Sheffield Wednesday vs Plymouth Argyle
Sheffield Wednesday go into this tie sitting three points behind league leaders and visitors Plymouth Argyle, knowing a win will take them top of league one. Having been beaten 2-1 away at Argyle on October 4th, the owls are 21 games unbeaten over 90 minutes and have the best defensive record in the league. Wednesday have been rocked this month with the departure of centre back Mark McGuinness who has returned to his parent club Cardiff but he has been replaced by Aden Flint who has arrived having already spent time at Hillsborough in the championship. They should also be boosted by the return of captain Barry Bannan to the line up with the skipping missing four games last month before making a cameo off the bench last weekend meaning he should be back to full fitness and in from the start this weekend.
Plymouth are deserved leaders at the top of League One and are also unbeaten in their last 10 league games. However, away from home they have been known to have the momentary lapse winning just one of their last seven league games. If Steven Schumacher’s men are to fall out of the automatic places they will turn to results away at the likes of Burton, Lincoln and Cambridge where they couldn’t take all three points. Plymouth could welcome back defender Brandon Galloway and wing back Mickel Miller are both back from injury having recovered from hamstring injuries playing in a behind closed doors friendly last weekend. Plymouth’s sharp attack with a front three likely of Finn Azaz, Callum Wright and Ryan Hardie could make this into a fascinating contest trying to break down the best defence in League One.
Key Player – Barry Bannan
Sheffield Wednesday captain Barry Bannan was back last weekend for Sheffield Wednesday creating the most chances having come off the bench for the Owls. The captain sets the tone for the team and will be a key figure in lifting the sold out Hillsborough crowd.
Prediction – Sheffield Wednesday 2-2 Plymouth
Having drawn 7 away games already this season away from home Plymouth will once again match their opponents here with a good contest between the two sides. I’m sure the sold out Hillsborough crowd will want a cracker and this could be the perfect game for them.
Exeter City vs Charlton Athletic
Exeter were 2-0 winners last weekend overcoming relegation strugglers MK Dons. The Grecians overcame the Dons thanks to a Jevani Brown double and a key performance from emergency loanee Jokull Andresson between the sticks. Exeter were fairly busy in the final week of the transfer window with defender Will Aimson (Bolton), full back Demetri Mitchell (Hibs), midfield free agent Kevin McDonald and attacker James Scott (Hull) all arriving on permanent deals. Scott should look to fill the whole left by captain Matt Jay’s earlier departure in the window. Scott came down from Motherwell to Hull with a lot of promise but has struggled to deliver. He will be hoping a fresh slate will give him the chance to flourish and show what a strong attacking option he can be.
Charlton were defeated 2-1 by Bolton last weekend live in front of the Sky TV cameras. Having fell behind to an Aaron Morley free kick the Addicks did well to get themselves back into the game in the second half only to gift Dion Charles and Bolton a second goal which turned out to be the winner. In an attempt to shore up Charlton’s centre of defence Dean Holden has brought in Michael Hector formerly of Fulham on a deal until the end of the season while holding midfielder Gavin Kilkenny has also arrived on loan from Bournemouth. Kilkenny impressed last season for Bournemouth with his long array of passing but has struggled on loan at Stoke in the first half of this season and I’m surprised to see him having to sink down to League One level and expect him to be a big success.
Key Player – Gavin Kilkenny
The midfielder signed for The Addicks at the end of the window and is an accomplished midfielder that has played at a higher level and he will be looking for his first inclusion this weekend.
Prediction: Exeter City 2-3 Charlton Athletic
With two strong attacking line ups coming up against two weak defensive line ups I expect goals this weekend. Both sides average almost 3 goals in every game they compete in and this could boost that to an even higher figure.
