Northampton Town v Stockport County
Northampton Town are in a confident mood at the moment as they take on a struggling Stockport County side this weekend.
The Cobblers have won their last three league outings on the spin against Barrow, AFC Wimbledon and Rochdale, scoring eight and conceding just once. They beat Rochdale 3-0 last weekend courtesy of goals from Jon Guthrie and Sam Hoskins (x2) and their boss Jon Brady said it was a ‘comfortable’ win for his side which shows the belief he has in his players. Northampton are sweating on the fitness of midfielder Shaun McWilliams but have individuals like Jack Sowerby and Marc Leonard who can slot into his position and do a perfectly adequate job, which proves the strength in depth they have in their ranks. Brady’s side are the top scorers in League Two on 16 goals in nine matches and are a point inside the automatic promotion places above Stevenage so will be keen to pick up another victory to increase that gap. Attacker Sam Hoskins is in fine form at the moment too and have fired 10 league goals already in this campaign so will cause this Saturday’s opponents some serious issues.
Stockport have made a poor start to this season and have been leaking goals. They lost 2-1 at home to Wolves U21s in the Papa John’s Trophy on Tuesday night and their manager Dave Challinor said that result was ‘concerning’. His team sit 16th in the table after just two wins from their opening nine outings following their promotion from the National League. It appears that they are struggling to adapt to life in a higher division as they have let in 13 goals already this term which is the third-worst defensive record in the league right now. Defender Joe Lewis went off against Wolves and the true extent of his injury is yet to be known. Ashley Palmer seems the most likely to step in for him if he is side-lined but they haven’t won when he has played so far this season which is a big worry. Stockport are lacking depth in attack which makes the decision to loan Scott Quigley to fellow fourth tier outfit Rochdale slightly strange considering they didn’t even bring in a replacement. In addition, their away form has been disappointing and they haven’t won on the road yet since their promotion so will be in for a tough afternoon at Sixfields.
Bradford City v AFC Wimbledon
Bradford City are on a roll at the moment and have momentum going into their home clash against AFC Wimbledon this weekend.
The Bantams are 5th in the League Two table after five wins from their opening nine games and are only three points off the top three. They have won their last three games on the spin against Walsall, Tranmere Rovers and Stevenage and have lost just once in their last seven games. Speaking after their impressive 3-0 home win over highly-flying Stevenage last time out, their boss Mark Hughes said that result was a ‘statement’ of intent. The former Premier League boss is eyeing promotion this term and his team are on the right track at the moment. They will be without the suspended Bradley Halliday on Saturday but have adequate players who could slot in for him at right-back in the form of Yann Songo’o or Levi Sutton. Bradford are scoring goal for fun and have managed seven in their last three. This is mainly due to the form of striker Andy Cook, who has bagged 11 goals in 11 matches so far this season including two last time out. Only Manchester City ace Erling Haaland has a better goal return this term.
Wimbledon have struggled to adapt to life in the fourth tier following their relegation from League One. They find themselves down in 17th place after just two wins from their opening nine, which is poor considering their aim is to achieve automatic promotion. They lost 2-1 away at Carlisle United last weekend and their manager Johnnie Jackson said that that there is no ‘easy solution’ to their current problems. The Dons have lost their last four league outings on the spin and have won just once in their last eight. To make matters worse, Brentford loan forward Nathan Young-Coombes has been ruled out for a ‘number of weeks’ through injury which is a big blow considering he can found the net three times since his switch from the Bees. Ethan Chislett started instead of him last weekend but he doesn’t have the same influence or pace going forward. Wimbledon’s away form is a real worry and the fact they haven’t won on the road in this campaign and are facing an in-form Bradford side suggests this match will only go one way.
Stevenage v Harrogate Town
Stevenage have made an impressive start to the new season and take on a Harrogate Town side who are placed down in 18th position.
Boro are 4th in the League Two table after picking up six wins from their opening nine games. They were beaten 3-0 away at Bradford City last weekend but bounced back from that result with a 3-0 home win over League One side Wycombe Wanderers in the Papa John’s Trophy after goals from striker Danny Rose (x2) and defender Terence Vancooten, which is the first time he has found the net in six years. Their boss Steve Evans said the performances ‘demonstrated’ the depth he has in his squad, which is crucial if his team are going to mount a promotion push. On the injury front, Stevenage have received a boost with influential midfielder Jake Reeves returning from injury away at Bradford last Saturday. He didn’t last the full 90 minutes though but Jake Taylor and Dean Campbell will be waiting in the wings again if he comes off. Stevenage will take plenty of confidence from the fact they have won all four home games so far against Stockport County, Rochdale, Carlisle United and Newport County and have conceded just two goals in the process as they look to win again on Saturday.
