Swindon Town v Hartlepool United
Swindon Town could rise into the play-offs with a win over struggling Hartlepool United this weekend.
The Robins are only a point outside the top seven and have made a decent start to life under Scott Lindsey this season. They beat Colchester United 1-0 last Saturday with winger Tyrese Shade scoring the winner in the second half and their boss said he that he had told his players to be ‘aggressive’ so if they can do that against lowly Hartlepool, they should get the win. In terms of selection news, the Robins have received a boost on the injury front with striker Tomi Adeloye back fit and available. The summer recruit from Ayr United gives them another option to choose from in attack and he will be looking to fight the likes of Luke Jephcott and Jacob Wakeling for a place in attack. Swindon’s home form has been strong this term and they have lost just once in their first seven at the County Ground. They have won back-to-back games 1-0 on home soil against Newport County and Colchester which shows they are capable of grinding out wins against teams low down in the table so they should have no problems on Saturday.
Hartlepool have been the worst team in League Two in this campaign and find themselves bottom of the table. They have won just once in their first 14 outings and were thrashed 6-0 at home by Everton U21s in the Papa John’s Trophy on Tuesday evening. Speaking after that one, interim manager Keith Curle said it was ‘difficult’ to take and that result will really dent his team’s confidence. They thought they had turned a corner at the end of September when they drew away at Mansfield Town and beat Doncaster Rovers, but they have since lost back-to-back league games against Carlisle United and Harrogate Town to knock them back down to earth. To make matters worse, forward Joe Grey is out for the trip to Swindon with a head injury, which is a blow as he has been a regular this season. His side have only scored 12 goals which is the third worst return in the division which shows they don’t have any adequate replacements to step in for him. The Pools have the leakiest defence in the league and have let in 25 goals already so Swindon’s attackers will be rubbing their hands together.
Crawley Town v Mansfield Town
Crawley Town have made a dismal start to the season as they prepare to welcome in-form Mansfield Town to Sussex.
The Red Devils have won just twice so far this term and sacked manager Kevin Betsy last week. Lewis Young is in caretaker charge and guided them to a 2-1 win at home to Newport County last weekend. However, that result was only their second win and the club remain in the relegation zone. Young said the club are an ‘evolving process’ which suggests they are still a work-in-progress and have their problems still. On the injury front, Crawley remain without key midfielder James Balagizi for another five weeks which isn’t ideal for them. The 19-year-old, who is on loan from Liverpool, has scored twice in six games since his summer switch and his replacements in the middle of the park Jack Powell and Jake Hessenthaler don’t possess the same creativity. Crawley have had serious defensive woes over recent times and have let in 23 goals in their first 13 outings, with only Hartlepool United letting in more. In addition, they have also struggled for goals and have only found the net 12 times which suggests they are lacking that cutting edge up top as they head into a tricky clash up next.
Mansfield are well organised, tough to break down and have threats all over their pitch as they look to carry on their impressive run of form. The Stags are going well at the moment and are unbeaten in their last seven games which has seen them rise to 4th in the league, just a point behind Northampton Town in 3rd. They beat Walsall 2-1 at home last time out thanks to goals from midfielder George Lapslie and attacker Will Swan and their boss Nigel Clough said his team were ‘very good’. The Nottinghamshire club still have attacker Rhys Oates out for another five weeks, but they don’t miss him too much at the moment because they have various sources of goals like Lapslie on four, Swan on four, Oli Hawkins on three and Riley Harbottle on three. Clough’s side are defensively sound and have lost just three times so far in this campaign as the look to gain promotion to League One. They will be well aware that a trip to 23rd place Crawley is a potential banana skin but the fact they haven’t lost since 27th August shows they are on a roll. Their attack should also be too strong for their opponents based on the fact they are the second top scorers in the division.
Harrogate Town v Tranmere Rovers
Harrogate Town have struggled during the opening first few months of this season as they gear up to face a Tranmere Rovers side eyeing promotion.
The Sulphurites are down in 20th place and are only two points above the drop zone. Their boss Simon Weaver said last week that his team were ‘sleep walking’ towards relegation to the National League after their poor start. They did beat Hartlepool United 2-1 last weekend courtesy of goals from midfielder Alex Pattison and attacker Jack Muldoon. However, that result was against a very poor Pools side and was only the Yorkshire club’s third league win in 13 games. Going into that clash they were in dire form and were winless in eight in a run stretching back to 16th August. Harrogate signed winger Max Wright over the summer from Grimsby Town but he is yet to feature due to an ankle injury. His absence has been a blow mainly due to their lack of attacking prowess so far in this campaign. They have the joint-third worst goal return in the league along with fellow strugglers Rochdale and Colchester United which proves that they are lacking that bit of cutting edge going forward that Wright could provide. Huddersfield Town loan man Danny Grant has been playing in his position but is yet to score in the league which doesn’t bode for their upcoming clash.