Portsmouth vs Barnsley
John Mousinho’s new manager bounce bubble soon burst last weekend with a 2-1 defeat away at Peterborough. Mousinho had originally managed two successive 2-0 wins for Pompey, but his side were undone by a Jonson Clarke-Harris first half brace last weekend. Pompey added to their squad this weekend bringing in defender Di’Shon Bernard on loan from Manchester United as well as promising attacker Paddy Lane who permanently from Fleetwood late on deadline day. Lane has proved to be an exciting player at this level in recent seasons scoring five goals and supplying eight assists last season. Mousinho has appeared to play with a 4-3-3 formation to start his career in management but with his new additions I wonder if the former Oxford man is toying with the idea of going towards a back three to help get the best out of Lane and also allow Dane Scarlett to go back up top alongside Colby Bishop.
Barnsley were victorious in midweek 2-1 away at Oxford thanks to goals from Bobby Thomas and Nicky Cadden. After Elliott Moore pulled a goal back for the hosts, the tykes had to survive an onslaught but managed to keep their rear guard up to take all three points home. Michael Duff’s men sit in the sixth and final play off spot but will feel the pressure of Peterborough who have started strongly under Darren Ferguson and Wycombe led by the experienced Gareth Ainsworth breathing down their necks waiting for them to slip up. If Barnsley are to finish in the play off places they will need more from their strikers with Devante Cole their top goalscorer on seven goals while James Norwood is closely behind him with six league goals. January signing Max Watters is still yet to find the back of the net since arriving last month and the sooner Duff finds a way to get his strikers scoring the better for Barnsley’s top six aspirations.
Key Player – Marlon Pack
Portsmouth midfielder Marlon Pack got a goal and an assist in Mousinho’s first game in charge. The midfielder is an experienced head and will help drive Mousinho’s men on this weekend to three points.
Prediction – Portsmouth 2-0 Barnsley
Portsmouth seem to have turned over a new leaf since John Mourinho came in. In front of a newly optimistic but still slightly apprehensive home crowd; I expect Pompey to cruise to victory with Barnsley struggling to hit the mark in front of goal.
Accrington Stanley vs Lincoln City
Accrington Stanley’s home record against the teams around them at the bottom-end of the table has been strong this season, and John Coleman will want his side to continue that here in a game they really need to be winning in their current predicament. They failed to sign Cole Stockton on Deadline Day after reportedly lodging a bid, and so his replacement Nathan Butler-Oyedeji – who signed from Arsenal – is in line for a start, as is youngster Adekoya after his first goal in defeat to Leeds United.
The disappointment and concerns are continuing to mount and the pressure on Mark Kennedy ramping up, with The Imps taking their tally of draws for the campaign to a remarkable 13 in the league with a goalless draw against Cambridge United. They have fired a blank in their last two league games, and so Kennedy will be hoping that January signings Luke Plange and Dylan Duffy can start their time as an Imps player well and get off the mark.
Bolton Wanderers vs Cheltenham Town
The Trotters made it successive league victories last time out as they got the better of Charlton Athletic on the road, making it just one defeat in their last five. Dion Charles saw his red card overturned after a case of wrongful dismissal, and he managed to get back on the scoresheet to help Wanderers on their way to three points. New strikers Cameron Jerome and Victor Adeboyejo both made their debuts from the bench last time out, and could be handed their first starts here.
Cheltenham Town fired a blank for the first time in seven league games last time out, and so Wade Elliott will be hoping that Aidan Keena can get off the mark having signed from Ireland. Glen Rea is also in line for his debut after signing from Luton Town. The Robins are winless in their last five, picking up just a single point, and so this is another test for them here.
Bristol Rovers vs MK Dons
Defensive strengthening in the form of Ellery Balcombe and Jarell Quansah didn’t quite go to plan you could say, with both players being handed a debut in their last game, only for The Gas to lose 5-1 on the road to Morecambe. Joey Barton will be hoping for a better showing from his side in this one, eager to not want to make it a hattrick of defeats on the bounce.
After four points in the league to kick off Mark Jackson’s reign as MK Dons boss, they have now lost their last two games in League One. Having again failed to keep a clean sheet in defeat to Exeter City, The Dons have gone out and strengthened with the capture of Anthony Stewart and he will be in line for his debut to try as Jackson aims to make them harder to beat.
