EFL pundit Gab Sutton reckons two teams will secure promotion on Tuesday night – and he fancies a surprise in the Championship’s only fixture. Read on his full EFL Midweek Preview.
Double Chance: Draw/Rotherham
Brentford v Rotherham United
Rotherham had more attempts on goal, more clear cut chances and more of the play at Barnsley on Saturday, but fell to a 1-0 defeat.
The fact the Millers were behind from the second minute might have been a factor in the pattern of play, but the awarding of the goal was highly questionable – and it is not the first time luck has gone against Paul Warne’s side.
Warne set his side up very aggressively, matching the opposition up with a 3-4-3 and opting for a man-to-man pressing setup.
Chiedozie Ogbene, who has spent much of this season on the sidelines, came into the starting XI as part of an attacking trio with target man Michael Smith and predatory finisher Freddie Ladapo.
Warne has been criticized in some quarters, rightly or otherwise, for showing opponents too much respect, but it seems unlikely that the Norwich-born boss will make that mistake between now and the end of the season.
Rotherham are four points off Derby, with two games in hand, but draws do not do a great deal for them in terms of bridging that gap so the performance at Oakwell will be a template for the remaining games – the South Yorkshire outfit will have a go at every opponent and leave everything on the field in doing so.
That mentality could make them surprisingly dangerous opposition for Brentford who, due to weekend results, have had their Play-Off spot confirmed.
There is only one point between the Bees in third and Barnsley in sixth. There is no such thing as a favourable Semi-Final fixture, so these remaining games are effectively friendlies.
#rufc boss Warne: “That decision in the second minute reaffirmed my belief that certain people want to see us down.”
— Paul Davis (@paulm_davis) April 24, 2021
Are Brentford objectively a better side than Rotherham? Yes. Given how little is at stake for the hosts, though and how much is on the line for the visitors, I’m expecting Paul Warne’s side to produce another defiant display – I don’t see them leaving West London empty-handed.Gabriel Sutton
Over 2.5 goals
AFC Wimbledon v Rochdale
Rochdale showed incredible spirit on Saturday to secure a point in the 97th-minute.
They had fallen behind at the beginning of injury time, but a defence splitting through ball from Conor Shaughnessy allowed fellow substitute Matty Done to slot home.
The equalizer was the least Dale deserved, having shaded the chances in that game after a strong first half, according to Brian Barry-Murphy.
Barry-Murphy has always had his work cut out at a club that would struggle to compete at this level in normal circumstances, but his job is made even harder by issues at boardroom level.
Nobody was expecting Rochdale to stay up in the summer, when their squad had been purged of all it’s better players and there is still an imbalance about the group that has forced the Irishman to play right-footed players at left centre-back and left wing-back.
And yet, under all the pressure, Barry-Murphy has devised a 3-5-1-1 system that has made the Lancashire outfit competitive in the run-in, taking 10 points from their previous four games.
The system gets the best out of players like Aaron Morley, who has relished operating as the deep-lying playmaker in a three-man midfield and Ollie Rathbone, who has forged an industrious attacking duo with striker Jake Beesley.
On the one hand, Rochdale need to win to close what is currently a five-point gap to safety – though they have a game in hand on Northampton and Wigan – so the visitors will be on the offensive for much of this game.
On the other hand, AFC Wimbledon have the players to hurt Dale at the other end; intelligent wide forward Ryan Longman, technician Jack Rudoni, quick and skilful Ayoub Assal and focal point Joe Pigott form an attacking quartet that would do damage to most teams on current form.
Proper pissed the neighbours off celebrating that 96th min equaliser for Dale, brilliant!! Bristol Rovers and Swindon have been relegated. It's all on Tuesday for us now. #RAFC
— Greg Ingham (@GregIngham1) April 24, 2021
This is a must-win game for Rochdale, who will be throwing everything at their hosts; Wimbledon can do damage themselves with Joe Pigott and Ayoub Assal, so I’m expecting plenty of goals.Gabriel Sutton
Charlton -1 handicap
Charlton Athletic v Crewe Alexandra
Charlton’s Play-Off ambitions took a slight hit with the 1-0 loss to Peterborough last time out, their first defeat under Nigel Adkins.
The Addicks’ final third issues against the Posh came as a surprise, given that they had thrashed Plymouth Argyle 6-0 the previous Tuesday, but the two results suggest the South Londoners prefer not to have too much possession.
Charlton stole the ball high up the pitch against Argyle and attacked quickly on turnovers, which is how they scored as many goals as they did.
The SE7 outfit have lots of quality in attack, where target man Jayden Stockley has looked surprisingly mobile since signing in January, Liam Millar has added star quality from the left and, as a rotation option, Chuks Aneke brings excellent movement and bags of ability.
Such strength in forward areas, though, is not matched throughout the squad and thus the capital club are weak in full-back positions, especially when the onus is on them to break teams down over prolonged passages of play.
In the previous game, they had 63% possession and perhaps did not have enough from their full-backs, Adam Matthews and Ben Purrington, to stretch the field and stop opponents from doubling up on their big hitters.
The result was a performance lacking any real cutting edge, with the Addicks mustering just 11 efforts at goal in a game in which they were behind from the ninth-minute.
The good news for Adkins is that Crewe are a side that like to play out from the back and, while that has been to their credit in lots of games, it has also resulted in some individual errors which, if repeated at the Valley, could be exploited severely.
