Northampton Town v Newport County
Northampton Town have been scoring goals for fun over recent weeks as they take on a mid-table Newport County side.
The Cobblers drew 2-2 at home to Sutton United on Tuesday and will be desperate to bounce back with a win. Midfielder Marc Leonard and winger Mitch Pinnock scored for them against the U’s and their boss Jon Brady said afterwards that his side could have ‘nicked it’ in the end. Northampton have received a boost on the injury front with top scorer Sam Hoskins returning off the bench in their last game. He has found the net 11 times so far this season which is the most out of everyone in the division and he has been causing problems for every side he has come up against recently.
The Cobblers are 3rd in the table and are four points inside the automatic promotion places which proves what a strong side they are as they eye promotion to League One. They only missed out on goal difference last term and the fact that they are the top scorers in the league above table toppers Leyton Orient shows they are a real threat in attack. Brady’s men need to tighten up the defence a bit but tend to score more than their opponents, as proven by their impressive 3-2 win away at 2nd place Stevenage last weekend.
Newport find themselves down in 18th place and it appears that it will be another season of mediocracy for the South Wales outfit. Their poor performances saw James Rowberry lose his job and he has been replaced by former Bristol Rovers boss Graham Coughlan. The Exiles drew 0-0 against Mansfield Town in mid-week and had just 44% possession with a passing accuracy of 61% against a Stags side that went down to 10 men on 59 minutes when defender James Perch saw red. Coughlan said afterwards that it was a ‘tough one’ to take and the fact they didn’t highlights the lack of cutting edge they have in their squad. They have only scored twice in their last five league outings and have drawn a blank three times in those fixtures.
On the selection front, Newport have welcomed back midfielder Scot Bennett and West Ham loan winger Thierry Nevers recently from injury and they have both featured over the past couple of clashes, with the latter mainly being utilised off the bench. The Exiles are lacking that spark in their ranks and that is likely to see them come unstuck against a prolific Northampton attack.
Tranmere Rovers v Carlisle United
A pair of 1-1 draws against lower-end sides have brought to an end Tranmere’s phenomenal run of wins to nil, but the Super White Army still remain unbeaten in the league since the 13th September. Micky Mellon favours a consistent 4-4-2 setup with his back four full of standouts. Southampton loanee Dynel Simeu has shown himself to be one of the best defenders at League Two level and has formed an excellent partnership with the consistently solid Jordan Turnbull. The centre-back pair, alongside the defensive-minded Lee O’Connor and Chris Merrie sat in front, provided the base that allows Tranmere’s wingers and full-backs to be at their best in forward areas. Josh Hawkes and Ethan Bristow are a strong pair on the left flank, but it is Kieron Morris and Josh Dacres-Cogley down the right who are perhaps the strongest. With a pair of dangerous goalscorers up top in Kane Hemmings and Elliott Nevitt, Tranmere Rovers are a team with a rock solid spine and the wide players to provide support and service further forwards. Movement into the play-off places feels like only a matter of time.
Two weeks ago, the same amount of praise would be coming Carlisle United’s way, but a pair of defeats to Leyton Orient and Stockport County have halted their momentum. Paul Simpson continues to be challenged with inconsistent availability. Ryan Edmondson is suspended, Omari Patrick is unfit, centre-back Paul Hutington was absent from Tuesday’s match at Edgeley Park, and there are plenty of other long-term injuries that have affected Carlisle this season. The midfield trio of Owen Moxon, Callum Guy and Jordan Gibson is among the very best at fourth tier level, but has limited forward options to feed now aside from Kristian Dennis and Derby County loanee Jack Stretton.
Should one of the midfielders be absent, there is a considerable downgrade in ability to the likes of Jayden Harris or Sonny Hilton. Jon Mellish could well be deployed in the centre if needs be, but has found a new home in a left-centre-back role this season and it would be most helpful to Carlisle if he didn’t have to move. A fully fit Carlisle United is an exciting prospect, but it could be weeks or even months until that becomes a possibility.
A fortnight ago, Tranmere Rovers v Carlisle United looked the game of the weekend in the EFL, but that isn’t the case after recent results. Tranmere have a consistent first eleven which can achieve low-scoring wins to nil. Opponents Carlisle though find themselves in another situation where numbers are low and the lack of fit senior forward options could impact how much of their general creativity gets converted. Even if Paul Huntington was to be absent again for the Cumbrians, these are still two of the stronger defensive sides in League Two recently, and that could be reflected in the final scoreline.
