Harrogate v Bradford
Saturday 5th February – 1:00PM KO
There is no doubt that Bradford City are not where they want to be in the League Two table right now and will be eyeing a late push for the play-offs.
They have a manager who knows what it takes to get promoted from this level in Derek Adams, having guided both Plymouth Argyle and Morecambe to League One over recent seasons. He said his players showed “great character” to come from behind in midweek to draw with Leyton Orient and is hoping his side can build on that in their Yorkshire debut against Harrogate Town.
The Bantams’ unhappiness of their first-half of the campaign was reflected by their busy January transfer window. They delved into the market to bring five new faces to the club to try and turn their fortunes around. They have significantly boosted their attacking department by luring Tom Elliot, Jamie Walker and Dion Pereira to Valley Parade. The trio provide three different options going forward which means they can shake up their formation now in games to cause problems to their opponents.
Elliot, 31, stands at 6ft 4inc and gives his new club more of a direct option up top. This is different to what current strikers Andy Cook and Charles Vernam offer as they both tend to use their pace to make runs in-behind in games. The latter is injured at the moment and will be out for this weekend which gives their recruit from Salford City the perfect opportunity to start and potentially find his first goal.
Harrogate are in for a tough game against a resurgent Bradford side who have plenty of offensive players at their disposal now. Simon Weaver’s men are not in the best of form and have won just once in their last four games. To make matters worse, they are sweating on the fitness of starting centre-back pairing Lewis Richards and Rory McArdle after they both went off injured against Mansfield Town last time out. Leon Legge came off the bench and seems the most likely to step in on Saturday. This will be music to ears of Bradford’s attackers as he is now 36-years-old and has only played eight times so far this season. In addition, he only joined Harrogate last month and is still getting used to his new surroundings and teammates.
Prediction: Bradford Double Chance, 1.53 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Sutton United v Bristol Rovers
Saturday 5th February – 3:00PM KO
Two divisions separated Sutton United and Bristol Rovers last season but here they are locking horns in League Two these days.
There isn’t much to separate the two clubs right now either with both in strong form. The U’s are loving life in their first ever season in the Football League and are surprise automatic promotion contenders. They are only outside the top three on goal difference and are six points inside the top seven. Matt Gray’s side boosted their hopes of back-to-back promotions with their 2-0 away win at Carlisle United last time out and their manager said his side were “outstanding” and they should have been “out of sight” at half-time.
Sutton haven’t lost in nine games in all competitions and have proven they can score goals for fun having fired 16 since the last time they lost on 7th December to 3rd place Newport County. They are also only one game away from Wembley in the Papa John’s Trophy after beating Harrogate Town in the quarter-final last week.
The closing of the January transfer window was welcomed by everyone associated with London club. This is because they managed to keep hold of seven-goal David Ajoboye and Millwall decided not to recall seven-goal Isaac Olaofe. They don’t just rely on their striking duo for goals though and they spread them across the whole team which is a key reason behind their impressive form. Experienced midfielder Robbie Milson has chipped in with five, as have Alistair Smith and Will Randall.
Bristol Rovers are no pushovers at the moment and make the trip to the Gander Green Stadium in confident mood. The Gas have turned a corner after a poor first-half of the season and are unbeaten in their last five games in the league. They beat Walsall with a dramatic last-gasp winner from Aaron Collins last weekend despite going down to 10 men when right-back Luca Hoole saw red. That means he will be out for the Sutton clash but his side have a perfectly adequate replacement in Cardiff City loan man James Connolly. Their boss, Joey Barton, said after their last match that the club is “united” now and he was backed on deadline day when the club signed Newcastle United’s Elliot Anderson on loan. He is due to make his debut this weekend and gives his side more competition in depth in attack. The youngster has made two first-team appearances for the Toon Army so far, one of which came in the Premier League against Arsenal last season, and it will be intriguing to see how he gets on in League Two. There will be goals in this one as both sides are purring.
Prediction: Both Teams to Score, 1.75 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Salford v Port Vale
Saturday 5th February – 3:00PM KO
It is unheard of for Salford City to give a manager time but they have been loyal by their standards to Gary Bowyer over the past couple of months.
