Sky Bet League Two MD#30 – Weekend Preview

Selected Fixtures

Northampton Town vs Walsall
Northampton come into this weekends game off the back of a 2-0 victory away at Barrow. After a fairly even first-half the Cobblers asserted their dominance with goals from Ben Fox and Shaun McWilliams helping them to all three points. Jon Brady’s men should have extra motivation as well with Carlisle taking their third place automatic promotion spot in midweek albeit having played a game more. Jon Brady added two new signings to his squad this weekend before the transfer window with Ipswich striker Tete Yengi joining on loan until the end of the season. Yengi played in Finland last year contributing with seven goals and 10 assists. They also added fellow forward option D’Margio Wright-Phillips who has featured partially for Stoke this season contributing with one goal in seven league appearances. It adds depth to an already strong promotion chasing side. 

Walsall were beaten by Premier league side Leicester 1-0 last weekend in the FA Cup before being beaten in midweek by Salford 1-0.  Michael Flynn’s men currently sit 14th but just five points behind seventh placed Mansfield who occupy the third and final play-off spot. The Saddlers were unable to lure back key striker Danny Johnson in the January transfer window with the striker seemingly stuck out of favour at Mansfield. However, they were boosted on deadline day with the signing of Matty Stevens on loan from Forest Green. Stevens joins fellow League Two title winner Jamille Matt with Michael Flynn hoping to reignite a partnership that contributed 42 goals last season. Flynn has called on his side to wise up after midweek’s defeat to Salford claiming his side paid the price for starting too slow and you can’t go to places like Salford and do that without being punished. They’ll need a fast start this weekend if they’re too put Northampton on the back foot otherwise it could be three defeats in a row and play-off hopes fading away for Flynn’s side.

Key Player – Matty Stevens
Last season, Matty Stevens tore League Two defences apart for fun and now I’m sure many defenders will be scared to see the sight of him back! Stevens bagged 23 goals last term and with him playing alongside someone like Matt who knows his game inside out it should mean good things for the saddlers.

Prediction – Northampton Town 2-1 Walsall
Northampton will be boosted by the pressure put on them by Carlisle and that will drive them to three points this weekend. I expect Walsall to come out the traps quickly and this not to be straight forward for the Cobblers.

Stockport County vs Tranmere Rovers
Having been one of the best teams in the league throughout November and December, Stockport seem to have hit a bump in the road last month with just one league victory since the turn of the year. In midweek, they travelled to Crewe and were abysmal as they managed to snatch a 1-1 draw thanks to a Kyle Wootton second half leveller. The Hatters poor run of form coincides with centre back Fraser Horsfall’s injury so it’s clear to me they are missing a vocal leader in defence who can drive the team to improve. Meanwhile on the left side of defence Calum Macdonald has moved on to Bristol Rovers and been replaced with Barrow’s left footer Joe Grayson. Grayson (son of former Leeds manager Simon) spent the first-half of the season at Dundee which was given mixed reviews. 

Tranmere on the other hand have started the new year strongly. Micky Mellon’s men have only lost one of their last six games and beat league leaders Leyton Orient 1-0 last weekend. Micky Mellon was able to strengthen his side before the leaders visit to Prenton Park last weekend with striker Harvey Saunders arriving from Bristol Rovers. Tranmere’s squad has been weakened last month with seven players departing including the likes of Dynel Simeu, Ross Doohan and Elliott Nevitt and it is yet to be seen if these players will be replaced when injuries and suspensions mount up when we hit the run in. However, Mellon did add Jay Turner-Cooke on loan from Newcastle United and Regan Hendry on loan from Forest Green. Both players are midfielders who can have an eye for goal, especially in Turner-Cooke who contributed with 11 goals for Newcastle U21’s last season.

Key Player – Josh Hawkes
Tranmere midfielder Josh Hawkes is a key player for the Super White Army and has contributed six goals this season. That’s as many as he managed last season and he will be keen to add to his tally.

Prediction: Stockport 1-1 Tranmere
I expect this to be a tight game between two sides who seem to be struggling to find any consistency this season. This could be an opportunity for one side to record a big win and start a strong run. However, I don’t see enough quality from either of them at the minute to win.