Cambridge United vs Ipswich Town
Mark Bonner has pledged that his side is stronger after the window than before January, and so it is now time for his squad to start showing that on the field and getting results. Results have been few and far between, winless in their last five, however they did put an end to their losing run last time out with a goalless draw. Experienced players George Thomas and Michael Morrison have been added recently, and Bonner will hope that makes the difference.
Ipswich Town got back to winning ways last time out, their first win in five in the league, and Town boss Kieran McKenna will hope that he can build on that. Ndaba, Yengi and Ahadme all departed the club on loan since the last fixture, albeit sufficient January strengthening gives them a strong squad regardless. They performed well last time out against Burnley, and so some of the fringe players could be rewarded with game time here.
Derby County vs Morecambe
Derby County are on a roll at the moment under boss Paul Warne, with The Rams very much the in-form side in the division having won their last five league games. News of Max Bird’s injury absence has been softened with the late addition of highly-rated Harvey White in the window. The Rams’ last defeat on home soil came against Manchester City Under-21’s, and so they will be eager to continue their run here.
Morecambe, meanwhile, have found a new lease of life of late following a flurry of signings in January, and this game will provide Derek Adams with the acid test of where his side are at and a proper barometer of their improvement. They managed to hold onto Cole Stockton on Deadline Day despite reported interest from elsewhere, and as such will be in contention to play in this one.
Fleetwood Town vs Burton Albion
Fleetwood Town’s winless run extended to four games last time out, as they managed to hold Sheffield Wednesday to a draw in the FA Cup. Midfielder Paddy Lane departed for Portsmouth, and so will be unavailable, but a late flurry of deals has strengthened the squad with the addition of Corrie Ndaba, Jayden Stockley and Jack Marriott; all three will be looking to start this weekend. Meanwhile, Harvey Macadam has signed a new contract.
Burton Albion also managed to add to their squad at the end of the window, with striker Gassan Ahadme confirming his return to the club from Ipswich Town, while they have also added Sam Lavelle and Charlie Kirk from Charlton Athletic – both good players at this level – and Josh Walker from non-league. That should give Dino Maamria greater options to play with going into the second-half of the season as they look to get out of trouble and build on three wins in their last five.
Forest Green Rovers vs Peterborough United
Duncan Ferguson’s first game in charge ended up in the worst possible way, first conceding from a strong position to seemingly draw against Shrewsbury Town, and then conceded deep into stoppage-time to lose in a game that summed up their season so far. Ferguson will be hoping for a better showing here as he makes his home debut. There has been an influx of players moving out at the end of the window. After only one point in their last five, they need to get a result sooner rather than later.
The visitors are a Peterborough United side that have turned a corner in the league, winning their last two league games to make it only one defeat in their last five, making it a strong start for Darren Ferguson after taking over from Grant McCann. Kabongo Tshimanga joined from Chesterfield at the end of the window, and he is in line to make his first appearance on the road.
Oxford United vs Shrewsbury Town
The pressure continued to ramp up on boss Karl Robinson during midweek after United slipped to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Barnsley, and you feel as if another defeat this weekend could be curtains for Robinson in charge of Oxford United.
The away side are a Shrewsbury Town side that head to The Kassam Stadium in good form, having won their last four league fixtures. The last two games have both been won by a single-goal margin against sides at the bottom of the division, with an 89th minute winner against MK Dons and two goals after the 90th minute to turn the game on it’s head against Forest Green Rovers; such battling spirit will be key on the road again here.
Port Vale vs Wycombe Wanderers
The Valiants have not won in their last three league games and only won once in their last five, and so the emphasis will be on trying to get back to winning ways for Darrell Clarke’s side. After firing a blank against Oxford United, they have added striker Matt Taylor during the final knockings of the window and so he will be looking for his first start in a Vale shirt this weekend.
Wycombe Wanderers begin life without star midfielder Anis Mehmeti this weekend, after he sealed a deal to Bristol City. Gareth Ainsworth will be eager to show that their success was not just built around the Albanian and so will be looking for a positive game this weekend. They sit five points outside the play-offs and have flip-flopping form – with a last five that has seen three wins and two defeats – and so they are looking to get some consistency going forward.