Chesterfield v Maidenhead United
It’s a perfect home record v a pointless away record on Saturday and I’m backing this one to go the way of the form book.
Paul Cook’s Chesterfield were geared up for the new season having won each of their last three friendlies with the same XI and that XI has largely remained the same throughout the actual campaign – the back four, two central midfielders, Liam Mandeville and Joe Quigley have started every league match. Influential right-back Jeff King will miss this one but Ryheem Sheckleford, who will make his league debut against the club he left in the summer, is an able and experienced National League replacement. The Spireites have scored at least two goals in each of their last three home matches and in the other, they hit 2.07xG. Akwasi Asante returned to the starting XI last time out and Kabongo Tshimanga returned to the squad, coming off the bench to open the scoring.
Maidenhead United had a poor away record last season and that has continued into this, the Magpies not only failing to pick up a point on the road but also failing to score a goal. They conceded three and two goals against Notts County and Southend United, two sides performing to a good standard and still managed to lose 1-0 against both Dagenham and Redbridge and Boreham Wood despite their opposition performing below par. They remain without star attackers Sam Barratt and Dan Sparkes too and the lack of pace in defence is a worry.
Chesterfield should win this football match. The question is whether they can do so by scoring more than one goal. With Asante and Tshimanga back in the fold, I’m saying yes.
Dorking Wanderers v Dagenham and Redbridge
Two sides that have been involved in some ludicrous football matches this season come up against one another on Saturday and I can’t see this being anything other than a goal-fest.
The raw statistics are probably enough to get behind this selection. Dorking Wanderers matches average 4.1 goals per game total and Dagenham and Redbridge’s 3.9. Nine of ten Dorking matches have featured over 2.5 goals while at least five goals have been scored in each of Dagenham and Redbridge’s last five. In their last five matches, Saturday’s hosts have averaged 1.47xGF and 2.2xGA while the visitors hosts have averaged 1.68xGF and 2.18xGA.
Then you consider the selection headaches. Marc White has not been able to field his first-choice back five all season and has had to make at least one change to his back five in each of the last five matches. The five selected against Scunthorpe United featured four currently playing with knocks. Daryl McMahon, meanwhile, has only managed to field the same back five two matches in a row all season and started with Besart Topalloj, making his senior debut, and Kamarl Grant, who made his senior debut a week and a half prior, in his back three last time out. They are also without both sitting midfield options.
Most managers would compensate for those injuries but not White and McMahon who have a system and stick to it regardless of personnel. That means this game should be one with plenty of open space in the centre of the park and a lot of chances.
Notts County v Altrincham
There’s an argument that Notts County might be the best performing outfit in the division.
If you use an xPoints system based on xG per game, Notts would be top of the table having accrued 2.6 points per game. They have the second best xG for and best xG against in the division. They are third in the league table having lost only once (which they responded to with victory) and have a near-perfect home record, the only slip up a 2-2 draw with Chesterfield in which they came from 2-0 down. Luke Williams now has more attacking options at his disposal with Sam Austin returning and Quevin Castro joining on loan – he scored a worldie of a free-kick last week.
It’s a tough draw for Altrincham who finally managed their first league victory of the season last time out, a scrappy 1-0 victory over fellow strugglers Aldershot Town, who had gone down to ten men. It was a much-needed victory for Phil Parkinson’s side whose performances have been bright but have lacked ruthlessness in and around both boxes. Their chances of winning this one feel slim. They have picked up two points from five matches on the road and their worst three performances of the season have come in the games they have had less of the ball – they will definitely have less of the ball in this one.
Macaulay Langstaff shows no signs of slowing down (12 for the season now) and County are creating chances for fun. They should win this one and win it fairly comfortably.
Southend United v Yeovil Town
The signs have been there all season that Southend United are ready to start winning football matches and I’m backing them to record back-to-back victories for the first time on Saturday.
Their performances have been strong on the whole, recording the fifth best xG for and 2nd best xG against this season. At home, that becomes the second best xG for and third best xG against, impressive considering they have already played Boreham Wood and Wrexham. They have kept back-to-back clean sheets and have been able to welcome back Nathan Ralph, Kacper Lopata, Noor Husin and Jake Hyde to the team in recent games, ensuring Kevin Maher is able to select a much stronger and consistent XI than he had earlier in the season, not to mention having options on the bench – Jack Bridge, Wes Fonguck and Callum Powell were all unused subs in the 1-0 victory over high-flying Wealdstone.
This selection does speak more to my faith in Southend United than gripes against Yeovil Town, necessarily. The Glovers have been a frustrating side, drawing six of their ten league games so far and winning just one. Chris Hargreaves has given his side a structure and platform to play but results haven’t followed. Notably, they have performed poorly away from home. If you remove the 0-0 against Wealdstone, in which they played against ten men for 80+ minutes, they have conceded 2.13xG on the road. They are another side having selection issues with Hargreaves making three changes in three of his last four matches, including one defensive change in every fixture.
Southend are a stronger team, performing at a higher level, will be in front of their home supporters and I’m backing them to break into the top half after victory here.
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