Bradford City vs Mansfield Town
Bradford drew their last game 10 days ago 0-0 away at Stockport. The Bantams have won just two of their last eight league games and have slipped down to eighth place in the league and need a win over seventh placed Mansfield to regain their play-off spot. Having been one of Bradford’s key players in the first-half of the season striker Andy Cook seems to have been dropped from the side having only made substitute appearances in their last five league games. Having had a settled side in a 4-2-3-1 formation for the first half of the season, Mark Hughes seems to have gone away from the team that had got them comfortably in the play offs. Since Bradford’s last game they have lost Yann Songo’o (Walsall) and Levi Sutton (Harrogate). Coming in Mark Hughes has brought centre back Sam Stubbs (Exeter) alongside a fair few other new faces last month in the likes of Adam Clayton, Matt Derbyshire, Ciaran Kelly, Dara Costello, Tolaji Bola and Thierry Nevers. This much squad churn in January very rarely ends well with no time for the team to get together.

Mansfield comfortably ran out as 4-1 winners last weekend thanks to Will Swan, Lucas Akins, Alfie Kilgour and an own goal from Tom Anderson. Although it seemed plain sailing on paper Mansfield had to ride their luck with Doncaster missing a huge opportunity at 2-1 to level the scores. Nigel Clough added former Oldham attacker Davis Keillor-Dunn to his side, a promising player who contributed with 15 goals while Oldham struggled against relegation. Clough has also made plenty of signings in January with Alfie Kilgour, Louis Read and Callum Johnson joining as well as Keillor-Dunn. Mansfield also have the fourth top goalscorer in the league currently warming the bench in Danny Johnson. After a successful loan spell at Walsall for the first-half of the season Clough needs to find a way to get Johnson into the team to help his side get their best opportunity for promotion.

Key Player – Will Swan
Mansfield forward Will Swan has been their top goalscorer this season. Swan has contributed with nine goals from 22 games and will be the man I imagine tasked with helping Mansfield stay in the playoff places.

Prediction: Bradford 0-2 Mansfield
Bradford’s side is currently disjointed and not playing as a team. The Stags may have new faces themselves but not half the side like Bradford. The Mansfield side seems to have gelled quickly and for that reason I believe they’ll comfortably win 2-0. 

Remaining Fixtures

Newport County vs Swindon Town
Boss Graham Coughlan has asked supporters to judge signings Callum Kavanagh and Charlie McNeil based off their performances and not their credentials on paper, after they signed at the end of the window. They will likely start up front, but Lewis Collins won’t after he departed the club during midweek. They lost last time out, bringing to an end their drawing streak albeit simultaneously extending their winless run, and so they will want to put an end to that here and ease relegation fears.

Jody Morris was named as the new Robins boss last time out, and he will be looking for a winning start in the managerial hotseat this weekend on the road. They managed to bring back Joe Tomlinson to the club at the end of the window and so he will want to get back to the level he showed during a loan last term.

Carlisle United vs Harrogate Town
The Cumbrians moved into the top three during midweek, as they got the better of Cumbrians rivals Barrow with a thumping 5-1 victory. Kristian Dennis continued his fine scoring streak with a goal from the spot, while Joe Garner scored his first after signed for the club. Jon Mellish also underlined his importance to this side, with the defender grabbing two goals. They have had a strong first-half and the onus now is on ensuring they have a strong second.

Harrogate Town come into the weekend off the back of a 1-0 defeat against Sutton United. Simon Weaver opted to change the system to a 3-man defensive structure, albeit switched it up at half-time and made four changes and will likely change back here to a more conventional four. They managed to bring Levi Sutton back to the club in the final knockings of the window and so he is in line for a start, as is young striker Kazeem Olaigbe who joined from Southampton.

Colchester United vs Barrow
After two games without a win in the league, Matt Bloomfield’s men got back to winning ways last time out with a win against Hartlepool United. After Sam Hornby and Ted Collins both picked up injuries, they have moved to sign a replacement in the form of Tom Smith from Arsenal on loan.

Barrow, meanwhile, have hit a bit of a rut in the league, and they were dealt a harsh blow in a heavy defeat to Carlisle United on the road as the pressure continues to mount on boss Pete Wild. There have been calls for Wild to drop George Ray, albeit with the departure of Joe Grayson, Ray is likely to keep his spot. Billy Waters, Josh Gordon and Ben Whitfield started on the bench last time out, albeit chances are will be brought back into the team.

Crewe Alexandra vs Grimsby Town
It is now four games without defeat for Crewe Alexandra, with three straight draws in the league. They have now not lost in their last four league games, albeit have drawn their last three, and so The Railwaymen will be looking for a little more end product in the final third and ruthless edge to turn one of those draws into wins.

