No Championship action this weekend but plenty of drama in store in League One and League Two, so EFL pundit Gabriel Sutton shares his best bets.
Blackpool Draw no bet
Blackpool v Ipswich Town
Ipswich have had a good start to the season with 10 points from the first 12 available, but the preservation of the unbeaten record was the only positive to come from last week’s 1-1 draw at MK Dons.
Town were second best throughout that game, managing just three shots at goal and scoring from their only effort on target.
While in the first half, Paul Lambert’s side at least tried to counter-attack down the left via Freddie Sears, they shut up shop entirely after Flynn Downes was forced off through injury just before the hour-mark.
It looks a bad injury for Downes, who will be absent for the foreseeable future, while Lambert confirmed Stephen Ward is highly unlikely to be available for the trip to Bloomfield Road, which is not ideal; the Irishman brings positional nous and accurate crossing from deep, whereas understudy Myles Kenlock looks well off the pace.
Lambert hopes for an improved performance at Blackpool, who have had a mixed start to the season.
The Tangerines have played some pretty football so far and are looking to press high under Neil Critchley but, as last week’s 3-2 home loss to Lincoln proved, their defence is not great.
Critchley has sought to address that by adding Daníel Leó Grétarsson, an Iceland international, as well as Daniel Ballard on loan from Arsenal – described as being reminiscent of “a young Tony Adams”, Ballard could bring Pool the leadership they need.
It’s hard to say whether Grétarsson or Ballard will transform the defence straight away – but some form of improvement is likely.
🗣️ "He's a commanding, no-nonsense defender. I'm delighted that he's joined and thoroughly looking forward to working with him."
The gaffer is excited to have Ballard on board!
— Blackpool FC (@BlackpoolFC) October 5, 2020
Ipswich cannot get away with another performance like the one at MK Dons and Blackpool’s new defensive recruits should shore them up.Gabriel Sutton
Peterborough to win
Northampton Town v Peterborough United
Peterborough United secured a 3-1 win over Swindon last time out thanks to an excellent second half display.
Darren Ferguson admitted he was not happy with how his side started the game and they went in at the break one goal behind, but the Scot changed the game tactically without making a substitution: he switched from 3-4-2-1 to 4-2-3-1 with Dan Butler dropping to left-back and Joe Ward pushing up to the right wing.
With one fewer centre-back, Posh could squeeze their opponents at a higher intensity and thus create chances for Jonson Clarke-Harris, who has now got started on the arduous task of replacing Ivan Toney’s 26 goals from last season by bagging a brace.
Clarke-Harris can build on that at the PTS Academy Stadium (Sixfields), where Northampton Town are hoping to bounce back from 2-0 losses to Hull and Bristol Rovers.
The Cobblers are giving the ball away very cheaply this season and while they have always been a direct team under Keith Curle, they perhaps do not have as much quality at the top end to thrive with their current strategy.
In the second half of last season they had Vadaine Oliver flicking the ball on for Callum Morton, but the two strikers are now at Gillingham and Lincoln respectively.
Harry Smith is doing a similar job to Oliver in terms of winning a lot of aerial duels, but Northampton are not making the most of his work by playing at a high intensity.
Michael Harriman and Joseph Mills are more conservative wing-back options than Sam Hoskins and Nicky Adams, who were in those positions last season, while there are question marks over whether Matty Warburton, Benny Ashley-Seal, Ricky Korboa and Joe Nuttall are good enough for the level.
Posh looked well-placed to continue their promotion push.
After the first 4 league games Northampton have attempted the second least number of passes in League 1 with 872, the league average being 1449. The issue being though that we have the worst pass accuracy by far at 62.7%, the league average is 77.6%. #ntfc
— NTFC (@NTFCanalytics) October 4, 2020
This Northampton side looks weaker than the one that finished their League Two campaign and Peterborough should build on their excellent second half showing against Swindon.Gabriel Sutton
Swindon to win and over 1.5 goals
Swindon v AFC Wimbledon
Where Swindon Town are involved, there will be goals.
The Wiltshire outfit have scored eight of them so far – the joint-second most – but also conceded eight – the joint-second most.
Richie Wellens likes his side to press high up the pitch and play out from the back, which means they create lots of chances but can also leave themselves vulnerable.
The attacking combination of Jordan Stevens’ direct running from the right, Jack Payne’s creative vision, Jonny Smith’s canny movement from the left and Brett Pitman’s clinical finishing can tear defences apart, especially with excellent support from Matt Smith in midfield.
On the flip side, it feels difficult to trust Swindon defensively, especially when it comes to dealing with crosses into the box.
There is potential, therefore, for Wimbledon strikers Joe Pigott and Ryan Longman to cause problems for centre-backs Mathieu Baudry and Zeki Fryers.
Pigott has been directly involved in six goals already this season and Longman, who scored the opener in last week’s 2-1 loss to Accrington Stanley after his strike-partner hit the post, could have bagged a brace and has started his loan spell from Brighton in lively fashion.
The ammunition those strikers receive typically comes from wing-backs Shane McLoughlin and Steve Seddon who, at their best, can dominate their respective flanks; McLoughlin can attack the byline with gusto while Seddon, who has the ability to be playing Championship football, looks adept on either foot.
The downside to Wimbledon’s system is that it can leave them short on midfield creativity, because Jaako Oksanen is stationed very deep and while Alex Woodyard and Callum Reilly are tenacious in pressing higher up, they are far less accomplished on the ball.
14 of Swindon’s last 16 league victories have come by a scoreline other than 1-0 and it seems highly likely that, if they score the first goal, more will follow.
