Carlisle United v Rochdale
Carlisle United have made a decent start to the new season as they prepare to lock horns with struggling Rochdale this weekend.
The Cumbrians go into the clash at Brunton Park sat in 11th place in the League Two table, just three points off the play-offs. They are unbeaten so far at Brunton Park in the league this term and have conceded just once on home soil. They won 1-0 in their last league outing at home to Gillingham thanks to Jon Mellish’s second-half goal and speaking after that victory, their boss Paul Simpson said defensively his side looked ‘really solid’. One thing he has brought to the Cumbrian outfit this season is a tight defence and they have only let in four goals in this campaign, which is the joint-best record in the division. On the injury front, Leeds United loan striker Ryan Edmondson has been back training this week which is a boost. He provides useful competition up front but faces a battle to get into the starting XI based on the form of Kristian Dennis, who has scored five goals in six matches in all competitions so far. Carlisle are organised at the back, have a goal scorer in Dennis who knows where the back of the net is and are playing well at home at the moment so shouldn’t have any problems this Saturday.
Rochdale have endured a dismal August and their poor run of form cost former boss Robbie Stockdale his job. The North West outfit have brought in ex-Morecambe manager Jim Bentley as his successor on a two-year contract and he has admitted the club are in a ‘difficult position’ at the moment. They are bottom of the table and haven’t won yet in this campaign in six matches. They have picked up just one points and have let in nine goals which doesn’t bode well for their trip up north to Carlisle. To make matters worse, key defender Ethan Ebanks-Landell picked up a knock last weekend in the 1-1 draw against Crawley Town and didn’t play against Accrington Stanley on Tuesday in the Papa John’s Trophy. Veteran Jim McNulty, who was in interim charge before Bentley’s appointment, took his place but lacks the legs he used to have and the Dale ended up losing on penalties. Things aren’t going well for them at the moment and luck isn’t on their side at all which means this weekend is likely to go only one way for them again.
Salford City v Crawley Town
Salford City have made a steady start to the new season as they gear up for their next test against Crawley Town.
The Ammies brought in former Manchester United U21s boss Neil Wood over the summer to replace Gary Bowyer and he has adapted well to life in the Football League. His new team are unbeaten so far at home and will be looking to maintain their impressive form at the Peninsula Stadium. In their three outings on home soil so far this term they have scored six goals and haven’t conceded yet. They won 1-0 last weekend against high-flying Stevenage thanks to midfielder Ryan Watson’s last-gasp goal which shows their determination to fight until the end. Wood said they were ‘relentless’ in the way they played and they backed that result up with a 2-1 win over Liverpool U21s on Tuesday night but played a youthful side, which means their players should be fresh this weekend. Salford have a clean bill of health but have sold attacker Brandon Thomas-Asante to West Bromwich Albion. Nevertheless, Birmingham City winger Odin Bailey has come in to replace him and will be eager to stamp his mark. The Ammies also have top quality options in attack with the likes of Matt Smith, Conor McAleny and Callum Henry and should have enough to win again on Saturday.
Things haven’t gone to plan for Crawley so far in this campaign and they are currently 22nd in the table having picked up just two points from their first six games. They are yet to win and have seriously been lacking goals, finding the net just three times so far. The Red Devils drew 1-1 against struggling Rochdale in their last league match and their manager Kevin Betsy said his team are getting ‘bad luck’ at the moment and they are in for a tough test against a Salford side eyeing promotion to League One. On the injury front, Crawley have been dealt a blow with highly-rated goalkeeper Ellery Balcombe, who is on loan from Premier League side Brentford, battling with an injury at the moment. Corey Addai has taken his place between the sticks with Hull City loanee David Robson as his back-up, but neither possess the same ability of Balcombe. This has been reflected by the eight goals Betsy’s side leaked in August. Therefore, with the poor form of the team and with the goalkeeping position still an issue, most signs point towards another Crawley loss against Salford.
Stockport County v AFC Wimbledon
Stockport County’s return to the Football League hasn’t gone to plan so far as they look to beat AFC Wimbledon this weekend.
The Hatters have won just once so far this term in their opening six matches and that was at home against Colchester United. They will be looking for the same against on Saturday against the Dons and speaking after their 1-1 draw against Swindon Town last weekend, their boss, Dave Challinor, said he was ‘delighted’ with a point after his side went down to 10 men when striker Paddy Madden saw red. Stockport aren’t struggling to score goals and have found the net seven times so far this season so will cause Wimbledon problems. However, they have been leaking goals at the other end (10 conceded) and have the second worst record in the division on that front. The Hatters have received a boost with the return of midfielder Will Collar from injury and the former Brighton and Hove Albion man injects quality into their options in the middle of the park alongside the likes of Antoni Sarcevic, Ryan Croasdale and Callum Camps. His influence and creativity should help his team carve out chances and score goals, but they need to tighten up at the back.
