It’s an uncertain time for the football, but the show goes on and EFL pundit Gabriel Sutton gives us his best bets for EFL Gameweek 3.
Coventry to win and over 2.5 goals
Barnsley v Coventry City
Coventry City accrued their first Championship victory since 2012 last weekend with a 3-2 win over QPR.
The Sky Blues were fortunate to be level at the interval but in the second half, they looked more aggressive off the ball and more composed on it; in some ways it took going behind in the first half for them to improve, but the fact they twice responded well to a setback is a positive indication of their mentality.
While in the first half, their only wide outlet had been left wing-back Ryan Giles, we saw right wing-back Fankaty Dabo get forward a lot more after the break and that stretched the game for them.
The extra space benefited Callum O’Hare, who had been full of running all evening and wholly deserved his goal, as well as Gustavo Hamer, who has the presence of mind to play his way out of tight situations.
Hamer’s class will be crucial to beating an intense press because Barnsley are one of the most exciting Championship teams to watch out of possession; they have so much energy and are extremely audacious in their positioning.
The South Yorkshire outfit are, though, missing striker Jacob Brown, who departed for Stoke. He was so important last season in terms of leading the press, refusing to offer a moment’s peace to a defender or even the opposing goalkeeper.
Conor Chaplin can do that to an extent, but he operated as a lone striker last time out and that is not his game; he’s better on the left of a front-three.
Plus, Barnsley lost 6-0 at Chelsea in the EFL Cup on Wednesday with, on paper, the strongest team available, whereas Coventry have had a clear week of preparation.
Some managers might see Barnsley’s high-pressing style as a threat, but Mark Robins may relish his side’s chance to beat the press and release Callum O’Hare in pockets of space in front of the defence, then bring Dabo or Giles into play.
After all, the Sky Blues’ title-winning success in League One was built on playing out from the back, with goalkeeper Marko Marosi’s distribution being a massive factor.
Coventry look well placed to thrive at Oakwell in a high-scoring encounter.
Both of Coventry’s first two games have seen over 2.5 goals scored and with their hosts potentially suffering from cup hangover, the 17/4 on them winning with three or more goals involved looks excellent value.”Gabriel Sutton
— Adam Sloman (@Adam_Sloman) September 18, 2020
Cardiff to win
Cardiff City v Reading
Cardiff reached the Championship Play-Offs last season and they stated their case to be part of this year’s promotion race on Saturday, with a 2-0 win at Nottingham Forest, thanks to a glorious individual performance from Kieffer Moore.
The striker, poached from Wigan this summer, has the height and physical attributes to cause chaos in the opposing penalty area, as we saw for both goals. But he is so much more than a target man.
Moore has mobility to carry the ball up-field as well as the intelligence to link-up with Joe Ralls, who acted as an efficient second-striker at the City Ground.
The Bluebirds had to absorb second half pressure but, while momentary lapses from Sean Morrison and Curtis Nelson gave the hosts a sniff, Neil Harris’ side limited them to few chances.
They hope to do likewise against Reading, who top the embryonic table after a 2-0 victory over Barnsley, though this win was more underwhelming than the one at Derby by the same scoreline.
Week one’s triumph saw the Royals play incisive, one-touch football but on week two, they struggled to string passes together and even had trouble with basic throw-ins until they gained a numerical advantage through two opposing red cards.
Cardiff have a good chance of ending Reading’s winning start.
Cardiff and Reading might have got the same outcome last week in 2-0 wins, but their respective first half performances were like chalk and cheese. If both sides start this one in the same way, then we will have done very well to find odds-against quotes on the home win.”Gabriel Sutton
"He looks like a Premier League player"
"Other clubs are going to be thinking why on earth didn't we get him?!"@dilksymatey could not praise Kieffer Moore anymore after his performance against Forest!
— The Second Tier (@secondtierpod) September 21, 2020
MK Dons Draw no bet
Crewe Alexandra v Milton Keynes Dons
Crewe are unlucky to be yet to collect their first point at this level.
Fresh from promotion, David Artell’s side put in a good second half shift against Charlton on day one only to lose 2-0. Then, last Saturday, they enjoyed much of the play at Hull yet lost 1-0.
Crewe have done well to retain their best players so far, though the excellent Perry Ng is heavily linked with a move to Reading.
They are not quite at full strength as centre-backs Eddie Nolan and Donervan Daniels, dynamic midfielder Tommy Lowery, right-sided forward Daniel Powell and experienced front man Chris Porter have also been missing.
Luckily for MK Dons, they were able to welcome summer recruits Ben Gladwin and Scott Fraser from the bench last week and the midfielders displayed flashes of creativity in a 2-1 home defeat to Lincoln, though both are still getting back to fitness.
When Gladwin and Fraser are ready to feature for longer, MK Dons can play with two advanced midfielders in their 3-5-2 if they also possess the more disciplined Jordan Houghton, who does an excellent job of dropping in at centre-back to fill a gap when Warren O’Hora or Baily Cargill get forward on the overlap.
The latter has had a great start to the season and, performance wise and so have MK. Out of the four halves of league football they have played, it was only the first half against Lincoln in which they did not have the better of the play.
Backing the visitors at Draw No Bet, therefore, would offer excellent value – the 13/10 shot will pay out with an away win or return the stake if the game ends honours even.