Tranmere are only two points off the play-offs so will know a win over Weaver’s side could see them rise into the top seven. The Whites have won their last five league games and are in confident mood as they prepare for this weekend. They beat Crewe Alexandra 3-0 last Friday courtesy of goals from Dynel Simue and Elliott Nevitt (x2) and manager Micky Mellon said that it was a ‘good evening’ for his players who are really performing for him at the moment. On the selection, defender Tom Davies continues to fight back from injury, but his side don’t really miss him at the moment due to their solid showings over recent weeks. Simeu and Jordan Turnbull have formed a formidable pairing in the heart of defence meaning Davies will find it tough to get back in.
The Merseyside club haven’t conceded in their last five outings and the last time they let in a goal in League Two was on 13th September. They have the second best defensive record in the division behind 2nd place Leyton Orient having only leaked nine goals in 13 matches. They are not just build on a sturdy backline either and can score too, especially with striker Nevitt in fine form having fired three in his last three in all competitions.
Stevenage v Northampton Town
Stevenage against Northampton Town this weekend is a big game at the top of League Two.
The hosts go into the clash sat at the top of the league and are four points above their opponents. They have won 10 games out of their opening 14 which proves that they are capable of grinding out wins and have only been beaten twice. The Hertfordshire outfit drew 1-1 away at Gillingham last time out in the league with striker Danny Rose scoring their goal before attacker Jordan Roberts scored the only goal of the game to help them beat Tottenham Hotspur U21s in the Papa John’s Trophy in midweek. Boss Steve Evans said after that one that his team are not getting ‘carried away’ right now.
Stevenage don’t have any fresh injury concerns which is a boost, and they are unbeaten in their last five matches so will go into their clash against Northampton in confident mood. In addition, they haven’t lost at home yet this season during a run of seven fixtures and have won them all, letting in only two goals in the process at Broadhall Way. Not many thought Boro would do so well but their form on their own patch has been immaculate, and most signs point towards them extending the impressive stretch further in their upcoming game.
Northampton have gone off the boil over recent weeks and are winless in their last four games in all competitions. Jon Brady’s side were beaten 3-1 at home by Arsenal U21s in the cup in midweek and the manager said his side ‘don’t like losing’. The Cobblers are getting frustrated and are in for a tough afternoon against the table toppers which has been made even more difficult now with key midfielder Ben Fox suspended. He was red carded last weekend in the 0-0 draw away at Leyton Orient and will now miss three matches which is a big setback. Shaun McWilliams is the most likely candidate to take his place but there is no doubt that the Cobblers will miss Fox’s influence in the middle of the park.
Although they are still sitting pretty in 3rd position, Northampton’s performances of late have been worrying. They lost back-to-back games against Walsall and Salford City before their stalemate at Orient and are lacking a real threat going forward. Conceding goals is also a worry and the Cobblers have let in 14 which means they have the worst defence out of all the teams in the top 10 of the division.
Crewe Alexandra v Doncaster Rovers
Doncaster Rovers make the trip to Cheshire to lock horns with new manager Danny Schofield at the helm.
The Railwaymen are going up against Donny side who will be looking to impress in front of whoever they choose to appoint as their new boss. Alex Morris’ side haven’t been in the best of form of late and are winless in their last five games in all competitions. They were beaten 3-0 away at Tranmere Rovers last Friday in the league before the Whites beat them again in the Papa John’s Trophy 1-0 on Tuesday night at the Mornflake Stadium. Morris said the latter result was ‘disappointing’ and his players are underperforming at the moment.
They have been dealt a blow on the injury front with influential midfielder Callum Ainley side-lined for around three months. The club will miss his creativity in the middle of the park and the likes of Conor Thomas and Johnny King don’t possess the same quality which has been reflected over the past few weeks results. Crewe are 13th and have won just four times out of a possible 12. Stevenage and Mansfield Town both beat them on their own patch last month, whilst struggling Gillingham even came and got a point in their last league outing there so their next opponents will be confident of getting something.
Doncaster have opted to sack Gary McSheffrey and will be hoping that decision can fire up their players to start performing. They are still 12th in the table and are only three points off the play-offs. Former Huddersfield Town boss Danny Schofield has been appointed as their new boss and has said he is ‘really looking forward’ to getting started. In terms of injury news, midfielder Ben Close has returned to the action recently and the former Portsmouth man is a top quality to have at League Two level. He adds more energy and enthusiasm into their midfield options and has more ability to get around the pitch than veteran Adam Clayton.
