Harrogate Town v Hartlepool United
Hartlepool United have an exciting Papa John’s Trophy semi-final clash against Rotherham United at home next Wednesday with the club dreaming of a trip to Wembley.
They have one more League Two game to get through first though with a tricky trip to Harrogate Town on Saturday. You can forgive the Pools for being slightly distracted by their upcoming cup clash as the club have a serious chance of winning some silverware this season. They were beaten 3-1 last time out by Walsall and their boss, Graeme Lee, said he was “disappointed” with the result. He has a few selection headaches for the trip to Yorkshire this weekend and could make some changes to freshen up his ranks with the Rotherham game on his mind. In terms of injury news, the North East outfit were handed a boost by the return of injured trio Jamie Sterry, Reagan Ogle and Joe Grey against the Saddlers. However, they are sweating on the fitness of Burton Albion loan man Bryn Morris, who has missed the past three matches now with an ankle injury that he suffered on 19th February against Sutton United. He has been replaced in the middle of the park by both Mark Shelton and Middlesbrough loanee Isaac Fletcher during his absence but has been missed by his teammates. Prior to their loss at Walsall, Hartlepool were on decent form and were unbeaten in eight games so will be looking to get back to winning ways.
Harrogate are comfortably sat in mid-table and can look forward to being a League Two club once again next season. Simon Weaver’s side drew 1-1 with in-form Port Vale last time out thanks to midfielder Alex Pattison’s 10th league goal of the campaign and their boss said it was a “good point” for his side and they will be looking for the same again when the Pools come to town. The Yorkshire club haven’t lost for three games now and have a clean bill of health to choose from. Their luck on the injury front has seen midfielder Ryan Fallowfield and defender Lewis Richards return to the action recently, leaving usual regulars Lloyd Kerry and Josh Austerfield missing out making the squad over the past couple of games. Competition for places can only be a good thing for Weaver as his side look to have a strong end to the season. They have proven they can score goals of late and fired 10 goals during in their matches in February.
Bradford City v Swindon Town
Bradford City’s appointment of former Premier League boss Mark Hughes last week has certainly raised eyebrows across the Football League.
The Bantams have turned to the Welshman as their replacement for Derek Adams but he was beaten on his first game in charge last weekend 2-0 at home to in-form Mansfield Town. Nevertheless, the ex-Manchester City and Southampton manager said it was a “battling performance” and will be eager to pick up his first result this weekend as promotion chasing Swindon Town come to town. Bradford’s chances of making the play-offs this season are fading away fast and they currently sit 13 points away now with just 12 games left. Nevertheless, they are riding the wave of Hughes’ appointment and their players will be keen to impress their new boss. The Yorkshire side will be without key centre-back Paudie O’Connor after he picked up a red card in the last match against the Stags so Fiacre Kelleher is the most likely candidate to step into his shoes. Defender Matty Foulds could also make his return to the squad having missed the past couple of matches through illness which will be a boost. They have lost their past four games on the spin and their poor run has to come to an end at some point with another bumper crowd expected at Valley Parade after over 14,500 were there last week.
Swindon make the trip to Bradford on Saturday desperate to get back to winning ways after losing 2-1 to Salford City at home last time out. The Robins had won their past three matches on the spin against Scunthorpe United, Carlisle United and Walsall, without conceding and scoring 11 goals, before getting beat by the Ammies. Their boss, Ben Garner, said he couldn’t “fault the effort of the players” after that one and said that attacking pair Louie Barry and Harry McKirdy both went off after rolling their ankles. The Wiltshire outfit will be hoping that both will be fine for the weekend, especially the latter who has now scored 15 goals and assisted nine so far this season and is their main attacking outlet after joining last summer from Port Vale. Attacking midfielder Jack Payne has been out over the past few weeks but academy graduate Ricky Aguiar has stepped up to the plate to replace him, chipping in with a couple of goals along the way. Swindon are still well and truly in the hunt for promotion to League One and are outside the play-offs behind Mansfield by a single point.
Sutton United v Rochdale
It is a good time to be a Sutton United supporter with the club eyeing promotion to League One and one game away from Wembley in the Papa John’s Trophy.
Matt Gray’s side take on League One outfit Wigan Athletic in the semi-final next Tuesday but have a home clash against out of sorts Rochdale to get through this Saturday first. The U’s go into the game full of confidence after battering Scunthorpe United 4-1 in their last match. They got the job done against the side sitting rock bottom of the table and their boss said he was “very pleased” with the win. Attacking pair Richie Bennett and Isaac Olaofe are out injured which saw Donovan Wilson and Omar Bugiel lead the line against the Iron. The team found their goals from other sources though with winger Will Randall and defenders Joseph Kizzi and Rob Milsom finding the net. Sutton remain well in the hunt for promotion from the fourth tier at the moment and are 5th in the table, three points inside the play-offs and two points off the top two. They have lost just once in 13 games as they look pick up another three points this weekend and haven’t been beaten at home since 30th October against Walsall in a run spanning back nine matches.
Rochdale suffered a disappointing 2-0 loss to relegation threatened Carlisle United in midweek and their boss, Robbie Stockdale, admitted it was a “frustrating evening” for his side. The North West club have not been enjoying themselves on the road over recent times and have won just once in their last seven away matches. They are still in need of some more victories between now and the end of the season as they sit in 17th place in the table, eight points above the drop zone. The Dale were dealt a big blow in the January transfer window by losing key pair Aaron Morley and Jake Beesley to Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool respectively. They brought in the likes of Tahvon Campbell, Luke Charman and James Ball to try and fill the void left by their departures but the team have won just twice in 10 games so far in 2022. They have been boosted by the return of midfielder Jimmy Keohane in the middle of the park and he has come back into the starting XI over the past two games. However, he may be powerless to stop a confident Sutton side this weekend.
Crawley Town v Scunthorpe United
Scunthorpe United are on the brink of dropping out of the Football League for the first time in their history.
The Iron sit rock bottom of League Two and are nine points from safety with just 12 games left. Keith Hill’s side have won just four out of their 32 matches this term and were beaten once again last time out 4-1 by promotion chasing Sutton United away. Their boss says they ”folded under pressure” under pressure which doesn’t bode well for them as they prepare to make the trip to Crawley Town this weekend. Scunthorpe have won just once on their travels in this campaign and that was against fellow relegation threatened side Oldham Athletic back in December. To make matters worse, their defender Lewis Thompson has been ruled out injured for the next nine to 12 months meaning the next time they see him they may well be a National League club. Mason O’Malley stepped in for him in the last match and is the main candidate to do so again against Crawley but he couldn’t do much to prevent Sutton from breaching their defence on four occasions. Midfielder Alfie Beestin has missed the past couple of games through illness and his side will assess his chances of playing on Saturday. 34-year-old Anthony Grant has playing in his position whilst he’s been gone but will he last another 90 minutes?
Crawley beat top of the table Forest Green Rovers last weekend to boost their hopes of a late push for the play-offs. Their manager, John Yems, said it was “up there” with one of the best performances of the season. The Red Devils were then held 2-2 by Oldham in midweek to make it just one defeat in their last seven matches. Striker Ashley Nadesan has hit form at the moment and has fired three goals in his past two matches. The attacker was brought on as a substitute for the injured Aramide Oteh against Forest Green after just 15 minutes but is stepping up to the plate in place of the former QPR man. Crawley are hoping that midfielder James Tilley can make his return to the squad after missing out on the past two games with a head injury. He has made 18 league appearances this season and Yems has a decision to make as to whether to play him or keep Southampton loanee Will Ferry in the side against Scunthorpe.
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