The new season continues at pace and our expert Gab Sutton is here to provide his thoughts in his EFL midweek preview.
If you haven’t read his pre-season previews yet, you can do so here:
“I expect both teams to come into this game with caution, which is why I’m backing the 85/40 on the encounter being either goalless or decided by a solitary strike.”Gabrel Sutton
Huddersfield Town v Preston North End
Under 1.5 goals
Far too early for a relegation six-pointer? Of course – but Tuesday’s game feels significant nonetheless.
Huddersfield and Preston North End come into this game after disappointing starts to the season.
The Terriers managed only a 1-1 draw with the Championship’s crisis club, Derby, on the opening day before falling to a 5-1 loss to Fulham.
Ordinarily, one might be reluctant to be too worried about that one defeat, given the strength of the Cottagers, but the manner of it was simply embarrassing.
The first goal they conceded– the result of an overhit backpass and some extremely chaotic goalkeeping from Ryan Schofield – was rather humiliating, while the marking for the second and third was not much better… and we have not even got to the fact they conceded the final two goals to 10 men.
Similarly, North End lost 4-1 to Hull on the opening day and 2-1 to Reading, with both games only adding to the sense that Frankie McAvoy’s side could be in trouble this season.
The Lilywhites rely heavily on Emil Riis Jakobsen being the focal point and Daniel Johnson’s creativity between the lines, but when those two players are nullified, there is negligible threat.
McAvoy favours a 3-5-2 system, without really having the wing-backs to pull it off: Sepp van den Berg lacks the attacking qualities to operate as a right wing-back and would be much better suited to playing on the right of a back-three, while Greg Cunningham at 30 is unlikely to provide the thrust required.
Both teams come into this game bruised, therefore, and are unlikely to attack with the level of confidence required to create a high-volume of chances.
Both sides will operate with three centre-backs while neither possess more than one out-and-out striker and it remains to be seen whether either set of midfielders will be prepared to push forward to provide sufficient support.
For those reasons, it would not be a huge surprise to see both teams prioritize modest solidity in this game to avoid further damage.
— 🇪🇸 (@SpencerHerbie) August 14, 2021
“Reading have had a mixed start to the season but, if Bristol City show any of the shortcomings they displayed on Saturday, Pearson’s side could be vulnerable visitors.”Gabriel Sutton
Reading v Bristol City
Reading to win
Saturday’s 2-1 win over Preston North End certainly lifted the mood around Berkshire.
Having been a 4-2-3-1 disciple last season, Veljko Paunović has switched to a 3-4-3 to accommodate the loss of left-back Omar Richards.
The Serb was hoping to recruit for that position but restrictions combined with the pre-season struggles of trialist Achraf Lazaar meant finding a like-for-like replacement proved challenging, so Paunovic has been economical.
Tom McIntyre, having had two seasons in and around the first team, has the qualities to be an effective left-sided centre-back in a defensive trio, with the drive to carry the ball out of defence.
There are, perhaps, greater concerns over Ethan Bristow, who had not featured for the Royals prior to this campaign, but it is hoped that if the teenager is used as a left wing-back rather than as a left-back, he has greater insurance for any rookie errors.
The change of system shows pragmatism from Paunović, who is also getting the best out of John Swift.
The former Swindon creator had a tough season last year, partly due to injuries but also the form of Michael Olise, with the head coach often playing George Pușcaș off the main striker.
With Olise gone, though, there is the opportunity for Swift to step up and be one of the main creative outlets, while speedster Femi Azeez appears to be enjoying a breakthrough season on the right of the attack.
Bristol City, meanwhile, have not had the start they wanted to their campaign.
With several first teamers back fit, youngsters penning professional deals, a reformed structure and a new sports science team, Nigel Pearson has been hoping for a sense of a fresh start that might elevate his side back into the Championship’s middle eight pack.
The early signs have not been great, though: City were denied opening day victory over Blackpool by a 93rd-minute equaliser, before they were deservedly beaten by Middlesbrough the following week.