Paul Hurst was slightly happier after his January window, with a couple of players over the line to strengthen them going into the second-half of the campaign. Tom Dickson-Peters and George Lloyd have both been brought in and will compete for a spot up front, while Josh Emmanuel is also pushing for a start after signing. The Mariners have lost three of their last four games in the league, and so Hurst will be eager for his side to bounce back to winning ways here and stop the rot.

Doncaster Rovers vs Hartlepool United
After the disappointment of a sub-par window, Doncaster Rovers boss Danny Schofield has pleaded with supporters to get back behind the team, even despite James Coppinger describing it as a positive window. Rovers have now lost their last two games in the league and so they will be looking to get back to winning ways this weekend. Last time out, they lost 4-1 to Mansfield Town and so defensive improvements are needed.

It proved to be a topsy turvy afternoon for defender Jamie Sterry last time out, scoring to get them back on level terms with ten minutes remaining in the match and then put through his own goal to hand Colchester United all three points on home soil. The Monkeyhangers managed to pull off a flurry of deals late in the window in January, and they will likely be thrown in from the off in a tough game here against Doncaster Rovers which is key to their chances of promotion.

Gillingham vs Crawley Town
Glenn Morris recently joined Gillingham on a permanent deal after an initial loan with The Gills, and he will be up against his former side here. They raced into a 3-1 lead last time out and yet succumbed to two goals in the second-half, and so they will want to show defensive improvement here in a game of this magnitude. The window has slammed shut and The Gills managed to add further players to their squad, and so they will all be looking for a runout this weekend.

It has been a strong start to life for Scott Lindsey as Crawley Town boss, winning last time out as they got the better of Salford City. They have now won four points in their last two games, and will be looking to build on that. Ben Gladwin, recently brought in from Swindon Town, has been named as the new captain. George Francomb departed the club and so will not be available here. Dom Telford scored again against Salford City and so he will be eager to add to his recent tally.

Leyton Orient vs AFC Wimbledon

Orient are showing signs for concern of late, with Richie Wellens’ men, struggling in the absence of Dan Happe and are now winless in their last three and only have one win in their last five, and so Wellens needs to turn their form around if they are to stay in top spot. They have failed to score in both their previous two outings, and so Wellens will need to shuffle his pack to try and address those shortcomings.

AFC Wimbledon boss Johnnie Jackson is able to hand three players their debut after a late flurry of signings, with Aaron Pierre, Diallang Jaiyesimi and Kasey McAteer all arriving on the final day of the window, giving them some much needed strength. Last time out, they managed to follow up the news of Ayoub Assal’s departure with a big 1-0 win over Stockport County which is a big boost for their play-off ambitions.

Salford City vs Rochdale
The Ammies suffered a setback in their attempts to try and get promoted, losing on the road against Salford City, in which they conceded three times. However, they managed to get back to winning ways in impressive fashion with a 1-0 victory over fellow promotion-chasers Walsall and as such they will be pleased with that performance. Neil Wood has managed to add young goalkeeper Bellagambi from Huddersfield Town, and he will provide competition for Alex Cairns.

Midfielder Ethan Brierley’s transfer to Blackburn Rovers did not go through on Deadline Day as expected, and although he stayed at the club, it would perhaps be a little odd to see him in the side here and as such he may be left out amid the speculation and subsequent confirmation from the club. Defensively, they have struggled, however the addition of Toby Mullarkey should help matters after impressive form for Altrincham; he is in line for a start.

Sutton United vs Stevenage
January signing David Ajiboye was on target in their last league outing for Sutton United, scoring the only goal of the game as they got the better of Harrogate Town. Gray would have been pleased with his side’s display, following up two games without a win with a hard-fought victory on the road, one thing that has not been forthcoming this term. Tyla Dickinson is available for selection after joining from Wycombe Wanderers.

Stevenage put in a good showing last time out, taking Stoke City all the way in the FA Cup. They have been hampered by the news that goalkeeper Taye Ashby-Hammond has suffered an injury and so he will be unavailable for the short, thus the signing of Jokull Andresson from Reading on loan after a recent spell with Exeter City. Steve Evans side have not lost in their last five and hot on the heels of Orient, with two games in hand and only two points behind, and so they will look to pile the pressure on even further here.

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