Bolton Wanderers v Burton Albion
Saturday’s turnaround at Accrington Stanley provided a demonstration of the strength within the Bolton Wanderers squad. Ian Evatt made a triple substitution at 2-0 down which saw Jack Iredale, George Thomason and Elias Kachunga enter the fray, sparking a comeback that left delight for the fans packed into the open Coppice Terrace. Naturally a possession-based side in a 3-4-1-2, the win at Accrington brought out the Trotters’ more direct side with forward options crowding the box to get onto the end of deliveries from wide positions. Whether it be Jón Daði Böðvarsson, Dion Charles, Amadou Bakayoko or Elias Kachunga, Bolton can call upon a plethora of options to form their frontline, all of which can possess instinctive poacher qualities. Forward Oladapo Afolayan, well recognised for his direct running and ever-improving end product, is becoming a star man in wide or attacking midfield positions. That Bolton frontline in turn gets support by technical midfielders in Kieran Lee, Aaron Morley and Kyle Dempsey, whilst MJ Williams or George Thomason can be deployed as more defensive, tenacious central players if the game calls for such a player.
Burton Albion make the trip to the University of Bolton Stadium on the back of a crucial home win over Cheltenham Town. Now up to 21st and just two points away from safety, the Brewers have enjoyed an upturn in results under Dino Maamria, who has shown a focus on making his side more effective in possession. Striker Victor Adeboyejo was the sole goalscorer at the Pirelli Stadium on Saturday, a 7th league goal since signing in the summer from Barnsley. The 24-year-old was a bit-part player during his many years with the Tykes but is now the main man up top at Burton Albion and benefiting greatly from having the game go both through him and two him. A solid centre-back partnership of Sam Hughes and the vastly experienced Adrian Mariappa has blossomed since the Jamaica International joined as a free agent earlier in the month.
Much-needed home results have boosted Burton Albion’s hopes of climbing out of the relegation zone, but this visit to Bolton Wanderers is the first of two very tough away tests that wrap their October up. Only Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley, fellow top half sides, have taken points off the Trotters at the University of Bolton Stadium. The Brewers meanwhile possess a record away from home only worsened by that of Cheltenham Town and Cambridge United. It could be a tough Tuesday night coming up for the Staffordshire outfit.
Plymouth Argyle v Shrewsbury Town
Plymouth Argyle were left very frustrated to let a two-goal lead slip at Bristol Rovers at the weekend, allowing Ipswich Town to gain two points on them. However, drawing with Rovers, who have been performing like a top half in recent weeks, seems to have increased the price on Argyle to get back to winning ways at home.
Steven Schumacher’s men have won all seven home league games so far this season, including the visits of Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday.
Shrewsbury Town’s preparation for arguably the toughest game in the calendar at the moment was not ideal, losing 1-0 to Charlton Athletic on Saturday. The scoreline does not tell the whole story as the Addicks passed up opportunities to build a comfortable lead at New Meadow, before opening the Shrews up once again to grab the only goal of the game in the 69th minute.
The Shrews do tend to sit back and rely on their strong backline more than most in the third tier, and should the game play out in that manner, Argyle will very difficult to stop.
Portsmouth v Oxford United
Humbled on Sky against Charlton Athletic, Portsmouth returned to winning ways at the weekend with a 1-0 victory at struggling Forest Green Rovers. Centre-back Sean Raggett proved the difference at the New Lawn, in a game where Pompey could well have found more goals from their strike partnership. Danny Cowley’s 4-4-2 has received some external criticism this season for being too basic, but that criticism has looked unjustified throughout most of the season. Pompey will welcome the return of Marlon Pack from suspension. The midfielder’s discipline in the centre of the park provides the solid base that allows his midfield partner, whether that be Joe Morrell or Jay Mingi, to be more expressive and provide a link to the frontline. Preferring Zak Swanson ahead of Clark Robertson means that Portsmouth can operate with a pair of full-backs playing on their natural side, thereby increasing the effectiveness of overlaps past Owen Dale or Ronan Curtis. A full strength Pompey has proven a largely clinical side in 2022-23, averaging two goals a game at Fratton Park.
Defeat for Oxford United at home to Peterborough United again brought to light the issues that have plagued them all season. The U’s are back to having a fit enough squad to put together a defence of players in natural positions, but the overall standard of the backline simply does not look as strong as past seasons. Ciaran Brown is an unconventional left-back. Stuart Findlay has yet to fill the boots of past Oxford United centre-backs. Cameron Brannagan remains an undoubted star in midfield, and will need to be again as Oxford now face three games without the suspended Matty Taylor. The normally dependable goalscorer had only returned to fitness at the beginning of the month, and now Oxford will need other forwards for goal scoring output. The best hope is perhaps young Swansea City loanee Kyle Joseph who has put in some notable displays out on the right and can play more centrally.
Back on home soil, Portsmouth will be keen to grow on their first win in five league games, and will look to do against a lacklustre Oxford United side with a vulnerable defence and without their main striker. Brannagan’s set-piece quality could cause Pompey problems, but whilst the hosts have a plethora of attacking options and a system designed to get them into goal scoring positions, the visitors do not…
Wycombe Wanderers v Cambridge United
Wycombe Wanderers are a team to watch in League One, recovering from a slow start to the season to win their last three games only conceding once. The Chairboys reached the play-off final last term, have kept hold of most of the players that helped them get there, and host a horribly out-of-form Cambridge United side on Tuesday evening.
Mark Bonner’s men have lost their last five league games in a row, rarely looking threatening going forward and have fallen from the promotion chasing pack to being just four points above the relegation zone. Bonner may be regretting turning down the Rotherham United job as a result.
The U’s are not one of the bigger teams in League One bar a couple of individuals and are therefore fairly unsuited to deal with the set piece and aerial threat of Wycombe. The Chairboys beat Cambridge 3-0 and 4-1 last season and if they can break the deadlock will be confident of inflicting a similar scoreline at Adams Park. Wycombe may struggle to finish in the top six again, but in Anis Mehmeti and Sam Vokes they have two of the most feared attacking players in the division. It is something of an unenviable task for the underperforming U’s.
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