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AFC Wimbledon’s homecoming is the pick of the stories this Tuesday in EFL Gameweek 11 and EFL pundit Gabriel Sutton previews the action

Half-time/Full-time Draw/Norwich

Norwich City v Millwall

Norwich delivered the most complete performance of their Championship campaign on Saturday when they won 3-1 at Bristol City.

The Canaries played some great football in the first half with Marco Stiepermann and Jacob Sørensen finding Teemu Pukki through lovely diagonal passes and the Fin put them two goals ahead early on.

Though they conceded a minute after Pukki’s second, Emi Buendia produced a fine finish to re-establish their two-goal advantage after a first half display full of sublime passing and movement reminiscent of the 2018-19 title-winners.

Daniel Farke’s side showed different qualities in the second half, too, in smart game management, a skill they hope to utilize when hosting Millwall.

The Lions lost 3-0 at home to Huddersfield last time out, in the absence of manager Gary Rowett, who tested positive for COVID and is self-isolating. We wish him a healthy recovery.

In these types of circumstances – and against this type of opposition – we can expect the Londoners, led by club captain Alex Pearce as acting manager, to operate with an ultra-defensive 5-4-1.

Shane Ferguson could replace Connor Mahoney for a conservative switch on the left while Jed Wallace, on the right, may be the only player handed much freedom to bridge the gap between the midfield and the main striker, either Matt Smith or Tom Bradshaw.

With this type of strategy, Norwich may not be able to carve Millwall open like they did Bristol City early on – and that game was the first time they have been ahead at half-time this season – so this one could be level at the interval.

The Canaries, though, have scored six goals in the last 15 minutes of matches – more than any side this season – and their pressure should tell in the end.

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Millwall will assume a compact setup which could be tricky to breach in the first half for Norwich and, like against Birmingham, it might not be until the second half that they find the solutions.

Gabriel Sutton

Double Chance: Draw/Barnsley

Cardiff City v Barnsley

4/6

Barnsley continued their 100% winning record under Valérien Ismaël after a 1-0 victory over Watford on Saturday.

We saw in Tuesday’s 3-0 win over QPR, his first game in charge, that the attacking trio of Cauley Woodrow’s technical qualities, Conor Chaplin’s athleticism and Dominik Frieser’s selfless running worked perfectly.

Against the Hornets, it was the defence that stood out most with Michael Sollbauer’s organisational qualities and Mads Andersen’s talent flanking Michal Helik’s aerial dominance in Ismael’s 3-4-3 setup.

Add in midfield battler Alex Mowatt’s capacity to hit a belter combined with Callum Styles’ creative energy and there is much to like about this Tykes team.

Ismael’s side have a great chance of avoiding defeat at Cardiff, who are yet to accrue a home league victory this term in four attempts.

The Bluebirds have, in Kieffer Moore, arguably the most complete striker in the division – and Barnsley fans will be familiar with his strength, height, hold-up play, mobility and goalscoring nous, with Moore having scored 21 league goals in a season and a half with The Tykes.

Moore can be effective at turning an average long ball into good one through those range of qualities, which made him crucial to victories at Nottingham Forest and Preston.

Equally, Moore’s individual ability can lure his teammates into the trap of growing lazier in terms of their work in possession; a striker with less pace would need service from higher up, a striker with less strength would need more accurate through balls, a striker with less of both would need ball to feet.

Moore could be a vital player, but Neil Harris must be careful that his side do have the wherewithal and awareness to vary their approach play because so far, Cardiff have looked one-dimensional.

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There is a lot to like at the moment about Barnsley, who could be underrated against a one-dimensional Cardiff side.

Gabriel Sutton

Draw

Shrewsbury Town v Burton Albion

Shrewsbury Town and Burton Albion are two clubs with much in common at present.

As recently as 2017-18, Salop were a Play-Off Final away from the Championship, where the Brewers had resided for two seasons, but the second tier feels a long way away this year for these Midland clubs, who are battling the drop under unproven managers.

In fact, Shrews boss Sam Ricketts is under pressure from natives after a run of five consecutive defeats.

The former defender promised more expansive football this season, with a switch from the conservative 3-5-2 to a more attacking 4-3-3.

The only real change is that they are having more possession – 53.1% on average is the third-highest in the division – but that is not seeing them pose much more of a goal threat.

Burton have a hint of a threat in Kane Hemmings, who bagged a brace in the 2-2 draw at Peterborough last Tuesday and managed to get on the scoresheet in Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to Blackpool.

Part of the problem Buxton has is that he is missing arguably five players – technical right-siders Neal Eardley and John Brayford as well as aerial powerhouse Michael Bostwick plus left-siders Kieran Wallace and Reece Hutchinson – who would all enhance his side’s defensive efforts.

It seemed, when four of that sturdy quintet started against Stanley in the EFL Cup that Burton were going to be compact, but the absence of so many key defensive performers undermines their efforts massively.

