We have a full billing of matches on Halloween – but who will resurrect their season hopes this Saturday and who will suffer a horror show in EFL Gameweek 10? EFL pundit Gabriel Sutton treats us to his best bets.
Middlesbrough to win to nil
Middlesbrough v Nottingham Forest
Nottingham Forest drew 1-1 at Luton on Wednesday night with ten men, after Nicolas Ioannou’s dismissal just before half-time.
Chris Hughton will be disappointed that, while his side pressed efficiently early on and looked the better side with the game goalless, the intensity went out of their display after they conceded.
It was a poor goal to give away, too and it looked for 15 minutes of the second half as though the game might slip away from them, but Joe Lolley and Cyrus Christie inspired them back into action, with the latter’s cross turned in by a Luton head.
Nonetheless, there is much to put right for the trip to Middlesbrough, who have made a bright start.
Neil Warnock’s side are unbeaten since the 1-0 loss at Watford on opening night and have won three of their last five games, a sequence that also includes creditable draws with Cardiff and Reading.
Boro beat Coventry 2-0 on Tuesday and although the goals from Britt Assombalonga and Djed Spence came late, they created enough chances over the course of the evening to merit victory.
The tenacity of Sam Morsy, the experience of Jonny Howson and the assurance of George Saville gives the Teessiders the perfect blend of ability on the ball and commitment to the press.
Defenders Anfernee Dijksteel and Paddy McNair, meanwhile, have started the season in excellent form in Warnock’s back-three.
Having had an extra day of preparation, Middlesbrough look well-placed for victory here.
Dael Fry won 6 more Aerial duels than any other player on the pitch.
Paddy McNair completed more Dribbles than the entire Coventry team.
No Coventry player made more Key passes than Dijksteel.
An incredibly versatile back three.
— Boro Data (@DataBoro) October 27, 2020
There has been very few games so far in which Middlesbrough haven’t sustained a very high intensity and lots of games in which Nottingham Forest have looked disjointed.Gabriel Sutton
Brentford to win
Luton Town v Brentford
Few would have expected Luton to be two points ahead of Brentford in the top half at this stage, but that is the case after the two sides both drew 1-1 in midweek.
There will be regret for both at not taking all three points, because Brentford created enough chances to put Norwich to bed on Tuesday night before being thwarted by an 87th minute equalizer, while Luton on Wednesday failed to capitalize on their man advantage.
The Hatters had a nervy start, but after Glen Rea turned the ball home they grew in confidence and, after Ioannou’s red card could have been on course for a comfortable evening, had complacency not crept in midway through the second period, when Rea put the ball into the wrong net.
The defence Rea protects will have a tough time containing Ivan Toney, who has started the season in sensational form for the West Londoners, with eight goals in eight league appearances.
Brentford’s threat last season was the collective fluency of the front three of Said Benrahma, Bryan Mbuemo and Ollie Watkins but, with Benrahma and Watkins having earnt Premier League moves this summer, the dynamic of the attack is very different.
Brentford are looking not so much at how to open teams up generally, but rather how to create clear cut chances specifically for Toney.
In Josh Dasilva, Emiliano Marcondes and Saman Ghoddos, Thomas Frank’s side have players who can do just that.
Since the start of last season, Ivan Toney has averaged a league goal every 112 minutes.
That’s better than:
🏴 Anyone else in the EFL
🇦🇷 Lionel Messi
🇪🇬 Mohammed Salah
🏴 Jamie Vardy
🇬🇦 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
🏴 Harry Kane
🇺🇾 Luis Suarez@ivantoney24 #BrentfordFC pic.twitter.com/Up4Cw6NtdK
— The Second Tier (@secondtierpod) October 20, 2020
Brentford’s attacks revolve around Ivan Toney this season and I see the former Peterborough striker doing the damage once again at Luton.Gabriel Sutton
Fleetwood to win -1
Fleetwood Town v Oxford United
Fleetwood have kicked their season into life with back-to-back wins.