Bradford City v Crawley Town
A controversial 92nd minute penalty ultimately led to the goal that denied Bradford City a midweek win. Mark Hughes’ Bantams had the lead from the 31st minute, when Aston Villa loanee Tyreik Wright provided yet another example of his quality in behind, but succumbed to a penalty rebound from Swindon Town striker Luke Jephcott. Nine of Bradford’s strongest starting eleven essentially write themselves, the big question being around how plays in the winger positions in the 4-2-3-1. Wright has certainly demonstrated his worth, but Luton Town loanee Dion Pereira hasn’t hit the heights of his previous spell at Valley Parade and his stiff competition from the likes of Jake Young, Lee Angol, Scott Banks and Kian Harratt. Andy Cook has had a rare goal shy week up top but the 32-year-old is an undoubted source of goals with 10 already in League Two and 13 in all competitions. Harry Chapman has made the attacking midfield position his own, especially in Jamie Walker’s absence, whilst Alex Gilliead and Richie Smallwood provide discipline and tempo in deeper midfield.
Bradford City are up against a Crawley Town side that have seen a resurgence under caretaker manager Lewis Young. Following the dismissal of Kevin Betsy and with the Red Devils bottom of the league, Young has returned to basics with a simple but very effective 4-4-2 that has earned seven points from a possible nine. With players back in more natural positions, the starting frontline of Tom Nichols and Ashley Nadesan have returned to the level that they’ve been known for from previous seasons. The pair who scored five of Crawley’s seven league goals under Lewis Young, including all three in their excellent home win over promotion-chasing Mansfield Town last weekend. Winger James Tilley has provided the other two goals with his direct running threat, and West Bromwich Albion loanee Tom Fellows continues to catch the eye on the opposite flank. Joe Powell and Jake Hessenthaler additionally provide a great mix of composure and tenacity in the centre of the park.
Bradford’s attacking quality has been known about since before the season began, whilst Crawley’s caretaker has rekindled the fire in the Red Devils that had been extinguished under their ineffective previous head coach. With three strong strikers in Andy Cook, Tom Nichols and Ashley Nadesan all likely to start at Valley Parade, there is plenty of opportunities for goals. Bradford could well have plenty of the ball, but Crawley’s movement on the break and in behind will need to be handled carefully.
Stockport County v Sutton United
Stockport County have started to pick up a bit of form as they prepare to welcome Sutton United to Edgeley Park.
This is the first Football League meeting ever between the pair and the hosts go into the game full of confidence. They beat Carlisle United 2-0 last time out thanks to goals from winger Myles Hippolyte and striker Kyle Wootton and their boss Dave Challinor said that it was their most ‘complete performance’ so far. The Hatters have received a boost on the injury front with versatile Ryan Rydel returning from his spell on the side lines. The 21-year-old is a useful player to have in their squad as he can play at either full-back or midfield so provides useful depth. Right-back Macauley Southam-Hales is still fighting back from his injury but James Brown continues to do a solid job in his position.
Stockport are going well at the moment and have won their last three games on the spin in all competitions. They have also lost just once in their last five outings as they look to start climbing up the league table. In addition, their home form has been solid and the fact they have only lost twice in eight there this season suggests this weekend is likely to only go one way.
Sutton find themselves down in 15th place and have been mediocre so far this term. They drew 2-2 away at Northampton Town on Tuesday evening with striking pair Omar Bugiel and Donovan Wilson on the scoresheet and their manager Matt Gray said their first-half performance ‘wasn’t good enough’. Although it was an impressive result for the London club in the end, they are in for another tough match against Stockport and it may prove to be a game too far for their small squad. The U’s have been without influential midfielder Craig Eastmond recently and he remains a doubt for their trip up north. Youngster Adam Lovatt replaced him in the heart of midfield in their last clash but he lacks the same experience and is someone who the Hatters may look to exploit in the middle of the park.
Sutton haven’t won away yet in this campaign and are winless in their opening seven outings on the road, picking up just one point and that was earlier this week against the Cobblers. It was the same last season for Gray’s men and they have issues when they are on their travels which is something they need to sort out sooner rather than later.
Leyton Orient v Salford City
Leyton Orient are on a roll at the top of League Two and should have too much for Salford City if they maintain their recent level of performances.
The O’s have lost just once in their opening 15 games so far this season and are a point above 2nd place Stevenage at the summit. They saw off Gillingham 2-0 last time out courtesy of goals from attacking duo Paul Smyth and Ruel Sotiriou, with both coming in the second-half which shows they are patient in games and have an ability to win them in different ways. Their boss Richie Wellens said he was ‘pleased’ with the result and the players are performing for him right now.
The London club don’t have any fresh injury concerns which is a boost but full-backs Tom James and Rob Hunt and winger Theo Archibald are all only one yellow card away from a suspension. Leyton Orient’s confidence will be sky high at the moment and they are the second top scorers in the division behind Northampton Town having found the net 25 times so far. In addition, they have the best defensive record too and have only let in nine goals, which is five better than the 2nd best defence at Stevenage which shows how tough they are to break down. Wellens’ side are yet to lose at Brisbane Road since the 2022/23 campaign began so most signs point towards another three points on Saturday.