The other problem for Buxton, though, is that his appointment came straight after retirement from playing, with no coaching interlude, so this tough start means he is thrown in at the deep end.

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Shrewsbury have lost their last five and Burton are winless since week two, so these are sides I’d be worried about this season and this match could turn out to be a relegation six-pointer.

Gabriel Sutton

Wimbledon to win

AFC Wimblesdon v Doncaster Rovers

Imagine not seeing your football club play a game in its hometown for 39 years?

That is what AFC Wimbledon fans have gone through, so Tuesday night’s first game at New Plough Lane – renamed after the ground the original Wimbledon left in 1991 – marks the start of a new era for the Dons.

Glyn Hodges’ side will be determined to begin it with a victory, and they have every chance of doing just that, after a respectable start to the season.

Joe Pigott, directly involved in eight goals this season, formed a strong strike-partnership this season with Ryan Longman, who has looked bright and inventive; the Brighton loanee could come in for Jack Rudoni, while Ethan Chislett might replace Callum Reilly to add extra midfield creativity.

That is something Doncaster get from Ben Whiteman, who not only scored the winner in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Lincoln, he also dictates play extremely well.

Whiteman’s first touch, passing range combined with enhanced defensive awareness and leadership qualities makes him a key player for Rovers, who could very easily be in the Championship by now.

However, Fejiri Okenabirhie could struggle with his individual battles with a physical centre-back in Terell Thomas and Donny are short of alternative options up top.

Darren Moore has rung the changes in recent weeks with some surprising selections and there have been games in which rotation has paid off, but it’s also difficult to rest players without seeing a drop in quality.

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The 12/5 on AFC Wimbledon to beat Doncaster might be fair in ordinary circumstances, but these are no ordinary circumstances: after 39 years away, the Dons are coming home.

Gabriel Sutton

Nicky Maynard to score and Mansfield to win 1-0

Bolton Wanderers v Mansfield Town

Bolton are under pressure in League Two after a damaging 4-0 loss at Leyton Orient last time out.

It does not seem as though their problems are down to the basic tactics because, firstly, Evatt led Barrow to the title with lesser skilled players in an even more agricultural division last season and, secondly, the former centre-back was clear in telling his players to start by getting the ball forward early at Orient to relieve pressure, but they did the exact opposite.

The former Blackpool defender, though, could be questioned on his preference for right-footed Harry Brockbank at left wing-back over more natural options Jamie Mascoll and Liam Gordo.

Without ignoring the responsibility his players have, Evatt’s man management qualities should be questioned, because far better results would have been expected by this stage from the pre-season promotion favourites.

Mansfield are another club that have struggled to live up to their billing in recent years and their winless start to the season saw manager Graham Coughlan dismissed last week.

It was an improved performance though under Academy Manager Richard Cooper in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Walsall, in which Nicky Maynard slotted home the opener.

Maynard was League Two’s second-top goalscorer with 21 goals for Bury in 2018-19, then scored two of the four League Two hat-tricks last year, so we know he is one of the best finishers at this level and perhaps the managerial change might help coax more out of him.

If the Stags go ahead, it seems likely to be Maynard getting the goal and, given that they have kept three league clean sheets this season, they might have enough organisation to see out their first win of the season.

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Long winless streaks tended to be ended by narrow, ugly victories and Nicky Maynard is someone who could certainly find form. So, I’m willing to go speculative with the 1-0 Mansfield win with Maynard to score at 23/1.

Gabriel Sutton

Double Chance: Draw or Leyton Orient

Forest Green Rovers v Leyton Orient

Orient massively boosted their Play-Off credentials on Saturday with a thumping 4-0 victory over Bolton, which Ross Embleton described as the best performance his side have produced under his management.

The O’s pressed with great vigour and looked so incisive in the final third, with James Brophy being creator in chief.

It was a masterstroke from Embleton to move Brophy further forward from his usual position of left-back in the 4-3-3 to the left of the attacking trio where, against possession-based opposition, he relished his opportunities to attack in transition.

Poacher Danny Johnson continued his aptitude for tap-ins while Jobi McAnuff and Conor Wilkinson produced sublime first half free-kicks, but equally impressive of the Londoners was their ability to manage the game in the second half.

The O’s penalty box was dominated by centre-backs Josh Coulson and Dan Happe, ahead of whom Ousseynou Cisse provided an excellent shield whilst looking after the ball well.

A previous unsavoury encounter with Mark Cooper, too, means Embleton and his side will have extra motivation to thrive in Nailsworth.

It will be a tough assignment, of course, with Forest Green sixth in League Two and unbeaten at home this season but, like Bolton, they are very possession heavy and have a strategy that leaves them short of protection in wide areas.

Orient are more than capable of avoiding defeat on their trip west.

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Orient looked so incisive in that final third at the weekend and if they capitalize on those transitional moments even half as good at Forest Green, they look great value to avoid defeat at quotes so close to Evens.

Gabriel Sutton
Odds are correct at the time of posting

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