Right-back was a key area for the Trawlermen to address after Lewie Coyle departed, so Joey Barton has added Tom Edwards and the Stoke loanee has made an instant impact.
Edwards and left-back Danny Andrew hold the width for the Fylde coast outfit, which creates that extra space for Paul Coutts – who has impressed at Championship level previously with Sheffield United – to dictate play with real assurance.
The defensive presence Edwards provides also means Wes Burns can operate higher up the pitch and attack the byline aggressively to set up hold-up striker Ched Evans and intelligent forward Paddy Madden, while Mark Duffy can create between the lines.
Fleetwood struggled defensively at the start of the season with an inexperienced rear-guard, but the signing of Charlie Mulgrew has transformed the back-line with his organisational and ball-playing qualities.
They are an ominous assignment, therefore, for Oxford, who sit 23rd in League One – with games in hand on the teams above them – looking disjointed and imbalanced.
So much of the Yellows’ play looks skewed towards the right-hand side, where right-back Sean Clare as well as midfielders James Henry, Mark Sykes and Anthony Forde all like to operate.
10 of Oxford’s starting line-up in their 2-0 defeat at Charlton last time out are right-footed and even Josh Ruffels, a left-footed, is not a quick left-back who can attack the flank; he will look for passing options and often play inside.
With so much of Oxford’s play condensed towards one side of the pitch, they will have less space, the build-up play will look awkward and Fleetwood will gain the encouragement to press high, then attack ruthlessly in transition.
If Barton’s side get ahead, more goals should follow.
⛔️Best #EFL save percentages this season:
90%🧤: 🔴JAYSON LEUTWILER🔴
87%🧤: Asmir Begović
86%🧤: Alex Palmer, Rafael Cabral
85%🧤: Ben Foster, Neil Etheridge
83%🧤: Václav Hladký, Jamie Cumming
82%🧤: Liam Roberts, Ben Amos, Freddie Woodman#ftfc #OnwardTogether pic.twitter.com/BSZuYwg9YW
— playmakerstats (@playmaker_EN) October 28, 2020
Oxford have started their season in a very disjointed manner while, after back-to-back wins, Fleetwood look ready to motor up the league.Gabriel Sutton
Under 2.5 Goals
Wigan Athletic v Northampton Town
Wigan and Northampton come into this game off the back of disappointing defeats to nil.
Wigan lost 2-0 at MK Dons without hitting the target from any of their five efforts at goal, while Town were thrashed 4-0 at Portsmouth.
The scoreline was perhaps slightly harsh on Keith Curle’s side, who nullified the promotion contenders in the first half and created decent chances while the game was goalless – Ryan Watson skewed a great chance wide when through on goal – before the game got taken away from them in the second half.
Curle will be determined to re-organize the Cobblers for their trip to Wigan, who have very much a cobbled together squad.
They had, on paper, attacking wing-backs in Gavin Massey and Tom Pearce at MK on Tuesday, but both were positioned so far deep that they struggled to get crosses into the box for striker Joe Garner, with just 14 wide deliveries all game.
Will Keane was forced off after nine minutes and the striker, whom Oliver Crankshaw struggled to replace, joins key utility man Kal Naismith and direct wide man Viv Solomon-Otabor on the sidelines.
With six centre-backs likely to be on the pitch and both sets of wing-backs likely to stay back for long spells, this could be a game that sees defences on top.
Next 5 for #NTFC:
Pompey brushed Sunderland aside the other day. See how we do against that lot before grabbing the pitchforks.
— Butch (@AlexButcher12) October 27, 2020
Wigan and Northampton have been affected deeply by summer departures and we could see a low-scoring game between two sides who would both do very well to stay in this division.Gabriel Sutton
Forest Green Draw No Bet
Cheltenham Town v Forest Green Rovers
Gloucestershire Derbies between Cheltenham and Forest Green – otherwise known as “El-Glosicos” – can be spicy affairs.
Both clubs are modest about their stature in relation to Swindon and both Bristol clubs, so these local clashes take on extra significance.