Pearson felt his side were too “careless” off the ball on Teesside, especially when defending set pieces, which is ironic because they were in some respects too careful in possession.
Whether or not Reading will be serious Play-Off contenders this season, they should have the beating of Bristol City.
⚽️ vs. Stoke
⚽️ vs. Preston
— Talk Reading (@TalkReading) August 15, 2021
“Stanley have been boosted by their first win of the season against Cambridge and it was a well-deserved victory too, which highlights the goalscoring threat they carry from midfield. If Bishop or Charles can get off the mark in the league as well, John Coleman’s side will pose a diversified threat to a new-look Doncaster side.”Gabriel Sutton
Accrington Stanley v Doncaster Rovers
Accrington Stanley to win
Accrington Stanley picked up their first points of the season on Saturday, beating Cambridge 2-1.
All the talk around Stanley before the campaign had been around the task of keeping hold of their strikers, Dion Charles and Colby Bishop, but the goals so far have come from midfield.
Matt Butcher, who grabbed the late goal in defeat at Wycombe on the opening day, doubled his tally the following week, after Harry Pell had opened the scoring.
Both goals against the U’s came from deliveries from Sean McConville, a wide man by trade who has played the season so far at left wing-back, bringing plenty of quality to his new role.
John Coleman will have to address the departure of Cameron Burgess, after confirming that his sale to Ipswich was not something he would have chosen, which is refreshing.
Most managers would be fearful about going public with any disagreements they have with their chairman and might feel the need to toe the party line, so it is in some ways a credit to the environment that Andy Holt has created that Coleman is happy to respectfully express differences.
Holt has every right to sell a player on, though, if he feels the valuation is met: Burgess’ sale contributes to the long-term sustainability of the club and his success will encourage many players in a similar position to sign for Stanley.
The East Lancashire club have the level of stability that Doncaster may envy because, after a reliance on the loan market in recent years, they have had to re-build their squad this summer under a new manager in Richie Wellens.
Nine of the starting XI that suffered a 2-0 loss at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday were not at the club last season, so it is a new group that must amalgamate in a short space of time: the hosts have a clear advantage here.
Sean McConville v Cambridge United:
— The Near Post (@TheNearPostEFL) August 16, 2021
“Charlton are still to find their attacking blueprint under Nigel Adkins and will be looking for three or four additions between now and the window’s close. I see Liam Manning getting his first win as MK Dons boss.”Gabriel Sutton
Milton Keynes Dons v Charlton Athletic
MK Dons to win to nil
Hopes have been high for Charlton this season, so the first two league games have been somewhat underwhelming.
The Addicks drew 0-0 on the opening day with Sheffield Wednesday in a game of very few chances, with Nigel Adkins’ side failing to muster a single shot on target.
The following week, the South Londoners fell to a 2-1 loss at Oxford, in which Conor Washington’s penalty was their only effort at goal.
Part of the problem for Charlton has been the lack of creativity, compounded by a selected midfield trio of dynamo George Dobson, steely Sean Clare and tough-tackler Albie Morgan.
None of these players are defensive midfielders per se, but equally none of them have the ability to effectively link play with the attack and open the game up.
The Addicks have since signed Charlie Kirk and Adkins may hope to open things up by switching from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-2-2 with Washington moving from being a wide forward to a second striker, then perhaps Morgan dropping out to allow Kirk to operate on the left.
This switch will not solve the team’s lack of creativity, especially from central areas, because Kirk’s game tends to be about holding the width for much of a passing move, then arriving late into dangerous areas to round off a move with the final pieces of quality.
What the adventurous alteration will mean, though, is that Charlton will have more players running off Stockley’s flick-ons and receiving the target man’s knock-downs, so the intensity should be greater.
It may be difficult for Warren O’Hora, who now plays in the centre of MK Dons’ defence rather than on the right, to dominate Stockley aerially, so the defensive game for the hosts will be all about mopping up the second balls.
Going forward, though, the Buckinghamshire outfit will carry a threat with the attacking duo of Mo Eisa and Troy Parrott.