Salford have been inconsistent over recent times under former Manchester United U23s coach Neil Wood. The Ammies have won two, lost two and drawn one so far in October and were beaten 2-0 at home by Stockport County last weekend before beating Hartlepool United away on Tuesday with goals from defender Ryan Leak and midfielder Ethan Galbraith. Despite the win over the Pools, the North West outfit had 36% possession against bottom of the league and the result could have easily gone a different way. Wood said afterwards that they are a ‘young team’ so they definitely have weaknesses that opponents can exploit.
Salford have a lot of injury problems at the moment with Jason Lowe, Stephen Mallan, Conor McAleny and Liam Shephard all still out of action which isn’t ideal, especially as the fixtures come thick and fast as they head into the winter. They did welcome midfielder Matty Lund back for their last game but he will be coming up against a tough Orient midfield with the likes of Darren Pratley and Craig Clay. Losing key attacker Brandon Thomas-Asante to West Brom over the summer was a blow for Wood’s side and their goals have dried up since he left. He remains their top scorer on five, with midfielder Ryan Watson second on three so they won’t be holding out much hope of getting a result against the table toppers.
Walsall v Rochdale
Walsall have started to pick up results in the league under Michael Flynn and lock horns with lowly Rochdale this weekend.
The Saddlers beat Harrogate Town 3-1 at home on Tuesday evening courtesy of goals from striker Danny Johnson, defender Liam Gordon and midfielder Isaac Hutchinson. They are now only six points off the play-offs and Flynn has said that he was ‘really pleased’ with their performance and will be looking for more of the same over the next few weeks. On the selection front, forward Connor Wilkinson remains out of action but the Midlands outfit aren’t really missing him at the moment with Johnson in fine form this season. The attacker, who is on loan from fellow League Two side Mansfield Town, has scored 11 goals since his switch over the summer. Walsall will be in confident mood at the moment because they have only lost once in their last six league outings. They have also won their last three games on the spin at the Bescot Stadium against Northampton Town, AFC Wimbledon and Harrogate so will surely make that four this Saturday against a struggling opponent.
Rochdale have been poor this term and sat in 22nd place in the table, just two points above the drop zone. The North West outfit have also won three out of their first 15 matches and are in a relegation scrap this term. They drew 1-1 against Tranmere Rovers last time out and their manager Jim Bentley said his team had to ‘dig in’ which suggests it was a tiring performance for his team so time will tell whether they are able to put in another needed one against Walsall next up. Dale have been dealt a blow on the injury front with striker Scott Quigley out of action for the next few weeks. The Stockport County loan man is their top scorer this term on four goals so they are missing their main goal threat which isn’t ideal. Ian Henderson is his most likely replacement up top but he is 37-years-old now and has only scored once in the league since his switch from Salford City.
Rochdale have struggled in front of goal and only Gillingham have managed to score less so if Walsall can keep it tight at the back, they should beat them.
Colchester United v Stevenage
Colchester United will be in for a tricky afternoon against high-flying Stevenage this weekend.
The U’s are in the relegation zone after their poor start to the season and have only won twice in their opening 15 matches. They drew 2-2 at home to 19th place Crawley Town last time out, with attacking pair Alex Newby and Junior Tchamadeu on the scoresheet, and their boss Matt Bloomfield said he was ‘gutted’ that they didn’t win as his team continue to struggle to pick up points. The Essex outfit have missed Matty Longstaff over recent times and the absence of the Newcastle United loan man has been felt in the heart of midfield, with the likes of Cole Skuse and Marley Marshall-Miranda struggling to create chances for the forward players.
Colchester have lacked goals this term and have the joint-second worse return in the league behind Gillingham along with fellow strugglers Harrogate Town and Rochdale. Their home form also hasn’t been great and they have been beaten on their own patch by Leyton Orient, Grimsby Town and Rochdale so far so will be worrying about Saturday as they prepare to face Steve Evans’ well-drilled side.
Stevenage bounced back from their 3-2 loss at home to Northampton Town last weekend with an impressive 1-0 away win at Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday night, with attacker Jordan Roberts scoring the only goal of the game in the first-half. Evans said afterwards that his group are ‘tremendous’ and will be looking for more of the same against Colchester. He made the decision to drop defender Carl Piergianni to the bench against Donny because he looked ‘tired’ in training and went to a back four which seemed to work as they kept a clean sheet. The former Oldham Athletic and Salford City man will now be fresh for their next game if his manager decides to bring him back in from the start. Stevenage are only a point behind table toppers Leyton Orient in the league and have lost just three out of their first 16 matches which shows what a tough team they are to play against. They are well organised, tough to break down and are capable of scoring goals with attacking threats such as Roberts, Jamie Reid, Danny Rose and Luke Norris. The Hertfordshire are also unbeaten in their last three away clashes so are used to picking up results on their travels.
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