Exeter City v Barnsley
It’s three straight wins for Exeter City at St. James Park, all against bottom half opposition. The most recent of those for the Grecians came this weekend, a 5-0 demolition of relegation-threatened Accrington Stanley with five different players on the scoresheet. Gary Caldwell deserves plenty of praise for his decision to persist with the formation and personnel that brought his predecessor Matt Taylor plenty of success. Exeter’s 3-5-2 looks to be proactive in possession, utilising two attack-minded wing-backs in Demetri Mitchell and Josh Key. Archie Collins is a key cog in midfield with his smart passing. The experienced Kevin McDonald has provided some extra discipline and quality in midfield since signing in 2023. The Grecians starting frontline of Jay Stansfield and Sam Nombe contains a pair of mobile strikers comfortable drifting into wide areas or making runs in behind. The Devon outfit have the ability to compete with plenty of their other League One opponents, but attack-minded wing-backs can leave the back three of Alex Hartridge, Will Aimson and Pierce Sweeney exposed more often than they would like.
This time last week, Barnsley beat Sheffield Wednesday in a 4-2 thriller at Oakwell that ended the visitors 23-game unbeaten run. The Tykes themselves now sit on a 12-game unbeaten run, winning 10 of those fixtures. Their own form coupled with dropped points from the current top two has left Barnsley fans eyeing up the possibility of snatching an automatic promotion place before the end of the campaign. Michael Duff has a consistent, strong starting eleven, his 3-5-2 featuring the solid base of Liam Kitching, Mads Andersen and Bobby Thomas sat in front of loan goalkeeper Harry Isted. Herbie Kane, Luca Connell and Adam Phillips form a superb, technical midfield three, with Nicky Cadden and Jordan Williams among the standout wing-backs at the level. Many other promotion hopefuls would likely have not had much faith in the front pair of James Norwood and Devante Cole, given their previous records at other clubs, but it is testament to Michael Duff that he has hit a productive 20 combined league goals out of the two of them so far.
Barnsley’s game in hand on third-place Ipswich Town presents them with the opportunity to move level on points with the Tractor Boys, and just three points behind Sheffield Wednesday ahead of their game on Wednesday evening. There isn’t a more in-form team than the Tykes at current, unbeaten since the 14th January and possessing a record over a period of several months that is only bettered by their South Yorkshire neighbours. Exeter City are not a bad side at their St. James Park, but will have their work cut out to pick up a fourth consecutive win at home this Tuesday night. Barnsley need to keep this winning run going so as to keep the pressure on.
AFC Wimbledon v Walsall
AFC Wimbledon seem to always be a guarantee of throwing away points. Saturday saw the Dons up at Barrow, where they lost a 1-0 lead to end the game 2-1 and extend their winless run to 11 matches. International duty calls didn’t help AFC Wimbledon. Young goalkeeper Nathan Broome had to feature between the posts with Nik Tzanev away with New Zealand. 20-year-old centre-back Luke Jenkins would not have been expected to start had Chris Gunter not been away on backroom staff duty with Wales. The absence of impactful January signing Ali Al-Hamadi, away with Iraq, forced AFC Wimbledon to start natural winger Saikou Janneh at the top of a 4-2-3-1. An impractical team did well to take the lead against Barrow, but still succumbed to a defeat and will likely remain similar this Tuesday night at Plough Lane.
Walsall certainly do have a win to their name much more recently than AFC Wimbledon do, but that is the only victory in their last 15 matches in all competitions. A 1-1 draw at Grimsby Town on Saturday was draw number 10 during that 15-game run. Michael Flynn has switched from a 3-4-1-2 to a 4-3-1-2 having reacquired the availability of right-back Joe Riley. The 26-year-old plays alongside Donveron Daniels, Oisin McEntee and Manny Monthé in a fairly average-looking backline. The midfield trio contains the more disciplined pair of Liam Kinsella and Brandon Comley alongside the more attack-minded pair of Isaac Hutchinson and Jacob Maddox. Tom Knowles has been consistently starting up top, but his strike partner has varied due to injury and availability. The former Forest Green Rovers pair of Jamille Matt and Matty Stevens have been unable to have the desired impact, a more positive striker being Irishman Conor Wilkinson.
Two win-shy League Two teams meeting this midweek is hardly likely to leave the mouth salivating. Both feel a pair of sides who will be facing each other in the fourth tier again next season. With AFC Wimbledon low on numbers and Walsall low on solidity though, there is the potential for some goals in London, and the potential for both to find the net at least once. Many might fancy a score draw with this one.
Crawley Town v Grimsby Town
Crawley Town are in decent form and take on a Grimsby Town side who have nothing but pride to play for now.
The Red Devils are starting to steer themselves away from the relegation zone in League Two but need to keep on picking up points to avoid getting sucked in by Hartlepool United below them. They saw off bottom of the table Rochdale 2-0 over the weekend courtesy of goals by striker Dom Telford and defender Dion Conroy and they are now four points above the Pools and will be desperate to make the most of their game in-hand this week against Grimsby. Speaking after their most recent win, boss Scott Lindsey said he was pleased to see his side on the ‘front foot’ and will hope to see his players go for it again in their next game. Midfielder Jordon Mutch has been ruled out with injury until the end of the season but the Sussex club have delved into the free agent market to bring in the experienced Anthony Grant, formerly of Port Vale and Peterborough United, and he is an ideal replacement. Crawley have enjoyed a great March so far and are unbeaten in their last four outings, winning three of them, so will be confident of picking up another three points.