The rivalry came to life in the National League title race of 2015-16 and while Cheltenham were successful that year, they are hoping to undo their recent home struggles against Forest Green, who have recorded 1-0 and 2-1 victories in the previous three seasons.
Unlike those games, though, this match could also have an ultimate say in the promotion race, with both sides likely to be in the mix.
Mark Cooper’s side leapfrogged Cheltenham into the top three on Tuesday night with a 1-0 win over Grimsby, in which they were boosted by the return of Nicky Cadden.
The left wing-back’s pace and willingness to attack the final third makes him a big threat to opponents, who sometimes sit back in fear of Cadden, which is what can allow Forest Green to gain more ground through Odin Bailey’s link-up play and Liam Kitching’s overlapping runs from his wide centre-back role.
The Green have a focal point, too, in Jamille Matt, who is the division’s joint-second top goalscorer with five, while Cooper can bring in lively forward Aaron Collins, too, when his side face a Robins side that lost 2-1 at Port Vale last time out.
Michael Duff felt his side were the better team for an hour but he was disappointed with the lack of ruthlessness in the opposing penalty area, as well as the manner of the “soft” goals conceded after taking the lead. In fact, Duff was more critical of his players than most would be in identical circumstances.
It’s common after a draw or win for a manager to claim it the type of game their side would have lost last season, but the Northern Irish boss suggested “we don’t get beaten here last year”, which is an irregular assertion that implies the mentality was stronger in the 2019-20 campaign.
Cheltenham should be in and around the promotion mix this season, but it’s hard to see Forest Green being defeated.
That’s the first time Rovers have won three consecutive home games (across all competitions) since February 2018.#FGRFC #WeAreFGR
— Laurie (@lauriemartin263) October 27, 2020
This year’s El-Glosico could take on extra significance with both sides likely to be in the promotion mix, but Forest Green have only lost once all season and I don’t see them making that short trip back to Nailsworth empty-handed.Gabriel Sutton
Cambridge to win
Crawley Town v Cambridge United
The team that has won two home games 4-0 already this season hosts the team that has twice won 5-0 on the road.
Crawley and Cambridge both know how to dish out a thrashing, but it is the second-placed U’s who have found the consistency, six points and seven places better off in second.
Wes Hoolahan was a high-profile signing, yet Mark Bonner’s side have proved they can be effective without “The Irish Messi”, winning 2-0 at Walsall last time out.
In Hoolahan’s absence, Cambridge can incorporate in-form Joe Ironside as a strike-partner for the on fire Paul Mullin – both grabbed a goal in the Midlands – as well as pushing Harrison Dunk further forward on the left.
We are not seeing an unhealthy reliance on one player, therefore, quite the opposite – Bonner has healthy dilemmas every weekend.
His opposite number, John Yems, also has appealing attacking options with recruits Max Watters and Tom Nichols having grabbed seven goals in a combined 13 appearances.
Watters, on loan from Doncaster, is very much unproven in the EFL so his fine form is something of a surprise and while Nichols has thrived at this level before with Exeter, his goalscoring credentials were questioned at Bristol Rovers.
The goals can flood in for Crawley at times, but in other games they perhaps miss a physical focal point which could be problematic against a stout Cambridge side, who have kept five clean sheets in their first nine games and conceded more than once on just the one occasion.
Robbie Cundy had an outstanding start to his loan spell from Bristol City, but the aerial specialist has been replaced at centre-back by Harry Darling and now cannot get in the team, such is the strength of options available to Bonner.
BIG JOE 😍
The hardest working player in the League…there we said it!#CamUTD pic.twitter.com/rBS4rMJ8oc
— Cambridge United FC (@CambridgeUtdFC) October 27, 2020
Cambridge’s form so far this season, and the manner of their victories, suggests they are there to stay in the promotion race – it may not be long before they are quoted as clear, odds-on favourites in some games, so this could be one of the last remaining opportunities to back them at a generous price.Gabriel Sutton