Harrogate are in for a season of struggle after a couple of past mediocre campaigns. They are seriously lacking a cutting edge in attack and have scored just once in their last five games. The Yorkshire club have the third worst goal return in the league so far, managing to find the net just six times in nine games. They drew 0-0 away at fellow out of form side Stockport County last time out and their boss Simon Weaver admitted he thought his players were ‘sleepwalking’ towards another loss. If they do that against high-flying Stevenage again they are certain to lose. Harrogate are missing experienced midfielder Josh Falkringham as he continues to battle back from injury. This means that defender Warren Burrell has been playing slightly higher up the pitch in central midfield which isn’t ideal as he doesn’t possess the same creativity. The Sulphurites’ lack of attacking prowess and the fact they have only won once on the road so far this means means they won’t be holding out much hope of getting a result against 3rd in the division this weekend.
Crewe Alexandra v Mansfield Town
Mansfield Town appear to have turned a corner after a tricky start and travel to Cheshire to take on a Crewe Alexandra side who haven’t pulled up any trees so far this season.
The Stags are unbeaten in their last three league outings against Doncaster Rovers, Carlisle United and Gillingham and have risen into the play-offs. They are currently 7th and a point above Grimsby Town in 8th. They have won their last two away games which will give them confidence heading into this weekend and speaking after their comfortable 2-0 win at Gillingham last time out, their boss Nigel Clough said it was their ’best’ performance on the road for some while. He will be hoping for more of the same and will be boosted by the fact bright youngster Will Swan is back from a chest infection. The Nottingham Forest loan man, who plays as an attacking midfielder, has found the net twice so far and looks a promising talent. Mansfield have no problems scoring goals and will fancy their chances of causing the Railwaymen some issues with players such as Lucas Akins, Jordan Bowery and George Maris, all three of whom are top quality options at League Two level.
Crewe find themselves in 9th position but haven’t been playing well over recent times, winning just once in their last five matches. That victory came last weekend against Crawley Town courtesy of striker Courtney Baker-Richardson’s goal but that result was fortunate for them, especially due to the fact they only had 44% possession. Their manager Alex Morris admitted his team are a ‘work in progress’ which suggests they are not a fully cohesive unit just yet which is something Mansfield, who essentially have the same starting XI as last term when they reached the play-off final, will look to exploit. The Alex remain without attacker Chris Long still which is a blow as he scored 10 goals in the third tier in the last campaign. They also have summer signing Charlie Colkett still side-lined so that has meant youngsters like Zac Williams have been making the 18-man squad for games and he doesn’t possess the same experience. Crewe are going up against a solid Mansfield unit and have struggled against teams near the top of the division like Northampton Town and Stevenage recently.
Barrow v Leyton Orient
The top two in League Two lock horns this weekend at Holker Street as league leaders Leyton Orient take on 2nd place Barrow.
Pete Wild has made an impressive start to life in Cumbria after switching over the summer from FC Halifax Town. However, despite his team’s dream first couple of months of the new season, they are still capable of conceding goals and have let in nine goals in their opening nine games. They won 2-0 away at Newport County last time out and Wild admitted it ‘wasn’t their best performance’ which shows that they may not get away with it on Saturday when the table toppers come to town. Barrow are without long-term absentee Richie Bennett as the striker continues to fight back from injury which isn’t ideal as he has proven in the past that he can be a handful in this league. Nevertheless, Josh Gordon, who scored twice against Newport, is doing a decent job in attack but the Bluebirds don’t really have much depth in their squad. They named only six players on the bench last weekend meaning if they are hit with injuries it could hurt them. Wild’s men lost 3-1 against Northampton Town earlier this month which suggests that they are vulnerable to losing to teams who are also up there with them in the table.
Leyton Orient are on a roll at the moment and are grinding out results. The London side are unbeaten so far this term in the league and have won their six on the spin in all competitions. They also haven’t conceded in the last three which shows how well they are playing right now. Speaking after their 1-0 win over Walsall at home last weekend, boss Richie Wellens said it was a ‘good win’ and he is blessed with a whole host of top quality options in his squad. Midfielder George Moncur dropped down from the Championship with Hull City to join them over the summer and has scored three goals so far. Striking pair Charlie Kelman and Paul Smyth have also managed to find the net three times each as well which shows that they spread goals across the team. Orient have a clean bill of health going into their trip to Cumbria which is a big boost ahead of a crucial game. The fact that they are the second top scorers in the division behind Northampton and have let in only four goals in nine games will give them bags of confidence, despite playing a decent side and they will fancy their chances of picking up a draw at least.
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