Barnsley vs Exeter City
Barnsley come into the weekend and will be looking to continue their good form, having quietly gone about their business so far this term and sitting in the play-offs as things stand. They sit in the play-off places, and have not lost in their last five league games, dropping only the two points in the process. Last time out, they secured a hard-fought win on the road at the hands of Fleetwood Town, with Jack Aitchison scoring the only goal of the game in the final few minutes. The Tykes seem to be making nice progress under Michael Duff and will look to continue that here. Aitchison may well be rewarded for his goal with a start, while there could be a start for midfielder Adam Phillips against a technical opposition in Exeter City.
Exeter City, meanwhile, take to the field in the league for the first time since boss Matt Taylor departed for Rotherham United. Academy coach Kevin Nicholson took temporary charge for their cup game against Southampton Under-21’s in midweek, and will do so again here. Kegs Chauke got a rare goal for City having signed in the summer, funnily enough against his parent club on which he is on loan from. Kevin Nicholson said that he was pleased with the application and character of his side, and they will need all of that for a tough game here. Youngster James was given a run out given their lack of defensive bodies, and it will be interesting to see whether he is given a start for the trip to Oakwell.
Key Player – Jevani Brown
The former Colchester United man has been in prolific form for The Grecians so far this season and he could be key in breaking down this Barnsley side.
Bristol Rovers v Cambridge United
Bristol Rovers drew 2-2 with Exeter last weekend. Joey Barton switched system to play with Aaron Collins in behind John Marquis and Ryan Loft. In midweek’s Papa John’s Trophy tie against Crystal Palace Barton was able to welcome back Lewis Gibson, James Gibbons and Josh Coburn. There is now an array of options for Barton to choose from in defence after only having one fit centre back a month ago. Barton has hinted that Sylvester Jasper will be starting this weekend after discussing how excited he has been at his cameo appearances. Whilst Bristol Rovers have been able to confirm Nick Anderton underwent successful surgery to remove a rumour this week. Anderton (a key part of last season’s promoted squad) will be hoping his positive news this week can drive his side forward to three points.
Cambridge were beaten by Derby 2-0 last weekend before then being beaten by Ipswich 3-0 in midweek. The U’s sat in defensively bringing in Greg Taylor and Jubril Okedina for Zeno Ibsen Rossi and Harrison Dunk which worked for the first hour trying to contain the tractor boys. However, they were eventually broken down and beaten with them unable to come out and play football even after conceding. The U’s need to record a win after consecutive losses this week and Bonner is expecting a tough tie to end a tough test this week. Cambridge trio Joe Ironside, Harrison Dunk and Shilow Tracey are all doubts for this weekend’s tie whilst Jack Lankester is likely to miss out having been subbed off in midweek against Ipswich injured.
Key Player – Ryan Loft
Bristol Rovers striker Ryan Loft has scored four league goals so far this season. He has formed a great partnership with Aaron Collins.
Derby County v Port Vale
Derby were victorious last weekend in Paul Warne’s first game in charge with a 2-0 win away at Cambridge. Warne went to his preferred three at the back formation which saw him get success at Rotherham playing a back three off Eiran Cashin, Curtis Davies and James Chester. Nathanial Mendez-Laing and Tom Barkhuisen occupied the wingback positions whilst James Collins played up front with David McGoldrick missing out through injury. Warne comes into his first home game at Pride Park a fortress so far for his new side who have only lost once their so far this season. David McGoldrick is still out injured this weekend but he’s Warne’s only worry with Korey Smith and Jake Rooney returning to training this week and both could be in contention for this weekend’s game.
Port Vale were beaten 1-0 by Sheffield Wednesday last weekend. The Valiants defended really well in a game either side struggled to find rhythm in. The pitch made it difficult for both sides but they were eventually broken down by a Will Vaulks strike from distance. Vale stuck with a 3-4-1-2 which has helped them be defensively compact this season. Darrell Clarke has been given a selection headache after Will Forrester had an impressive game against Sheffield Wednesday. Forrester came in for Lewis Cass but has played anywhere along the back three and could play either side of Nathan Smith who is a solid central defender and has formed the base of a solid Valiant defence.
Key Player – James Collins
Derby striker James Collins scored a brace last weekend in David McGoldrick’s absence. He is yet to impress under Liam Rosenior but under Paul Warne he has a point to prove.