Just shows how far Diallang Jaiyesimi has come that his injury yesterday has been met with such resounding concern.
Struggled to impose himself under Bowyer but has quickly become a crucial cog with Adkins.
🤞it’s not serious as Charlton will greatly miss him.#cafc
— Benjy Nurick (@BenjyNurick) April 25, 2021
Crewe are an expansive side which could feed into Charlton’s hands. If the Addicks get the first goal, I see them going on to score two or three more.Gabriel Sutton
Peterborough to win
Peterborough United v Doncaster Rovers
It seems a long, long time ago that Peterborough and Doncaster were competing in the same vicinity of the League One table.
Back in early February, Donny were two points better off than their former manager, Darren Ferguson, with two games in hand in third but since then, they have accrued a meagre 12 points from 19 games, slipping well out of promotion contention.
The Posh, though, have grown even stronger and, after winning 1-0 at Charlton last time out, can secure promotion with victory on Tuesday night.
Ferguson’s side have the best attacking trio in the division: an exciting, eye-catching skill merchant in Siriki Dembele and a physical, ruthless goalscoring presence in Jonson Clarke-Harris bound together by Sammie Szmodics.
The latter, one might argue, is simultaneously the least noticeable of the three players and the most important, because without his selfless, direct runs in behind, Dembele and Clarke-Harris do not have the space they need to thrive.
The three forwards compliment one another beautifully and their work is a big reason why Peterborough are on the cusp of achieving a top two finish.
On top of their attacking players, though, the Posh have ball-winner Jack Taylor and combative defenders like Nathan Thompson and Frankie Kent, none of whom are afraid to nip opposition attacks in the bud quickly with strong, forceful challenges.
Show that commitment against Doncaster and, with the quality they have up top, goals should follow.
🗣 "It's revenge season, we wanna win the league"
Barry Fry is ready for the season to start for Peterborough pic.twitter.com/fk8CwkuSdw
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) August 21, 2020
Peterborough can secure promotion with a victory here and I think they’ll get one. If they keep hold of Dembele, Szmodics and Clarke-Harris in the summer, I can’t wait to see them play in the Championship.Gabriel Sutton
Ian Henderson: Anytime Goalscorer
Bradford City v Salford City
Ian Henderson scored more goals, 121, in League One than any other player throughout the 2010s.
It should be no surprise, therefore, that since swapping Spotland for Salford, the experienced poacher is doing the business in a lower division, having bagged 16 goals this season.
At 36, the former Rochdale striker showed incredible agility to hook an effort from behind him into the far corner in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Mansfield.
Henderson’s work rate is exemplary and the ex-Colchester man sets an example to his younger teammates with the way he leads the line, while his link-up play is strong as well.
‘Hendo’ has helped the Ammies rekindle their Play-Off prospects with back-to-back victories, leaving them just one point off the top seven with three games to play.
Gary Bowyer’s side have been strong defensively this season, conceding just 33 goals in 43 games – they have the best “goals against” record in the division – keeping three consecutive clean sheets.
A fourth in succession should give Henderson that platform to inflict a defeat on Bradford, who need three straight wins to have even a mathematical chance of finishing in the Play-Offs, but after four straight defeats it can be said with some certainty that the Bantams will be playing in League Two next season.
Standard Ian Henderson 😍
— Salford City FC (@SalfordCityFC) April 24, 2021
Ian Henderson has scored 16 of Salford’s 50 league goals this season, so if Gary Bowyer’s side play well, it’s a good bet that ‘Hendo’ will too.Gabriel Sutton
Cheltenham to win
Cheltenham Town v Carlisle United
Conor Thomas’ late winner against Colchester last time out, combined with Morecambe’s defeat at Bolton, means Cheltenham can secure promotion by avoiding defeat against Carlisle.
In truth, the Robins would likely go up if they lose all three of their remaining games due to their goal difference, currently +20, with outsiders Tranmere and Morecambe, +6 and +7 respectively, both on 72 points with two to play.
Only a highly improbably series of events would deny Michael Duff’s side third tier football for the first time in 12 years which, in some respects, takes some of the pressure off and allows Cheltenham to play their natural game.
The GL52 outfit are renowned for Ben Tozer’s long throws, which has been a huge source of goals this season, but they have more than that in their armoury.
Cheltenham also have attacking thrust in Liam Sercombe, who has played to a reasonable standard in the division above with Bristol Rovers, while Finn Azaz – on loan from West Brom – brings a certain flair and swagger.
The duo are handed extra freedom due to the defensive discipline of Conor Thomas, who is maturing superbly this season at the base of the three-man midfield.
Matty Blair and Chris Hussey, meanwhile, bring drive and pin-point deliveries respectively from wing-back positions and Duff has numerous forwards to pick from.
The Robins should be ominous opposition, therefore, for Carlisle, who likely require maximum points to keep their Play-Off hopes alive.
Conor Thomas has been one of Cheltenham's standout players. Real unsung hero who does a lot of the unattractive work in the side. Really happy for him that he's getting lots of praise.
— Dave (@DaveCohen_) April 25, 2021
Chris Beech’s side are in urgent need of a victory, whereas Cheltenham are in a position in which they can soak up pressure and hit their visitors on the counter-attack.Gabriel Sutton