Stevenage v Carlisle United
Stevenage have been the surprise package in League Two so far this season.
The Hertfordshire outfit have started strongly under Steve Evans and are unbeaten in their opening four league matches, sitting pretty in 4th place. They beat Rochdale 1-0 at home on Tuesday night thanks to Carl Piergianni’s first-half header and should have won by more. Evans said his side had so much ‘dominance’ in the game and was ‘disappointed’ that they get more goals. However, his side are showing that they can keep the ball and just need to take their chances more after having had 17 shots compared to Rochdale’s four. In terms of team news, Boro have a clean bill of health to choose from again which is handy, especially because all teams can make five substitutions in games. They made 11 new signings over the summer and their new-look side appeared to have gelled together nicely under their experienced manager. They haven’t been beaten yet and you’d fancy them to carry on their strong run of form at home to Carlisle this weekend.
Carlisle saw their midweek clash against Grimsby Town away postponed after 39 minutes due to persistent heavy rain. Their manager, Paul Simpson, admitted it ‘wasn’t safe’ for his side and said his team already have enough injuries as it. That will play into Stevenage’s hands on Saturday, especially with summer recruit Owen Moxon becoming the latest to head into the treatment room with a thigh problem. Jamie Devitt has taken his place in the heart of midfield and although he is a solid player at fourth tier level, he doesn’t have the same energy and athleticism in the middle of the park. Striker Ryan Edmondson is sidelined still, with Omari Patrick starting up front in the last three league games instead. However, he hasn’t found the net yet. Defensive pair Morgan Feeney and Paul Huntington are also still injured and are set to miss the trip to Stevenage which isn’t ideal. The Cumbrians have opted for a back five this season so far and although they sit back and absorb pressure from the opposition well, they have nothing much going forward and have only scored three times this term, all by Kristian Dennis. The Cumbrians are very reliant on their summer signing so if Evans’ side can keep him quiet, they should win the match.
Swindon Town v Rochdale
Swindon Town are due their first win of the season under new manager Scott Lindsay having drawn their last three now.
The Robins made the play-offs last term but have started this campaign slowly, drawing three out of their past four matches. However, they are showing signs that their first win is coming and their home clash against a stuttering Rochdale side this weekend is a great opportunity. Lindsay’s side drew 1-1 at home to high-flying Leyton Orient last time out, with key man Harry McKirdy finding the net. Their boss said his players ‘competed’ really well and he will believe that his ideas are slowly started to be implemented by his new inherited squad. On the injury front, Swindon are being patient with defender Ciaran Brennan as they look to get him back out on the pitch as they follow concussion protocols. Angus MacDonald and Tom Clayton were the centre-back pairing against Leyton Orient and the duo, who were both signed in this transfer window, both put in a solid performance and will be hoping for more of the same. The fact the Robins have kept hold of McKirdy, who fired 18 goals in all competitions last term, shows they still mean business and he will cause problems to any opponent they play against in this campaign.
Managerless Rochdale have made a poor start to the season and lost again on Tuesday night away at Stevenage 1-0 which has resulted in Robbie Stockdale losing his job. The North West club are yet to win and have only found the net once, with that goal coming on the opening day at home to Crewe Alexandra through Devante Rodney. They are already bottom of the league table so make the trip to Swindon with their confidence low. Stockdale admitted afterwards that he has been managing a ‘brand new’ team and the squad is taking a while to gel together so the Robins will be looking to capitalise on this. To make matters worse, striker Luke Charman is out with a hamstring injury which isn’t ideal for a side who can’t score goals at the moment. Rodney led the line against Stevenage with Ian Henderson and Rayhaan Tulloch either side but the Dale mustered just three shots throughout the whole match, with just one on target. Midfielder Liam Kelly has been nursing an ankle injury but came off the bench in the last game. The side are seriously lacking quality at the top end of the pitch which means this game is likely to only go one way.
Mansfield Town v Stockport County
Both Mansfield Town and Stockport County will be looking to be in and around the promotion picture at the end of the season.
The Stags reached the League Two play-off final last term and have managed to keep the bulk of their squad together over the summer. They will fancy their chances of finding the net against the Hatters this weekend, especially after putting five past AFC Wimbledon in their last match. Nigel Clough’s side won 5-2 thanks to goals from Rhys Oates, George Lapslie, Goerge Maris, Riley Harbottle and Will Swan. The fact there were five different scorers shows they have threats all over their team. They also had 70% possession against the Dons which proves they are a side who like to keep the ball and create plenty of chances for their attacking players. Speaking after their last win, Clough said ‘everyone played well’ and he will now be looking to pick up another result against Stockport to build a bit of momentum heading into the end of August. In terms of injury news, Lucas Akins and Hiram Boateng sat out of the Wimbledon game but the team’s strength in depth means they can cover for injuries. Clough said earlier this week that he hopes they will be back for Saturday but even if not, the likes of Maris, Ollie Clarke and Stephen Quinn are perfectly capable midfield options, whilst Oates is a top quality striker at League Two level, as proven by his 12 goals last term.