Forest Green v Bolton Wanderers
Forest Green were beaten 3-2 by Burton last weekend. FGR were the worst side and deserved to be beaten. They have struggled defensively in recent weeks massively and even when Burton went down to 10 men they still attacked Rovers and FGR could not contain the brewers attack. It is now four games without a win for Forest Green who have now lost three straight league games all against potential relegation rivals. The newly promoted side are still struggling to come to terms with a new side without key players Nicky Cadden, Ebou Adams, Jack Aitchison and Kane Wilson who all moved on in the summer. As well as missing Matty Stevens, Jamille Matt, Udoka Godwin-Malife and Baily Cargill through injury to start the season.
Bolton were beaten 1-0 by Cheltenham in midweek. The Trotters dominated with 62% possession however they struggled to penetrate the Cheltenham goal with no shots on target to trouble opposition goalkeeper Luke Southwood. Bolton rested right wing-back Conor Bradley in midweek and it showed what a key player he has been this season. In midweek Bolton’s entire side were below par. Ian Evatt will be eager for that not to go unpunished and I expect the Bolton manager to make some changes especially as he’s a manager that isn’t scared of calling players out or demanding standards that he sets very highly. This weekend I expect Bolton to bounce back after a grilling from Evatt.
Key Player – Connor Bradly
Bolton right wing-back Conor Bradley’s importance was demonstrated in midweek by the fact he was missing. They were woeful in midweek without him and he will be important in breaking open Forest Green this weekend.
Lincoln City v Charlton Athletic
Lincoln were beaten by Bolton 2-0 last weekend. Lincoln made two defensive mistakes leading to two opposition goals. They gave away a poor penalty and threw the ball away to their opponent for the second goal. Last weekend, Lincoln gave a debut to Daniel Mandroui who arrived from Shamrock Rovers in the summer. Lincoln changed to a back three with Adam Jackson coming into the defence whilst playing a 3-4-3 formation. It may have been an attempt from Mark Kennedy to shore up the defence after conceding three league goals last time out against Bristol Rovers. However, in doing so Kennedy came away from what they did so well last time, this may have lead to their defeat and actually worked against them.
Charlton drew 1-1 with Oxford last weekend. After a strong start to the season with some very good performances Charlton have recently fallen off with no victory in their last seven league games. There is a lot of pressure on manager Ben Garner with owner Thomas Sandgaard not scared of getting rid of managers in the past with a very high expectation of his club. Charlton were beaten 2-1 by Colchester in the Papa Johns Trophy with Diallang Jaiyesimi going off injured with an ankle injury. However, Charlton were buoyed by the return of Chuks Aneke to full training this week and he could make an appearance from the bench with the strike more suited to a Ben Garber side than Jayden Stockley.
Key Player – Ben House
Lincoln forward Ben House has three goals this season. Having arrived from Eastleigh in January it’s took him a while to settle, but now he has settled he looks adequate for League One.
Morecambe v Ipswich Town
Morecambe were beaten 3-1 by Accrington last weekend. The Shrimps have only won one of their opening eleven league games and have lost back to back league games now to Cambridge and Accrington. Last weekend, they lost Arthur Gnahoua to a red card after he elbowed an opponent and he will now be suspended for the weekend. Gnahoua had started in place of Cole Stockton but will now be missing this weekend with Stockton likely to start in his place. Morecambe now sit at the foot of the table and will be looking to frustrate their opponents who sit in second place.
Ipswich were winners in midweek 3-0 at home to Cambridge. It took Ipswich until the second half to break down a stubborn defence, however Kieran McKenna’s substitutions made the difference with Kyle Edwards and Tyrese John-Jules both coming off the bench and scoring. The tractor boys really struggled until John-Jules came on and Marcus Harness came in to play behind the front two. McKenna’s big decision this weekend will be whether he changes his side to incorporate the players he brought on in midweek or if he sticks with the starting eleven that tired out Cambridge.
Key Player – Tyreece John-Jules
Ipswich’s on loan Arsenal striker John-Jules came on and made a difference in midweek and will be looking to start this weekend.
