Stockport County v Gillingham
Stockport County are on a roll as they prepare to face struggling Gillingham at home this weekend.
The Hatters have their sights set on the play-offs and have turned a corner under boss Dave Challinor now after a slow start to the season. They beat League One side Charlton Athletic 3-1 in their last game in the FA Cup with midfielder Will Collar scoring a hat-trick and their manager said that he was ‘proud’ of the performance. The Hatters have snapped up former Premier League defender Phil Bardsley on a free transfer this week and he will inject some useful competition to the squad ahead of the second-half of the campaign.
On the selection front, midfielder Antoni Sarcevic has been struggling with an injury worry but the team has plenty of options in his position such as Collar, Ryan Croasdale and Callum Camps which shows their strength in depth. Stockport have lost just once in their last 11 games in all competitions and that was against table toppers Leyton Orient. In addition, they hammered Hartlepool United 5-0 away in their last league match earlier this month so will fancy their chances of extending their impressive run of form on Saturday.
Gillingham sit bottom of the Football League and are at risk of dropping into the National League this term. They have won just two out of their opening 20 games this term and pressure is mounting on their head coach Neil Harris. The Kent club won 3-2 in their last clash against non-league side Dagenham and Redbridge in the cup, with Elkan Baggott, Max Ehmer and Hakeeb Adelakun on the scoresheet. Harris said afterwards that he was ‘pleased’ to get the win but won’t be holding out much hope of doing the same in the league this weekend.
Midfielder Olly Lee and winger Callum Harriott were doubts against the Daggers last week and both ended up staying on the bench in that one so could feature at Edgeley Park. However, there are still question marks over the fitness of versatile Rob McKenzie for their trip up north, with David Tutonda ready to take his place again. Gillingham were thumped 3-0 by Salford City in their last league game and are the lowest scorers in League Two having found the net just six times so far this season. Their lack of goals and a cutting edge up front is a serious worry and they need to sharpen their attack in January if they are to stay up.
Bradford City v Rochdale
Bradford City have a great opportunity to get back to winning ways this weekend at home to lowly Rochdale.
The Bantams have lost their last two league games against Northampton Town and Leyton Orient and will be desperate to bounce back and give their fans some festive cheer. Speaking after their 3-0 away loss to the O’s last time out, boss Mark Hughes said his side need to be ‘better’ so he will be keen for his players to react on Saturday to show they are genuine promotion contenders. The Yorkshire club have signed defender Ciaran Kelly ahead of January from Irish side Bohemians and he will give them another option at the back to the likes of Timo Odusina and Matt Platt which is useful.
Bradford have received a boost on the injury front recently following the return of winger Jamie Walker from his spell on the sidelines and he gives Hughes another player to pick from if he fancies something different to what Tyriek Wright or Scott Banks offers. Despite their recent defeats, the Bantams are still 7th in the table for a reason and should have too much for their next opponents. Striker Andy Cook has scored 16 goals in 24 games in all competitions this term and if he can find his shooting boots again, his team will win.
Rochdale have been poor in this campaign and are in danger of being relegated if they can’t turn their fortunes around. They were battered 4-1 at home by Harrogate Town in their last match and their manager Jim Bentley said he felt ‘embarrassed’ by the result which won’t do the confidence of his players any good. He remains without attacker Tahvan Campbell and midfielder Liam Kelly which isn’t ideal as the key first-team pair remain in the treatment room. However, Rochdale have signed midfielder Danny Lloyd, formerly of Stockport County and Tranmere Rovers, to bolster their squad but it remains to be seen whether he will play a part on Saturday.
The North West outfit are 21st in the table after only four wins in 20 outings and are only above the relegation zone on goal difference. Scoring goals has been an issue for them this term and they have only found the net 14 times, with only bottom of the league Gillingham holding a worse attacking record. To make matters worse, the Dale are winless in their last three matches now and make the trip to Valley Parade in low spirits.
Leyton Orient v Sutton United
Table toppers Leyton Orient should have no problem getting past Sutton United at home on Saturday.
The O’s have been the best team in League Two this season by a mile and are well on their way to promotion to League One. Richie Wellens’ side are well organised, tough to break down and can score goals. They beat Bradford City 3-0 at home last time out courtesy of goals from striker Charlie Kelman, defender Tom James and forward Ruel Sotiriou and their boss said it was a ‘really strong’ performance’. On the selection front, the London club have received a boost with midfielder Craig Clay back from suspension. He came off the bench in the last outing and provides useful competition and depth in the middle of the park alongside the likes of Darren Pratley and George Moncur.
Leyton Orient are four points clear at the summit and have won 15 out of their first 20 matches this term, losing just twice. They have the best defensive record in the division having let in just 12 goals and also have the second best attack in the league behind Northampton Town which shows they are the full package. They will be full of confidence of getting another three points this weekend as they go in search of a fourth consecutive victory.
Sutton haven’t pulled up any trees this season and won’t go up or down. They edged past Colchester United 1-0 at home last time out thanks to midfielder Rob Milson’s penalty and their manager Matt Gray said the game won’t ‘live long in the memory’. His side are a different team away from home and struggle to pick up results on their travels. In fact, they have won just once in their first 10 games on the road so far this term which shows they struggle to get results when they are no playing at Gander Green Lane which is a worry, especially as they prepare to face in-form Leyton Orient.
Sutton welcomed back attacker Will Randall and midfielder Harry Beautyman for their win over Colchester last weekend but youngster Adam Lovatt missed out with concussion. However, the latter could be back now which would be a boost. The U’s will need a bit of luck if they are to get anything from Brisbane Road but they will be under no illusion how difficult of a task it will be. Most signs point towards a home win as Orient look to keep their promotion push well on track against pretty mediocre opponents.
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