Eisa has neat feet around the edge of the penalty area and is more than capable of producing a sublime finish, while Parrott was extremely highly rated at Under-23s level with Tottenham and has already had his first year of senior football under his belt.
On the one hand, Charlton can try to ask more questions over MK’s defence by adding an extra man to their attacks, but in doing so they do risk getting outnumbered in central areas, which could allow Matt O’Riley, Scott Twine, Eisa and Parrott to break into goalscoring positions.
— Milton Keynes Dons (@MKDonsFC) August 8, 2021
“I’m not convinced just yet that Bradford are ready to live up to the favourites tag and think Stevenage – yet to concede in the league this season – could be underrated here.”Gabriel Sutton
Bradford City v Stevenage
Double Chance: Draw/Stevenage
Bradford and Stevenage come into this game in buoyant fashion after scoring crucial late winners on Saturday.
The Bantams saw off Oldham thanks to a brace from Lee Angol, including a 98th-minute penalty from the striker, while Boro grabbed two late goals at Bristol Rovers.
Alex Revell’s side have thus far prided themselves on solidity and that was certainly the basis of their victory at the Memorial Ground, a game which saw just 15 efforts at goal and only three on target – for either side.
Joseph Anang, on loan from West Ham, had to make just one save all afternoon, which shows how strong the defence was: the battling qualities of Scott Cuthbert complemented the intelligence of Terence Vancooten at centre-back, while Luther Wildin’s attacking thrust from right-back worked well against Ben Coker’s comparative conservatism on the left.
Revell is spoilt for options in midfield, too, because although the former target man opted for a quartet of Elliot Osborne, Chris Lines, Jake Taylor and Jake Reeves, it was Charlie Carter who made an impact from the bench.
Carter is effectively world-class when it comes purely to long distance running, which makes him the ideal player to bring into a game early in the second half; forwards Luke Norris and James Daly also made an impact for Stevenage after coming off the bench.
With that depth, Revell’s troops have an opportunity to grow into this game: as good a manager as Adams is, his style is for his side to have very little possession – just 35% against Oldham, in fact.
That figure is surprisingly low when one considers that target man Andy Cook won 18 headers, the most in League Two that weekend, which suggests Alex Gilliead, Elliot Watt, Callum Cooke and Gareth Evans struggled to provide adequate support from midfield.
If those problems persist against what is likely to be stronger opposition, Stevenage could take a point or more back to Hertfordshire.
Chris Lines appreciation tweet. 👏 pic.twitter.com/w7LpF7cTOn
— Stevenage FC 🔴⚪ (@StevenageFC) August 14, 2021
“Port Vale look close to getting that first goal and win of their league season and I see them getting both against Carlisle, thanks to James Wilson.”Gabriel Sutton
Port Vale v Carlisle United
James Wilson: Port Vale 1-0
James Wilson is out to prove a point.
The striker may be remembered by Manchester United fans for featuring 20 times, mainly under Louis Van Gaal, scoring four goals whilst carrying a threat with his pace and willingness to run in behind.
Since then, though, Wilson has struggled to fulfil his potential and, after arriving at Port Vale with less than complimentary reviews from Salford, must rebuild his career.
The early signs have offered some encouragement: Wilson had a legitimate goal ruled out in the EFL Cup last Tuesday, then got into some good goalscoring positions in the 0-0 draw with Tranmere in the league, with the finish missing.
Once the 25-year-old gets one goal, there is the possibility he could catch fire and become one of the leading strikers in League Two.
Carlisle, meanwhile, have had a good start to the season themselves: Chris Beech’s side created enough chances to defeat Colchester on the opening day, even if they ultimately had to settle for a point, but they did record a 2-1 victory over Swindon.
Nonetheless, Vale and Wilson have looked solid defensively so far and could be due a change of fortune.
Good to have our first point of the season on the board. From the flashes I’ve managed to see it seemed a brilliant performance coupled with lacklustre finishing. Hopefully that’ll come with more games. Two games this coming week & hopefully a chance to get that first win. #pvfc
— Scott ⚽ (@PicardyBreezer) August 14, 2021