Oxford United v Wycombe Wanderers
Oxford drew 1-1 last weekend with Charlton and are now winless in their last three league games. The U’s have been a far cry from the team that challenged for the play offs last season but did go ahead last weekend through Marcus Browne only to be pegged back by a Jayden Stockley goal. Karl Robinson has yet again turned to his sides rotten luck with injuries before this weekend with Leeds loanee Lewis Bate being the latest player to go off injured in midweek against Chelsea U21’s in the Papa Johns trophy. Robinson was boosted by the return of Josh Murphy and Sam Baldock this week, but it remains to be seen if either of them will feature this weekend or if it just comes too early for them.
Wycombe were beaten 1-0 by Plymouth last weekend and have now lost their last three league games in a row. Gareth Ainsworth has insisted that due to how close these clubs have been over recent years this tie is a derby, saying: “The derby has established itself over the last few years and I’m really proud of that.” Ainsworth has also commented on his sides luck with injuries whilst insisting his side will finish in the top 10 alongside this weekend’s opponents. In midfield Josh Scowen has been a huge miss whilst Sam Vokes’ return up front hasn’t had the desired effect Ainsworth will have liked. This could be a fascinating tie this weekend with two managers who know each other really well going head to head trying to outfox each other.
Key Player – Anis Mehmeti
Wycombe play marker Anis Mehmeti has five goals already this season. He has clearly been Wycombe’s stand out player and will be keen to impress again this weekend.
Peterborough United v Burton Albion
Peterborough were comfortable winners last weekend with a 3-2 victory over MK Dons. Although the score line may not seem comfortable it was with two late MK goals making it most respectable for the hosts. Posh were comfortably in the ascendency with the front three of Kwane Poku, Jonson Clarke-Harris and Ricky Jade-Jones causing many problems whilst all being on the scoresheet. Grant McCann seems to have stumbled onto his best eleven but that does at the minute mean leaving out the likes of Jack Marriott. Dan Butler returned for his first start last weekend replying Harrison Burrows as McCann’s options are suddenly blessed with Kel Watts is training with the side now and ready to be considered while David Ajiboye and Ephron Mason-Clark are struggling to make the matchday squad. This weekend he may see it as a chance to give some players a chance but they can’t take Burton for granted.
Burton were victorious last weekend with a 3-2 victory over Forest Green. They couldn’t follow that up in midweek with a defeat at home to Fleetwood but there has been a clear improvement in the side since Dino Maamria took over. Last weekend’s victory shows the level of commitment and determination they have with them going down to 10 men before coming back from 2-1 down to win 3-2. Maamria has gone to a 4-2-3-1 with a lot of trust on striker Victor Adeboyejo to lead the line. Burton’s small squad size caught up with them in midweek with Maamria having to make changes but this weekend Tom Hamer returns from suspension while Maamria is likely to revert back to his midfield of Terry Taylor and Adedeji Oshilaja (who dropped into centre back in Hamers absence) which was excellent against Forest Green.
Key Player – Ricky Jade-Jones
Peterborough forward Ricky Jade-Jones scored his first league goal last weekend. On the front of a right three, his youth and exuberance has been just what the side needs.
Plymouth Argyle v Accrington Stanley
Plymouth were victorious in midweek with an impressive 2-1 victory over fellow League One promotion rivals in Sheffield Wednesday. Plymouth managed to get on the right side of an end to end game in which Mike Cooper was the stand out player keeping Wednesday out time and time again. Steven Schumacher’s substitutions made the difference with the introduction of Jordan Houghton meaning they could dominate the ball more whilst Sam Cosgrove came off the bench to score the winner. Steven Schumacher was mentally shattered and it wouldn’t surprise me if his players were in a similar mindset meaning they could struggle this weekend. However, it is now eight unbeaten for the pilgrims and they’ll want to carry that on.
Accrington were winners last weekend with a comfortable 3-1 victory over rivals Morecambe. Stanley comfortably ran out victorious thanks to goals from Liam Coyle, Ethan Hamilton and Tommy Leigh. John Coleman’s switch to a 4-3-3 formation has been impressive with Stanley able to record three wins in a row. Stanley are set to welcome back Joe Pritchard after he missed last weekends game while Doug Tharme should be fit to play despite coming off with a knock last weekend. Accrington have also been able to welcome back Touray Sissay and Rosaire Longelo to training with both looking at returning to the match day squad next weekend.
Key Player – Sam Cosgrove
Plymouth striker Sam Cosgrove scored the winner in midweek and his presence changed the game. Against a physical Accrington side, his size could make a difference.
