwolle but has struggled in front of goal so will be hoping to make Oakwell a happy hunting ground starting this weekend.

Wade Elliott thought management was easy last weekend with his side racing into a two-goal lead thanks to an own goal from Frankie Kent and an Alfie May strike. However, Elliott was soon taught a lesson in football manager after Grant McCann’s triple substitution came up trumps. Peterborough ended up winning 3-2 leaving Cheltenham ruing what could have been. Cheltenham operated in a 3-5-2 formation with Alfie May being reunited with his strike partner from last season Dan N’Lundulu. Elliott in my opinion showed his inexperience not acting quick enough when posh found a way to come back into the game. This weekend he will be eager to prove to former manager and teammate Duff he is more than capable of being his replacement.

Key Player – Alfie May
Cheltenham striker Alfie May went level with Julian Alsop for the most goals scored for Cheltenham in the EFL (39). May was excellent under this weekend’s opposition manager Michael Duff and has nothing but praise for his former gaffer “He had big belief in me so it was important I repaid him. Hopefully on Saturday I can beat the record against the manager who got the most success out of me as a professional player.”

Bolton Wanderers vs Wycombe Wanderers
Bolton drew last weekend 1-1 with Ipswich away from home. Ian Evatt’s side open their home campaign here against another side that will be jostling for a top six spot this season. Trotters boss Ian Evatt was full of praise for his players last weekend out of possession “I think we controlled the game first half not really through our own possession, but through out of possession.” However, in possession Evatt was disappointed in his side’s efforts “We created some really good opportunities in transition and didn’t really have the execution or calmness to pick them off and choose the right decision.” This weekend he will be hoping to put a mark down to the rest of the division especially at home.

Wycombe were the biggest winners on opening day beating an abysmal Burton side 3-0. First half goals from David Wheeler, Anis Mehmeti and Josh Scowen were enough to seal all three points. Wycombe had inexperienced goalkeeper Tyla Dickinson in goal and he was rarely tested. The 21-year-old looked a small figure in goal and I fear if Bolton put pressure on him with shots on goal and he could struggle. David Wheeler was also excellent at right back in a 4-2-3-1 however, he’s an attacking player with an attacking mindset who stood out against a poor defensive side. Against Bolton, he will also be tested more defensively although they could also stop Bolton from getting forward by attacking them themselves especially through Anis Mehmeti and Gareth McCleary on the wings.

Key Player – Dion Charles
As previously mentioned, Tyla Dickinson was rarely tested last weekend. This weekend Dion Charles should cause him plenty of problems. Charles scored eight after arriving in January and I fancy him to batter Dickinson with shots on goal.

Burton Albion vs Bristol Rovers
Burton were embarrassed last weekend by Wycombe on opening day finding themselves trailing by three goals at half time. Many brewers’ fans were already questioning manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink with many predicting a poor season for their club. This is Hasselbaink’s chance to prove the doubters wrong and what better way to do it than against newly promoted opposition. Hasselbaink has said he was angry and disappointed last weekend but he has full faith in his squad to bounce back. Burton will be boosted by the return of Sam Hughes from injury and Callum Butcher from suspension while striker Sam Winnall has been on trial wit the club scoring a hat trick in midweek in a 6-0 victory. 

Bristol Rovers were beaten 2-1 by Forest Green last weekend in both sides first League One game. Forest Green went ahead through Jordan Taylor-Moore before Aaron Collins equalised only for Regan Hendry to win it late on for Forest Green. The Gas have lost Jordan Rossiter through a hamstring injury picked up on opening day but Joey Barton has been boosted by the return of Sam Finley. Barton has apparently told Trevor Clarke, Zain Westbrooke and Alex Rodman to find new clubs. Barton is known to alienate players in his dressing room however, this seems strange with two of the three starting last weekend before being substituted. It appears a knee jerk reaction from Barton although he very rarely changes his minds on these situations.