Stockport’s start to life back in the Football League hasn’t quite gone to plan and they have lost three out of their opening four games. Therefore, they will be desperate to pick up a big result against Mansfield. They were beaten 2-1 away at Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday and will be keen to bounce back which means they should attack Clough’s men from the off. New striker signing Kyle Wootton scored in their last home game against Colchester so is off the mark now and will be looking to add to his tally. He scored 26 goals last season for Notts County so knows where the back of the net is. At the other end of the pitch, Stockport have been leaking goals and their boss, Dave Challinor, said he wants his side to ‘improve’ defensively. They have let in seven in their opening four games so the Stags will fancy their chances of scoring. To make matters worse for the Hatters, they will be without key right-back Macauley Southam-Hales after he was sent off against Doncaster last time out. Blackburn Rovers loan man James Brown is the most likely to slot in for him in his position but he won’t have the same impact as his Welsh teammate is more attacking on the right hand flank.
Crawley Town v AFC Wimbledon
Crawley Town and AFC Wimbledon are two sides who haven’t started the way they have wanted to in League Two.
The Red Devils went into this campaign in good spirits following the club’s takeover by WAGMI United earlier this year and the appointment of Kevin Betsy as manager. However, they are yet to win this term in their opening four matches and were beaten 3-2 at home to Northampton Town last time out. Nevertheless, they are still finding way to score goals despite their defence being leaky. Betsy said his side were ‘robbed’ of at least a point against the Cobblers and believed they were the ‘better’ side. He will be hoping his team can use this as fuel to the fire as they prepare to face Wimbledon this weekend in search of their first victory under him. On the injury front, defender Ludwig Francillette missed the game against Northampton with a knock and was replaced by Emmanuel Adebowale, who made up a back three who let in three goals. Crawley need to tighten up in defence having conceded in three of their opening four matches which shows that is a problem area for them. Going forward isn’t too much of an issue right now though and Liverpool loan striker James Balagizi will be in confident mood after scoring a brace on Tuesday night.
Wimbledon have scored four goals in their last two games but have also been letting too many in at the other end as well. They were battered 5-2 away at Mansfield Town in their last game. Their manager, Johnnie Jackson, is aiming for promotion but his side currently find themselves in 12th place after picking up just once win so far. He said that their loss against Mansfield was a ‘difficult’ evening and they will be eager to bounce back with a result against Crawley. In terms of selection news, Luke McCormick still isn’t playing as speculation continues about his future at the club. George Marsh has been taking his place in the heart of midfield alongside Paris Maghoma in what is a youthful partnership. Key man Ayoub Assal, who fired 10 goals last season, plays in front of them and is always a threat to opponents especially at this level. The Dons will be without right-back Chris Gunter this weekend after he was sent off on Tuesday, with 19-year-old Isaac Ogundere the most likely to step into his shoes. He lacks experience though and is someone who Crawley could potentially target.
Doncaster Rovers v Salford City
It’s been a fatal error leaving Doncaster Rovers games early this season. Donny’s unbeaten start to the league season has seen them score stoppage time goals in each of their last three matches, earning 2-1 home wins over Sutton United and Stockport County and a 2-2 draw at AFC Wimbledon as a result. Kieran Agard has often had an impact from the benches in these late turnarounds, adding to a frontline that contains the lively George Miller, technical Lee Tomlin and versatile Tommy Rowe. Adam Clayton can operate as a direct, forward passer from deep midfield, with Kyle Knoyle and James Maxwell a consistent pair of full-backs. Doncaster’s impressive start is made even more notable with some key figures currently out injured. Gary McSheffrey still awaits the return to fitness of winger Jon Taylor, as well as summer signing Luke Molyneux who could be on a gamechanger on the right flank for Hartlepool United last season.
Salford City currently lead the early League Two table, with their return of 10 points from a possible 12 being the strongest start the Ammies have had since entering the Football League back in 2019. The 3-4-1-2 implemented by Neil Wood allows an expressive frontline of Conor McAleny, Brandon Thomas-Asante and Callum Hendry to create continuous problems for opposition defences. Ibou Touray and natural winger Luke Bolton provide excellent support in wing-back roles, whilst the backline of Richard Nartey, Theo Vassell and Jason Lowe has been consistently solid. Ryan Leak is an alternative centre-back option, and club captain Ash Eastham has yet to feature this season in the Salford defence.
The Eco-Power Stadium hosts a game between two sides that have made strong starts to their league campaigns. Salford City are always met with high expectations ahead of every season, and though there is a long way to go in this one, their fans and indeed their owners will be pleased with what they’re seeing. Neil Wood’s side will need to be wary of the score line and the state of the game as they head towards second half stoppage time though. Doncaster Rovers haven’t got quit in them.
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