Portsmouth v Fleetwood Town
Portsmouth were beaten by Ipswich 3-2 last weekend. Pompey were poor with only three shots on target, with two of them coming from the penalty spot. They looked to try and contain Ipswich and hit them on the break, but would have been better playing their natural game which has seen them succeed this season. Dane Scarlett completed his first 90 minutes since arriving on loan from Tottenham in the summer but he will have to keep his performance levels at the same standards to keep his place there otherwise the likes of Joe Piggott will happily come in, in his place. Pompey did bounce back in midweek with a thumping victory over Aston Villa U21’s in the Papa Johns Trophy thanks to goals from Ronan Curtis, Michael Jacobs, Reeco Hackett-Fairchild and a brace from Josh Koroma. Danny Cowley will be hoping that dominant display is what they take into this weekend.
Fleetwood took three points in midweek away from Burton with a 1-0 victory thanks to a Harvey Macadam goal. The Cod Army only lost their second game of the season last weekend at home to Barnsley so it was pivotal they hit back with three points in midweek. Fleetwood have only won three games this season with six draws and it’s about turning them draws into wins which could see them become a real force to be reckoned with. They have already managed to pick up shock victories over promotion chasing Plymouth and Peterborough this season and will be hoping this weekend is another game in which they can upset the hosts just like they did at Posh last month.
Key Player – Colby Bishop
Portsmouth striker Colby Bishop converted two penalties last weekend. The striker has seven goals from 10 games and is key to how the Cowley’s chose to play.
Sheffield Wednesday v Cheltenham Town
Wednesday were beaten 2-1 by Plymouth in midweek. Darren Moore’s side dominated the game for 75 minutes with him getting his tactics spot on constantly switching between a four at the back and three at the back system whilst continuing to penetrate the Plymouth goal. However his substitutions killed the game and lost it for Wednesday with him taking off Josh Windass and Barry Bannan much to fans frustration. The two going off allowed Plymouth to have more of the ball as Wednesday got deeper and deeper back out of possession. Wednesday will look to welcome back Lee Gregory and George Byers this weekend although Moore has been known to be over cautious when it comes to injuries meaning neither could feature. With Moore pointing to tiredness as to why he substituted key players in midweek it will be interesting to see how his side keeps its energy this weekend trying to penetrate the Cheltenham defence.
Cheltenham were victorious in midweek with a 1-0 win over Bolton. Wade Elliot’s side excellently sat in and allowed Bolton to have as much possession as they liked within the first two thirds of the pitch however the way they defended their box in the final third was excellent with them limiting Bolton to 0 shots on target. As if it couldn’t get better than that Ryan Broom swept home from close range in the 87th minute helping Cheltenham to a vital three points and moving them five points clear of the relegation zone. Cheltenham were dealt bad news this week though with Alfie May set to miss up to eight weeks due to ankle ligament damage suffered last weekend. Meanwhile, Cheltenham director of football Mickey Moore has reportedly been approached by Forest Green Rovers.
Key Player – Josh Windass
Sheffield Wednesday forward Josh Windass hit the post twice in midweek. He has three goals and four assists and is key to opening up what will be a stubborn defence.
Shrewsbury Town vs MK Dons
Shrewsbury were beaten 2-0 by Cheltenham last weekend. Salop were without injured left wing back George Nurse who has been ruled out for the season with an ACL injury. Jordan Shipley will be his likely replacement going forward but he missed out last weekend with his partner going into labour. That meant Luke Leahy reverted back to left wing back but his presence in centre midfield has been key to the side so far this season and was missed. Steve Cotterill has been able to welcome back key players to his squad such as Elliott Bennett, Aiden O’Brien and Julian Da Costa all of whom featured in some part last weekend away at Cheltenham and he will be looking for them to have an impact this weekend as they look to get back to winning ways.
MK Dons were blown apart last weekend by Peterborough getting beaten 3-2. They were 3-0 down until the 90th minute when they scored two late goals to make the score line more respectable. MK have only won one of their last four league games and are only one position and one point above the relegation zone. Last weekend, Dean Lewington was left out while Zak Jules came in, in his place in the back three. The Dons have been playing with a front three this season but I believe they would be better off going back to the forward line they used last season with a playmaker in behind two strikers otherwise they will continue to struggle.
Key Player – Matt Smith
MK Dons playmaker Matt Smith has arrived from Man City with high expectations after his loan spell last season. However, he is yet to impress and will be eager to get back to his best this weekend.