Key Player – Callum Butcher
Former Dundee United midfielder Callum Butcher is excellent at breaking up opposition play. The hard tackling centre midfielder loves a booking and could ruffle a few feathers especially in the opposition dugout.

Charlton Athletic vs Derby County
Charlton drew 2-2 with Accrington last weekend and though they’d won it through Miles Leaburn in the 94th minute only for Korede Adedoyin to equalise in the 96th minute. Ben Garner deployed the 4-3-3 formation that helped him get success last season at Swindon. Charlton played with some neat build up play to take the lead but defensively they were shambolic with Sean McConville left alone in the six-yard box before Adedoyin was also easily picked out in the box late on. The Addicks will have to defend better this weekend with Derby likely to ask more questions while I think it shows the defensive capability of a back four with two forward thinking full backs. 

Derby were victorious on opening day in front of a packed-out pride park for their first game under new owners. 31,000 people watched as the rams won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Conor Hourihane. Hourihane sat at the heart of midfield and I think League One neutrals will enjoy watching the technician in the centre of the park. Derby operated with a 4-3-3 formation and played very similarly to last season with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing being a bright spark on the right wing. Derby have also added Lewis Dobbin on loan this week to help bring some youth to the squad. The loanee striker comes in while striker Jack Stretton heads to Carlisle on loan and Nathan Byrne has this week departed for MLS side Charlotte FC.

Key Player – Scott Fraser
Charlton midfielder Scott Fraser has had many things knock him back since joining in January. However, last weekend was the start of a new chapter for him. He scored his first Charlton goal before being replaced by Jack Payne.

Exeter City vs Port Vale
Exeter were held on opening day to a draw away at Lincoln. The Grecians opened the scoring after just 13 minutes after excellent forward play from Jevani Brown set up Sam Nombe for his first of the season. Tom Hopper equalised in the second half with a deft flick from a Hakeeb Adelakun cross which was far too easily from an Exeter point of view. They often caused problems going forward though with a 3-4-1-2 formation being deployed much like Matt Taylor often used last season in League Two. Sam Nombe and Jevani Brown yet again formed an excellent partnership up front and keeping both fit will be crucial to Exeter staying up.

Port Vale were victorious on opening day at home to Fleetwood. The valliants came from behind to take all three points thanks to goals from Nathan Smith and Connor Hall. Darrell Clarke played a 3-5-2 that became synonymous with his side last season. Port Vale do look short of options up front though with Jamie Proctor leading the line alongside Tommy McDermott. McDermott only signed his first professional contract on July 26th and him being played shows how thin the squad is. However, Clarke isn’t just going to bring players in for the sake of it. The experienced manager has said he wants the right player with the right fit which could be key to them staying up in the long run.

Key Player – Jevani Brown
If you haven’t seen the skill from Jevani Brown before he set up Sam Nombe last week, I encourage you to go find it. Brown was excellent last weekend and will look to link up with Nombe again here.

Fleetwood Town vs Plymouth Argyle
Fleetwood were beaten on opening weekend by Port Vale. The cod army went ahead through Dan Batty but they twice conceded from corners being unable to deal with simple balls into the box. Fleetwood deployed a 4-3-3 formation with young striker Promise Omochere leading the line. Fleetwood are also expected to lose Shayden Morris to Aberdeen this summer for a six-figure fee. This is how chairman Andy Pilley wants Fleetwood to operate with players coming through the academy or picking up youngsters only for them to be sold on to make a profit. I highly doubt Morris will be involved this weekend with such heavy rumours circling and Brown will expect a response from his side only wanting players with their mind solely on the task at hand.