📊 @Jackopayne1 was our 8th different scorer in the league this season
— Swindon Town FC (@Official_STFC) October 4, 2020
Most of Swindon’s wins are likely to be high-scoring encounters this season and Richie Wellens’ side should have enough to see off AFC Wimbledon, though the Wombles’ front-two can cause problems.Gabriel Sutton
Bolton to win
Bolton Wanderers v Grimsby Town
Everyone connected with Bolton breathed a sigh of relief at 5pm last Saturday.
The Trotters had lost their first three league games and fans who had watched their club undergo a three-year decline must have been fearful as to how far they might sink.
That first victory – a 2-1 win at Harrogate Town – does not change the fact that it has been a poor start to the season, but it does ease some of the pressure, especially on Eoin Doyle.
A title winner last season with Swindon, Doyle was Bolton’s marquee summer signing and there is a responsibility on him to score the bulk of the goals – but the Irishman is a very streaky striker.
11 of the 17 matches in which Doyle scored for Swindon were followed by a goal in the next game – 46 of his 119 career goals in all competitions are made up of braces and hat-tricks.
That shows the 32-year-old is the type of striker who, as soon as he scores once, can go on a crazy scoring spree and Bolton will be hoping that will prove true here against Grimsby Town.
It has been a difficult time for the Mariners in which football has become secondary, after the squad had to quarantine for two weeks until Wednesday, meaning the cancellation of training.
Ian Holloway has been able to do no collective work in that time and while the players will have done the necessary physical work individually, we can expect Grimsby to look very disjointed.
Bolton could run riot in this one so the odds-against quote on them winning by any margin looks excellent value.
First half brilliant, 2nd half was poor but we got the job done. Onwards and upwards. Tutte made a huge difference and Santos was like a different player. Up the whites #bwfc
— Kian⚽️ (@kianb_) October 3, 2020
Grimsby will be massively affected by the disruption to preparation and, having picked up their first win of the season, Bolton should now have the confidence to propel themselves into promotion contention.Gabriel Sutton
Double Chance Draw/Carlisle
Port Vale v Carlisle United
Seven points from four games is hardly a bad start for Port Vale, but concerns over lack of creativity have begun to surface after two matches without a goal.
The Valiants deservedly beat Crawley 2-0 on the opening day, but at Exeter, they rode their luck defensively and relied on a free-kick from Tom Conlon as well as a counter-attack from Devante Rodney to win by the same scoreline.
John Askey’s side then struggled to play through Harrogate’s press and were held to a 0-0 draw, before coming undone at Morecambe, where Vale were guilty of going long to Mark Cullen, who would not consider himself a target man.
To make matters worse, Askey could have a massive dilemma at right-back, where Zak Mills could be missing as well as James Gibbons and even Nathan Smith, who filled in there on occasion last term.
The dearth of options could force Manny Oyeleke, a midfielder by trade, to start there, or we could see a switch to 3-5-2 with David Worrall at right wing-back – though Askey very rarely changes formation – so Vale could be disjointed defensively on top of the recent issues they have going forward.
Carlisle United, meanwhile, deservedly beat Barrow 1-0 last time out, proving effective with just 33% possession.
The Cumbrians did not play much better than they did at Scunthorpe, where they had the better of the play but lost by the same scoreline, so perhaps the defining factor was the presence of Gime Toure.
The winger produced the moment of magic that Chris Beech’s side perhaps missed at Glanford Park by beating his man to put in a peach of a cross for Jon Mellish to head home the winner.
Mellish deserved that moment, because many argued the experiment with the defender by trade in midfield had not worked out, but he has been very persistent with getting to grips with his role.
Carlisle have key defender Aaron Hayden available, too, after his suspension was rescinded following his red card, so the Cumbrians have a great chance of avoiding defeat in Burslem.
— Jon Colman (@joncolman) October 6, 2020
Port Vale have struggled for creativity in their last two games whereas Carlisle have an in-form winger in Gime Toure who can conjure up something out of nothing.Gabriel Sutton
Double Chance Tranmere/Draw
Salford City v Tranmere Rovers
Tranmere Rovers boss Mike Jackson should be credited for his in-game management in last week’s 2-0 victory over Scunthorpe.
His side did not start well with 4-4-2 leaving Rovers outnumbered in midfield, so Jackson switched to 4-3-3 by replacing striker Stefan Payne just before the half-hour mark with midfielder Paul Lewis, who made a transformative impact on the game with his all-action energy.
Jackson was respectful of Payne after the game and said the substitution was tactical – not anything to do with his individual performance – so the 46-year-old has handled the whole situation very well and certainly deserves his first victory as a number one.
Salford City boss Graham Alexander, meanwhile, will be thankful to his two marquee recruits for his side’s strong start of eight points from four games.
Václav Hladký, arguably the best goalkeeper in the SPL last season with St Mirren, has made 15 saves – no League Two stopper has made more.
Ian Henderson, who has scored more EFL goals than any other player in the previous decade, has scored from four of his eight efforts at goal, including two finishes from the spot.
The Ammies do appear to have an unhealthy reliance on individuals at both ends – though last week’s 1-0 win at Stevenage was well-deserved – and one fears, were Hladký or Henderson to have an off-day, whether the team collectively would suffer.
Plus, if Alexander picks the same midfield trio of Richie Towell, Darron Gibson and Jason Lowe, who all provide similar defensive qualities, Salford may struggle to progress the ball from deep.
Rovers should avoid defeat on their short trip east.
GET IN THERE!
— Tranmere Rovers FC (@TranmereRovers) October 3, 2020
Tranmere have taken longer than Salford to live up to their lofty pre-season billing but after great performances against Cambridge and Scunthorpe, they look underrated at the Peninsula Stadium.Gabriel Sutton