Their owners place a strong emphasis of getting into the play-offs and the Ammies are starting to look up the table and not down it after three wins in their last five games. Their boss said he was “delighted” with their win over Carlisle United last time out and claimed they were ”better side” from start to finish. Their win over the Cumbrians means they are only three points off the top seven now and was their 11th victory of the campaign.
They could have easily sacked Bowyer like they did with Graham Alexander and Richie Wellens who stood before him but didn’t this time and even backed him in the January transfer window. They managed to lure Matt Smith down from Championship side Millwall in a transfer that raised eyebrows in Football League. He has replaced Tom Elliot, who has been sold to Bradford City, and has already beaten his predecessor’s tally of one goal for the season to date. The 6ft 6inc attacker managed 21 goals in 102 matches for his previous club and has also played for the likes of Leeds United, Fulham and QPR over the past few seasons so arrives in the fourth tier boasting some serious pedigree and will be tough for Port Vale to keep quiet.
Salford have also been handed a big boost with key attacker Brandon Thomas-Asante returning from suspension against Carlisle on Tuesday. He has scored eight goals in the league this term and Ashley Hunter stepped in his shoes during his four-game absence. The ex-Rochdale managed to get on the scoresheet in their recent match against Barrow to prove he can also be relied upon.
Port Vale’s goals have significantly dried up over recent weeks and they have scored just three goals in five matches. Darrell Clarke’s side relied a lot on James Wilson earlier in this campaign after he chipped in with seven goals in all competitions. However, he hasn’t found the net since 13th November against Bradford City. Jamie Procter is injured too and they are missing his aerial threat. Their attacking alternatives Kian Harratt and Ryan Edmondson are aged 19 and 20 respectively and lack experience at League Two level. To matters worse, the Valiants also lost winger Dennis Politic this winter after his impressive spell on loan from Bolton Wanderers. They are in for a tough match at Salford this weekend
Prediction: Salford to Win, 2.63 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Barrow v Tranmere Rovers
Saturday 5th February – 3:00PM KO
Tranmere Rovers showed their resilience and character by beating Stevenage 1-0 at home on Tuesday night to bounce back from their 4-0 loss to Forest Green Rovers.
Micky Mellon’s side are eyeing an immediate promotion back to League One under the manager who got them up last time in 2020. He said their win last time out was “really important” and said his side will “keep going” as they head to Barrow this weekend.
In terms of team news, experienced centre-back Nathaniel Knight-Percival is back up to full fitness now which means Sam Foley no longer needs to be stepping in for him out of position. He knows what it takes to grind out wins and win promotion from League Two after helping the unfancied Morecambe do just that last season. The 34-year-old has been around the block, racking up over 600 appearances in his career to date, and has formed a solid partnership alongside veteran Peter Clarke in the heart of Tranmere’s defence.
The Whites don’t concede many goals at all and boast the best defensive record in the division, leaking just 19 in 28 matches with four being against Forest Green. Their goalkeeper Ross Doohan can relax knowing he has a solid backline in front of him and has proven he can keep his side in games on the rare occasion their defence is breached. The Celtic loan man has only let in 19 goals in 22 matches and has made the number one spot his own ahead of Joe Murphy this term.
At the other end of the pitch, the Merseyside club have only managed to find the net on 29 occasions during the first-half of this campaign and delved into the transfer market to solve this issue. The main reason they are 2nd in the table is because of their sturdy defence and they would be closer to Forest Green if they had brought in the winter recruits Kane Hemmings and Josh McPake last summer instead. Tranmere moved to land the pair last month to try and add more of a cutting edge to their ranks and they have both adapted well to life at Prenton Park so far. Hemmings fired 15 goals in League One last season for Burton Albion, whilst McPake impressed on loan at Harrogate Town from Scottish champions Rangers by chipping in with four goals from the wing. If those two are on their game on Saturday then Barrow are in for a tough afternoon.
Mark Cooper’s men have proven they are no pushovers in League Two this season and sit 10 points above the relegation zone. They have struggled on home soil recently though and have lost their last three on the spin at Holker Street to Bradford City, Mansfield Town and Salford City. To make matters worse for the Cumbrian outfit, they will be without key winger Josh Kay for the next few weeks. He has managed four goals and three assists and has been ever-present this season. Sunderland loan man Will Harris is the most likely candidate to replace him in the line-up but is yet to find the net since his winter switch and is inexperienced at this level.
Prediction: Tranmere Double Chance, 1.40 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
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