Plymouth were winners on the opening day beating Barnsley 1-0 thanks to a goal from Finn Azaz. Plymouth deployed a 3-4-2-1 formation which is a slight tweak from last season with two advanced playmakers in Finn Azaz and Danny Mayor supporting Ryan Hardie up front. Last season they played more of a 3-4-1-2 formation with two strikers. The Pilgrims played with a midfield combination of Matt Butcher and Adam Randell. This weekend Jordan Houghton will be back in contention, but he won’t just be handed the shirt. Houghton’s return is the only good news for The Pilgrims with James Bolton, Panutche Camara, Conor Grant and Mickel Miller all still out this weekend.

Key Player – Dan Scarr
Fleetwood struggled with balls into the box last weekend and I think Dan Scarr will capitalise on that this weekend. Scarr stands at 6ft 2 and will be an aerial monster this weekend.

Forest Green Rovers vs Ipswich Town
Forest Green were victorious on opening day after a late goal from Regan Hendry helped them to take all three points. Last weekend, Forest Green striker Jamille Matt was alongside Reece Brown who is mainly a midfielder. This weekend though Forest Green moved to sign Connor Wickham. Wickham is only 29 but seems to have been around for a very long time. Its time he showed just how good he can be otherwise his career will stagnate and he will fade away into non-league. Forest Green have also signed former Crystal Palace winger Sean Robertson. Robertson has played in pre-season on trial at Sheffield United and Derby County but now will be out to prove himself to fans in Nailsworth. 

Ipswich were held on opening day by Bolton. The tractor boys had to come from behind to draw with Lee Evans on the scoresheet. Ipswich operated with the 3-4-2-1 I expected them to play with Conor Chaplin and Marcus Harness supporting Freddie Ladapo. Ipswich manager McKenna has said he’s really happy with his forward options praising many of his options versatility to not just position but formation too. McKenna has six forwards and hasn’t ruled out adding more so the competition for forward options with only three currently available is really strong. This weekend their system will likely be matched and it will be about how well they can break down a team that will sit in.

Key Player – Connor Wickham
New Forest Green striker Connor Wickham started his career at Ipswich making his debut at just 16 years and 11 days. As I’ve previously stated this could be Wickham’s final chance in the EFL and what better way to prove yourself than against your former club.

Oxford United vs Cambridge United
Oxford were beaten last weekend 1-0 by Derby away from home. It was a party for the home side under new ownership and Oxford did everything they could to spoil it. The U’s stood firm for a long time but were beaten late on after an excellent strike from Conor Hourihane. Karl Robinson deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation with Marcus McGuane and Cameron Brannagan at the heart of midfield. As much as both stood firm in the centre of the park, they needed a more defensive mind at the heart. Hence the signing of Lewis Bate from Leeds United on a season long loan. Bate began his career at Chelsea before moving to Leeds where he is highly regarded already making two premier league appearances at just 19. 

Cambridge were winners on the opening day at home to much fancied MK Dons. The U’s were excellent, showing much of the grit and determination that helped them shock many club’s last season. Mark Bonner played his much established 4-2-3-1 formation with Harvey Knibbs supporting Joe Ironside up front. Cambridge were also in action in midweek in the EFL cup where they impressed again at home beating Championship opponents Millwall. A Liam O’Neil goal was the difference then as Mark Bonner managed to keep his players fit whist also utilising his squad. That could prove to be the difference this weekend with Oxford having an empty week on the training ground.

Key Player – Cameron Brannagan
Oxford United midfielder Cameron Brannagan will be appearing in front of fans for the first time since rejecting Blackpool and signing a new contract for the club. Brannagan is key to Karl Robinson with the fellow Scouser contributing with 14 goals last season.

Peterborough United vs Morecambe
Peterborough took all three points from their opening day fixture away at Cheltenham. Posh were abysmal in the first half going two goals behind. However, Grant McCann wasn’t afraid to ring the changes with a triple sub at half time. McCann brought on Jack Marriott, Joe Ward and Ben Thompson at half time for Ricky Jade Jones, Joel Randall and Jeando Fuchs. Mariott had an instant impact pulling a gaol back before League One’s top goalscorer two seasons ago Jonson Clarke-Harris scored a brace. The change to a 3-4-1-2 was definitely the catalyst for success last week but Grant McCann hasn’t said if he will use that or the 4-3-3, they started with. Peterborough will be without Sammie Szmodics after the midfielder departed for Blackburn this week. 