Despite wanting to be higher up the table, Doncaster still have decent options and their littered with individuals who should arguably be playing in a higher league such as Luke Molyneux, Ro-Shaun Williams and George Miller. The Yorkshire club have won on their travels at Northampton Town and Rochdale already this season and will fancy their chances at picking up a result against a Crewe team who have not been pulling up any trees.
Salford City v Stockport County
Salford City take on Stockport County in a North West derby this weekend.
The Ammies’ form at the Peninsula Stadium has been up and down over recent times and they could be for a tough test against a Hatters side who will be backed by a bumper away following roaring on their team. Neil Wood’s side lost 1-0 on home soil to Bradford City last time out in the league and he said his players need to be ‘far better’. Injuries have not been kind to Salford of late and the likes of Conor McAleny, Richard Nartey, Liam Shephard, Stevie Mallan and Jason Lowe have been out of action recently which hasn’t been ideal. The squad has been stretched as a result and it will be interesting if they run out of steam this weekend.
They have been inconsistent over the past month and have been beaten in their last two home matches against Tranmere and Bradford which suggests they are having problems there right now. Losing key attacker Brandon Thomas-Asante to West Brom on deadline day was a blow and the fact that they are the lowest scorers in the top seven shows they are missing his influence at the top end of the pitch.
Stockport won 1-0 away at Bradford City on 8th October in an eye-catching result that shows that they are capable of mixing it with the big boys of the league. They will be fired up for this derby game and will be desperate to bounce back from their 3-1 loss to Grimsby Town in their last league game. They beat Shrewsbury Town 1-0 on Tuesday in the Papa John’s Trophy with defender Ryan Johnson scoring the winner, so they go into their clash against the Ammies on the back of a victory and boss Dave Challinor said it was a ‘good performance’. They have received good news on the injury front with winger Oli Crankshaw back available and he played 90 minutes against the Shrews.
The Hatters will be without the suspended Callum Camps for their trip to Salford but have a whole host of strong options to replace him in central midfielder like Ryan Croasdale, Antoni Sarcevic and Akil Wright. Striker Paddy Madden is in good form at the moment and will fancy his chances of scoring again this weekend. The Irishman has bagged three in his last three league games and fired 25 in all competitions in the last campaign to help his side win promotion from the National League.
Gillingham v Barrow
It sums up Gillingham’s predicament right now that a four-game unbeaten in League Two can be considered special, especially when only one of those four games has resulted in a Gillingham win. The Gills are the lowest scorers in the entire EFL with only five goals across their 13 league matches. Three of those goals have come across their three most recent fixtures as well.
Neil Harris is having to turn water into wine with a small squad that is struggling to stay fully fit for prolonged periods. The forward quartet of Hakeeb Adelakun, Scott Kashket, Alex MacDonald and Mikael Mandron can only provide so much attacking threat during a match. Shaun Williams and the versatile Robbie McKenzie are finding regular gametime in midfield with so few other options available. Indonesian International Elkan Baggott is catching the eye in defence, but the Ipswich Town loanee’s defensive team mates have been largely underwhelming in 2022-23. Gills are certainly thankful that Crawley Town lent them Glenn Morris on a loan deal. The goalkeeper may now be 38, but his ability has long been recognised as crucial for a League Two level club.
Opponents Barrow are having to recover from a drop off after a sensational start to their first season under Pete Wild. Having won seven of their first nine league matches, four consecutive defeats have seen the Bluebirds drop into the middle of the table. It is a position that should still be seen as respectable though for a club that have battled against relegation every season since returning to the Football League and can rightfully feel excited about what their young manager can achieve with the Cumbria outfit in the long term.
Barrow at the best have been a very dangerous side out of possession and in transition, with their fluid 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 including some notable names in creative winger Ben Whitfield, midfield stalwarts Harrison Neal and Sam Foley, and lively goalscorer Josh Gordon. Chelsea loanee Sam McClelland is another who has caught the eye as a centre-back partner to the more experienced Niall Canavan.
Though out of form right now, it feels only a matter of time before Barrow’s quality rewards them with a return to winning ways. A long trip south to Kent presents the opportunity to get a result against a Gillingham side who are expected to struggle for goals throughout the whole season. There are certainly improvements in the Gills over the last few weeks, but they still remain a team that could spend the campaign having to look over their shoulder. Pete Wild will be looking to capitalise on his team’s more expressive approach to games, but they will need to be wary of Gillingham set pieces if they are to head back up north with anything of note this weekend.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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