Grimsby find themselves down in 15th position in the table and can’t go up or down now as they prepare for a tricky away trip down south. They drew 1-1 with Walsall at home last time out with midfielder Bryn Morris on the scoresheet and their manager Paul Hurst said it was a ‘frustrating’ afternoon and his team struggled to create chances. On the selection front, midfielder Kieran Green made his return to the starting XI against the Saddlers and provides another option in that department to the likes of Morris, Alex Hunt and Harry Clifton. Grimsby will be pleased with how this campaign has gone based on the fact they were only promoted from the National League last year and they reached the FA Cup quarter-final. However, their past two matches have been draws against Mansfield Town and Walsall which suggests they are slowing down a bit now which is understandable based on the sheer amount of matches they have had to play with their cup run so they may struggle against a resurgent Crawley.
Altrincham v Notts County
When Notts County are available at a price like 1.47 and aren’t playing Wrexham, you have to back them.
Despite Luke Williams telling everybody post-Barnet that the title race was over, his side produced a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Scunthorpe United, giving away just two shots all game. Total control. Despite seeing their squad size reduced due to injury and international call ups, they have still managed to perform to a high standard, creating 2.26xG on average of their last seven matches and 1.92xG over their last three away from home. Notts have won 13 of their 20 away matches this season and their record across the season is so impressive that they have managed to reach the same points total as last season’s champions Stockport County in four games fewer.
If Altrincham are going to get anything from this game, they will need to produce arguably their best performance since winning promotion to the National League. They’re fine at home, winning ten of 19 matches and have recently beaten Woking, Solihull Moors and Southend United. However, Notts County are a different level. They have lost all three games against the top two, conceding nine goals, and have also been done twice by Chesterfield, the side most likely to finish third this season. Their recent form has been indifferent to, losing three and drawing one of their last six, creating less chances than normal – an average of 1.06xG.
Dorking Wanderers v Southend United
A case of backing the side that need the points against the side that are now playing for pride.
Dorking Wanderers come into this game on the back of a huge victory against fellow part-timers Maidenhead United at the weekend and they will fancy their chances of making it back-to-back results – they have won three and drawn one of their four midweek fixtures at home this season. They also come into this game having won three and drawn one of their last four at Meadowbank in the league and won five and drawn two of their last nine on home turf. Reverting to their preferred 3-5-2 shape has helped, as has the return of Jason Prior, supporting an experienced core of Tony Craig, George Francomb and Luke Moore. They have created 1.6xG at home over their last four and eight home matches while conceding 1.2xG, a huge improvement for a side whose defensive record over the season has been poor.
They take on a Southend United side that have lost seven of their last eight and each of their last six, scoring two goals in that time. Confidence has gone and Kevin Maher has cut a disillusioned figure publicly, discussing the situation he and the club find themselves in. The players have been paid, there is discussion about the club being sold and they are no longer in the race for a play-off spot. All the reasons that Southend United had to fight for points are no longer there and that is reflected in the mistakes creeping into their game and poor results.
Gateshead v Dagenham and Redbridge
A game both sides will want to try and win for different reasons, leading to what should be an entertaining affair.
Gateshead picked up a huge win away from home at the weekend in their bid to stay in the division, seeing off Aldershot in a really positive performance. That is nothing new for a side that have won five and drawn six of their last 14 in the league, creating around 1.86xG per game – amongst the highest numbers in the division. Dagenham and Redbridge, meanwhile, are playing for their futures under new manager Ben Strevens, who has taken over from Daryl McMahon and given the fanbase a boost thanks to his playing past and the impressive job he did with Eastleigh.
Gateshead have seen 72% of their overall league matches finish with both sides scoring, a divisional high. They have seen both sides score in nine of their last 13 and have kept just four clean sheets all season. Dagenham and Redbridge have kept just five clean sheets this season while both sides have scored in 63% of their matches across the campaign, including five of the six since Daryl McMahon’s departure and both of Strevens’ matches in charge. With Inih Effiong and Marcus Dinanga in form at both ends of the pitch, you can back goals here.
Maidstone United v Bromley
A case of backing a decent side to beat a very poor side and at relatively decent odds too.
Maidstone United have now failed to win any of their last 18 league matches and any hopes that the permanent appointment of George Elokobi would bring about a positive return in results was dampened by high-flying Woking scoring an injury-time winner on Saturday. Elokobi has found it tough to find consistency in selection, chopping and changing shape and personnel due to injury, player sales and the need to look after a number of players returning from long-term injuries. He hasn’t been helped by his replacement for star striker Jack Barham being two teenagers signed on loan with no previous experience of men’s football.
Bromley responded to back-to-back defeats with victory at Yeovil Town at the weekend, a comfortable display in which they limited the Glovers to five shots on their own turf. Reice Charles-Cook is back in net after suspension, Billy Bingham and James Vennings returned to the fold after short-term injuries and Charley Kendall was able to rest for this one with Louis Dennis returning to the XI. Bromley have conceded one or zero in nine of their last 12 matches, the outliers being against Woking, Wrexham and York City, when they didn’t have a goalkeeper for over 45 minutes. They have played ten matches against the bottom six and won eight of those, drawing the other two.
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