MK Dons are threatening a first win and hosts Crewe are missing key players. I’d expect Russ Martin’s side to avoid defeat at Gresty Road.Gabriel Sutton
#MKDons in League One this weekend:
❗️2nd highest possession (68%).
❕Top passing accuracy (86%).
❗️Most completed passes (547).
❕Player with most completed passes (DL3 – 119).
Trust the process 👍🏻 pic.twitter.com/Rt9nKwClJh
— The MK Way (@TheMKWayBlog) September 21, 2020
Blackpool draw no bet
Gillingham v Blackpool
Gillingham got their season up-and-running last week with a 3-2 victory at Wigan, thanks to a fine individual display from Jordan Graham.
This is a new-look Gills side, with versatile defenders Jack Tucker and Connor Ogilvie being the only members of the previous starting XI that featured last season and manager Steve Evans is looking to evolve the style.
Evans deployed a compact diamond system last year that made the Kent outfit hard to play through, but this year he has moved to a 4-3-3 with a more technical midfield.
Josh Eccles, on loan from Coventry, tidies things up at the base, Celtic loanee Scott Robertson is talented if lacking physicality and while Jacob Mellis is more experienced, the deep playmaker can be an enigma.
Even if the work ethic isn’t in question, the Gills look short of a battler like Mark Byrne, who left for Shelbourne this summer or Stuart O’Keefe, out for the season through injury, so could have a tough afternoon against the strong-starting Seasiders.
Blackpool have been the better team in both league games and, although their territorial dominance went unrewarded in the 1-0 loss at Plymouth Argyle, they saw the fruits of their labour in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Swindon.
CJ Hamilton scored a brace and the speedy, versatile forward looks rejuvenated at Bloomfield Road.
It almost suits Hamilton playing at a higher level because, in League Two with Mansfield, opposing sides would double up on him and deny him space to run into but, seeing as he’s not perceived as an obvious threat in League One, he appears to be catching rear guards off-guard.
Bez Lubala, who starred at Crawley last season plus Keshi Anderson and Jerry Yates, title-winners with Swindon, are making the same step up well too for Blackpool, who look good value at Priestfield.
Unusually for a Steve Evans side, Gillingham look a touch lightweight and could struggle against high-pressing opposition. Blackpool look good Draw No Bet value at a shade under Evens.Gabriel Sutton
— Blackpool FC (@BlackpoolFC) September 22, 2020
✍️ Welcome to Blackpool FC, Luke Garbutt!
The former Everton man has joined the Club on a 12 month contract.
— Blackpool FC (@BlackpoolFC) September 22, 2020
Bolton to win
Bolton Wanderers v Newport County
“I feel like we’ve been robbed” were among Ian Evatt’s first words after his Bolton side lost 2-0 at Colchester last weekend.
The former centre-back felt his side dictated the tempo, but the end product required to give Eoin Doyle a clear cut chance remained lacking.
The Trotters are getting into the right areas, the right-sided combination play between Gethin Jones and Jak Hickman looks very promising and it will not take much for the quality of final ball to improve.
By contrast, Newport boss Michael Flynn admitted his side were “quite sloppy” in the first half of last week’s 2-1 victory over Barrow, even if he praised the professionalism of his players in the second half.
Right wing-back Liam Shephard has started well for the Exiles, who should score more goals than they did last season with a good set of strikers – Padraig Amond, Ryan Taylor, Saikou Janneh and Scott Twine all bring different qualities to the table – and the Exiles deservedly beat a second string Watford side 3-1 on Tuesday.
That game might have taken a bit out of them physically and Bolton, who have had a clear week of preparation, should get their promotion push off the ground.
If this were an opening day fixture, the home win would likely be slim odds-on quotes. It may be unwise to alter our stance on Bolton or Newport after two league games apiece; we’re still at an embryonic stage of the season and the 6/5 on the hosts looks good to me.Gabriel Sutton
🗣 "I feel like we've been mugged a bit to be honest"
— BBC RM Sport (@BBCRMsport) September 19, 2020
Oldham to score under 0.5 goals
Oldham Athletic v Crawley Town
Harry Kewell has not got the start he wanted as Oldham Athletic manager, as a 3-0 loss at Stevenage last time out leaves his side without a point or a goal.
Crawley Town boss John Yems admitted that last Saturday’s 1-0 win over Scunthorpe “wasn’t the prettiest” but it was an important win, after the disappointing opening day display at Port Vale.
It is worth noting that, with just 38% possession, the Red Devils restricted their visitors to a solitary shot on target, with strong organisation.
Town are happy to absorb pressure with a disciplined double-pivot of veteran Dannie Bulman and Nathan Ferguson, then get Sam Matthews sliding balls into the final third, where they can use the constant running of Ricky German and Tyler Frost while Tom Nichols can produce those final moments of quality.
It’s hard to say how good Crawley, still feeling the loss of Panutche Camara, Bez Lubala and Ollie Palmer, will be going forward but they should have the qualities to nullify Oldham.
When the Latics have created chances so far this season, it has tended to be through early balls in behind for Conor McAleny to chase rather than anything they have constructed over long passages of play.
Ben Garrity might have adjusted better than expected for someone who was playing seventh tier football last season, but Oldham’s midfield may lack the quality and creativity to unhinge a staunch Crawley rearguard.
Oldham and Crawley have played fellow League Two opposition five times between them so far and on each occasion, either they or their opponents have failed to score. I fancy the visitors to keep a clean sheet here.Gabriel Sutton