Morecambe managed to take a point from their opening day encounter at home to Shrewsbury drawing 0-0. Derek Adams played with a 4-2-3-1 formation with striker Cole Stockton leading the line while Ashley Hunter played just off him. In a match played in awful conditions both struggled to carve out many clear-cut chances.  A deflected Shrewsbury shot from range was the closest either side got to scoring. Against Peterborough, Morecambe will have to be switched on for 90 minutes and won’t be given a moments rest. They may be given one or two opportunities but to get anything from this game you have to take them.

Key Player – Jack Marriott
Peterborough striker Marriott helped turn the game on its head last weekend. An early goal will help boost his confidence and his partnership with Jonson Clarke-Harris could really blossom into League One’s best.

Portsmouth vs Lincoln City
Portsmouth drew 3-3 last weekend away at Sheffield Wednesday. Portsmouth were ruthless from balls into the box causing the owls defence many problems. However, they struggled to deal with Wednesday’s movement in behind for the first goal before allowing Fisayo Dele-Bashiru too much space in the second half to get shots away. Pompy changed formation from last season using more of a 4-4-2 formation with Colby Bishop partnering Joe Pigott up front. Michael Jacobs and Ronan Curtis were excellent on the flanks but Blackpool winger Owen Dale is likely to come in adding competition ahead of the weekend. Sean Ragett and Michael Morrison were monsters at the centre of defence but if Lincoln can run in behind them, I’m sure they’ll struggle. 

Lincoln drew 1-1 at home to newly promoted Exeter on opening day and now face a long trip to the south coast. The imps were poor in the first half being easily torn apart by Jevani Brown. Lincoln did come back into the game though with two of last season’s men Hakeeb Adelakun and Tom Hopper linking up with the latter flicking on a cross into the top corner. New Lincoln manager Mark Kennedy deployed a 4-3-3 with most of last season’s side playing despite the new manager bringing in plenty of new signings. Daniel Mandroui wasn’t in the squad with the new signing from Shamrock yet to feature even in pre-season. Mandroiu has been excellent at Shamrock and I can’t wait to see what he can do in the EFL.

Key Player – Colby Bishop
Last weekend, Colby Bishop nodded home a Joe Pigott cross for his first of the season. Bishop will be key to Portsmouth this season especially his partnership with Pigott.

Shrewsbury Town vs Accrington Stanley
Shrewsbury drew 0-0 with Morecambe last weekend in a game that lacked any quality in the final third. The weather was the winner spoiling what should have been a good contest. Shrewsbury played with a 3-4-2-1 formation with Jordan Shipley and Tom Bayliss supporting Ryan Bowman in attack. The back three of Tom Flanagan, Chey Dunkley and Matthew Pennington looks a lot stronger than last season. Shrewsbury were very strong at home especially against sides around them last season and this weekend should be no different with Steve Cotterill’s standards remaining very high. 

Accrington drew last weekend at home to Charlton. Its definitely a draw that will feel like a win for Accy with Korede Adedoyin equalising in the 96th minute after Charlton went 2-1 up in the 94th. Accrington played with a 4-3-3 last weekend with Matt Lowe who joined having scored 11 goals from 8 games at Brackley last season playing alongside Sean McConville and Joe Pritchard. The question will be if Korede Adedoyin starts for Jon Coleman after his late equaliser last weekend. Adedoyin’s pace helped stretch the Charlton defence and I think he could cause Flanagan and Dunkley many problems at the back for Shrewsbury.

Key Player – Shaun Whalley
Former Shrewsbury man Shaun Whalley left for Accrington this summer. He made over 200 appearances for Shrewsbury and will be looking to remind Shrews fans what he’s capable of.

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