Wimbledon’s start has been pretty similar to their next opponents, with the London club one more win. They are three points outside the play-offs but have also had the defensive issues of their own, letting in eight goals in six matches. At the other end though, they have scored in all but one of their matches in August and have creative players like Ethan Chislett, Nathan Young-Coombes and Josh Davison who are causing their opponents problems. The latter scored the winner in the Dons’ midweek 2-1 win over Aston Villa U21s and his manager, Johnnie Jackson, said it was a ‘good game’ for his team and he will be hoping they can build on that performance at Edgeley Park. On the injury front, Wimbledon are without Huddersfield Town loan striker Kyle Hudlin and he has returned to his parent club for treatment on his groin problem. Nevertheless, they don’t really need him at the moment anyway as scoring goals isn’t really their main issue right now. Davison, who has fired three goals so far, will be looking to cause Stockport some serious problems and has the ability to do so after dropping down from League One side Charlton Athletic to move to Plough Lane earlier in the summer.
Northampton Town v Barrow
Northampton Town and Barrow have both made decent starts to the new season in League Two.
The Cobblers are hoping to get promoted to League One this term after narrowly missing out in the last campaign. They are 6th in the table but were beaten 1-0 at home by Doncaster Rovers in their last league game before being thrashed 6-0 by Ipswich Town in the Papa John’s Trophy on Tuesday. This shows that they are well capable of conceding goals and have some work to do at the back. Their boss, Jon Brady, said the Tractor Boys ‘sliced’ them open too many times and will be hoping his team can sort things out at the back. One reason why they are struggling in that department is the absence of injured full-back Aaron McGowan, who was a key player last season. He has been replaced by youngster Harvey Lintott, who is only 19-years-old and lacks experience which has been targeted by opponents. Despite these defensive issues, Northampton don’t struggle for goals and will cause Barrow problems. They found the net 11 times in the league in August, with only table toppers Leyton Orient scoring more, which shows their attacking threat.
Barrow have been one of the surprise packages in the fourth tier and new boss Pete Wild has adapted well to life back in the Football League after leaving FC Halifax Town in the summer. His side have won five out of their opening six league matches under his guidance and are second in the division behind Orient. They won 1-0 away at AFC Wimbledon last weekend courtesy of attacker Josh Gordon’s first-half goal before beating League One side Fleetwood Town in the Papa John’s Trophy in midweek. Wild said his side will keep ‘working hard’ on their style of play and he has a few selection headaches at the moment due to their lack of injury woes at the moment. This is a good thing for the Bluebirds though and competition for places keeps things healthy for them, especially with games coming thick and fast. Although they have started brightly and have threat in attack in the form of Gordon, Ben Whitfield and Billy Waters, they are not perfect yet and are prone to letting goals in. They have leaked six goals in six games and that one-per-game ratio is something Northampton to exploit.
Gillingham v Swindon Town
You wouldn’t be called crazy for tipping Gillingham for back-to-back relegations right now. After a terrible end to 2021-22, the Gills start to 2022-23 has been equally miserable. Four points have been accumulated for their six games so far, and a single Scott Kashket goal against Rochdale is the only league goal Gillingham have to their name so far. Neil Harris finds himself not only low on numbers but low on quality.
Will Wright and Ipswich Town loanee Elkan Baggott have been impressive in defence, but really need Max Ehmer to reach levels previously seen from him at Priestfield. Stuart O’Keefe, Shaun Williams and Dom Jefferies all find themselves fighting to be fit enough for a midfield place alongside Olly Lee, Alex MacDonald and Ben Reeves. Jordan Green and Lincoln City loanee Hakeeb Adelakun have put in encouraging displays in wide positions, but do not benefit fully from Gillingham’s limited striker options. Scott Kashket, focal point Mikael Mandron and the inexperienced Lewis Walker have a combined two goals between them in all competitions.
For Swindon Town, this weekend marks the final game where they will be without key forward Harry McKirdy. The 25-year-old scored 21 league goals last season under Ben Garner, but his found his time under Scott Lindsey far more impacted by his infamous ill-discipline. In his absence, Jacob Wakeling becomes the key striker option, supported by Tyrese Shade and Wales International Jonny Williams. Williams, much like midfielders Ben Gladwin and Louis Reed, provides a huge level of technical quality to the Robins, whilst the tenacity of Chesterfield’s Saidou Khan has seen him perform admirably in a wing-back role. The backline in Lindsey’s 3-4-3 formation has recently been formed of Frazer Blake-Tracy, Angus MacDonald and Tom Clayton, all situated in front of Middlesbrough’s loan goalkeeper Sol Brynn.
Even with their star forward still absent, Swindon Town should have enough about them to get the better of a struggling Gillingham team. Jonny Williams still continues to show his class with the ball at this feet as Jacob Wakeling is beginning to show his worth as the main striker in the Robins side. Swindon can get goals, Gillingham can barely score goals. Things feel bleak at Priestfield Stadium right now and don’t look like majorly improving anytime soon.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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