Crawley Town v Doncaster Rovers
It should never have had to come to this, but Crawley Town’s chances of survival in League Two this season look to be back on track. A rallying cry for club and fanbase unity from co-owner Preston Johnson has been followed up with precious consecutive wins over Harrogate Town and AFC Wimbledon. Those results have lifted the Red Devils out of the fourth tier relegation zone, a point above Hartlepool United and still with two games in hand on them. Scott Lindsey’s 4-4-2 is spearheaded by Ashley Nadesan and Dom Telford, the former still an underrated forward at this level and the latter a marque signing from the summer after winning the golden boot with Newport County in 2021-22. The signing of experienced midfielder Jordan Mutch has given Crawley an extra edge in the centre of the park, the 31-year-old looking a good partner to Jack Powell with Aramide Oteh on the left and the now-fit James Tilley operating on the right.
Doncaster Rovers have been a true model of inconsistency this season, short streaks of wins have regularly followed short streaks of defeats, Donny’s overall 15-5-16 record is the perfect reflection of a frustrating mid-table side. Danny Schofield has intent with his proactive, possession-based systems, but they are failing to set the division alight on a regular basis. Emergency loan goalkeeper Stuart Moore took his place between the sticks for Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Salford City, a sixth defeat in nine matches on the road with only two away wins recorded in that time.
Tommy Rowe, often cited as a valuable player for his ability and incredible versatility, feels wasted as either the left-back in a back four or left centre-back in a back three. George Miller has goals in consecutive games, now up to 11 this season in League Two, but had previously gone three months without a goal before scoring against AFC Wimbledon and like his team is inconsistent with end product. Kyle Hurst and Luke Molyneux are wingers who have had moments of impact this season rather than prolonged periods.
Chasing a third consecutive win that could build a game between themselves and the relegation zone, Crawley Town have to take advantage of the opposition that are coming to Broadfield Stadium. Doncaster’s inconsistency makes them a difficult side to predict, but they are clearly a team that can be got at and exploited in possession. With around 9-10 games left this season, there is much more riding on a match like this for the hosts than there is for the mid-table visitors. The Red Devils need to smell blood.
Gillingham v Crewe Alexandra
Gillingham will fancy their chances of beating an inconsistent Crewe Alexandra side this week as they look to pull further away from the relegation zone.
Despite losing 2-0 away at Walsall last time out, the Gills have turned a corner since the turn of the year and are seven points above the bottom two. Their boss Neil Harris said it was a ‘tight game’ against the Saddlers and will be eager to see a response against the Railwaymen on Tuesday night.
On the selection front, the Kent club have received a big boost with versatile Rob McKenzie, who can play in defence or in midfield if needed, returning from injury off the bench over the weekend and left-back Lewis Page is also close to full fitness so he will provide another option to David Tutonda. The confidence has slowly seeped back into this Gillingham team over recent months and they no longer look like they will be heading into the National League after turning their fortunes around. Harris’ side have won five of their last six home games so have made Priestfield a fortress as they look to pick up another three points on their own patch.
Crewe’s season has fizzled out now and they have nothing to play for as they keep a tentative eye on the summer and the next campaign. They lost 1-0 away at Northampton Town last Saturday and have now lost back-to-back games after being beaten by the same scoreline by Stevenage in the game prior. Speaking after their clash against the Cobblers, their manager Lee Bell said it was an ‘avoidable’ defeat but his players continue to leak goals at the back which is a worry for him.
In terms of injuries, midfield Tariq Uwakwe and Ryan Finnigan missed out against Northampton due to injuries and it remains to be seen whether they will be available, with Callum Ainley, Joel Tabiner and Charlie Colkett the most likely trio in the middle of the park but they lack the creativity needed to create a lot of chances in games. Crewe find themselves down in 18th place and can’t go up or down now so they may find it hard to motivate themselves over the next couple of months. They have won just once in their last seven outings and another negative result beckons against the Gills based on recent form and performances.
Accrington Stanley v Plymouth Argyle
Accrington Stanley are one point from safety with ten games remaining in League One and will be hurting after their 1-0 defeat to home to Milton Keynes Dons on Saturday.
Stanley only mustered 0.54 expected goals (xG) against Mark Jackson’s Dons as they continue to suffer from injury issues.
Jay Rich-Baghuelou has been out long term, Joe Pritchard missing since late December and Ethan Hamilton has not played since late January, to name a few key absentees and the quick turnaround for this fixture certainly suits the visitors more.
Plymouth Argyle were able to rest and rotate as they eased past Forest Green Rovers on Saturday, with the players of the quality of Callum Wright, Jay Matete, Ryan Hardie and Dan Scarr all starting on the bench. Michael Cooper, Adam Randell, and Tyreik Wright are yet to return for the Pilgrims ahead of the trip to the Crown Ground.
Stanley have only scored more than one goal in one of their last 12 league outings, and that was against FGR, losing three of four. While Argyle are the second-highest scorers in the division in chasing down automatic promotion.
Barnsley v Sheffield Wednesday
Sky Sports have live coverage of the best-possible fixture in League One right now. For months, Barnsley have amassed a points total expected from that of a side that achieves automatic promotion once the campaign is over. The Tykes enter this Oakwell clash on an 11-game unbeaten run, failing to score just once in that run when they drew 0-0 at Bristol Rovers.
Michael Duff has nailed down his 3-5-2 formation with an almost fully consistent starting eleven, the only rotation coming up top. On Saturday, Luton Town loanee Harry Isted registered a fifth clean sheet since arriving in the January window. The back three of Liam Kitching, Mads Juel Andersen and Burnley loanee Bobby Thomas offer a fantastic mix of physicality and positioning in front of him. Left-wing-back Nicky Cadden is rediscovering the form and performances that made him a League Two title winner with Forest Green Rovers just last season. Jordan Williams looks equally adept on the right. Barnsley’s midfield trio of Herbie Kane, Luca Connell and Adam Phillips form one of the best central units outside the Championship, three players capable of interchanging roles during a game and provided excellent composure and decision-making on the ball. James Norwood and Devante Cole are the regular starters up top, on eight and 10 goals respectively this season. Cardiff City loanee Max Watters was handed the start ahead of Cole in a crucial game against Wycombe Wanderers last weekend, with Manchester City loanee Slobodan Tedic scoring the winner from off the bench.
The only team who can rival and beat Barnsley’s phenomenal points return are Sheffield Wednesday. A point clear at the top with two games in hand on both second and third, a 1-1 draw on Friday night extended the Owls unbeaten run in League One to a staggering 23 matches. Dominic Iorfa is back available following a one-game suspension and will likely slot back into the back three alongside Aden Flint and Akin Famewo. Liam Palmer could therefore be pushed forward to the right-wing-back role in Wednesday’s 3-5-2, joining a central unit that contains the disciplined Will Vaulks, star passer Barry Bannan and dynamic midfielder Fisayo Dele-Bashiru. The front pair of Josh Windass and Michael Smith have 11 goals each in League One this season, Smith being rested for Lee Gregory on Friday, a night when the latter scored his sixth this campaign. Darren Moore’s side have failed to score just twice in their 23-game unbeaten run, both matches back in December 2022.
The biggest game this midweek is a massive South Yorkshire clash at the top of the third tier. Barnsley got bragging rights in the original fixture back in September, still the only league match that Sheffield Wednesday have lost at Hillsborough this season. Both sides meet at Oakwell on long unbeaten runs, with consistent starting elevens and a habit of scoring in each game they play. They’ll both be wanting to continue that trend on Tuesday night.
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