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Gab Sutton‘s weekend preview is here and the EFL pundit gives us his best bets for the weekend action.

“Swansea have produced two complete performances that make me think this could be more than a building, transitional season and 2/1 is fantastic value considering their recent results.”

Gabriel Sutton

Swansea to win

Birmingham City v Swansea City

2/1

Birmingham have stabilized defensively over the last two games, producing a spirited derby display in the 1-0 loss at West Brom and a deserved clean sheet in the draw at Huddersfield.

Going forward, though, Lee Bowyer’s side have lost their rhythm somewhat.

Tahith Chong, having been so impressive in the first two months of the campaign, has begun to look fatigued and burdened by having such an important role. That may partly explain Bowyer’s decision to freshen things up in midweek by bringing in Riley McGree for Ryan Woods and Jordan Graham for the injured Maxime Colin.

McGree and Graham are two quick, direct runners who are hoping to lift Blues, with the former producing a lively display in midweek, but the needs to be higher up the pitch.

Dion Sanderson was on paper a right-sided centre-back in a defensive trio, but he covers enough ground to essentially be a right-back so, one asks, would the B9 outfit be better off with a flat back-four?

That way, Graham would find it easier to get into the advanced wide area, from which he can take on an opposing full-back and swing in a cross. The former Gillingham winger did just that when he did get forward in West Yorkshire, but those moments were few and far between which meant a tough evening for Lukas Jutkiewicz, then Troy Deeney.

Birmingham have work to do to start creating chances at the rate at which they were earlier in the campaign whereas, perhaps, the opposite is true of Swansea.

Natives felt strongly a week ago that 2021-22 could only be a building season for the Swans, who were still adapting to Russ Martin’s extreme, possession-heavy ideology, but recent results have changed the feeling.

The 3-0 victory over deadly rivals Cardiff inspired renewed belief, which enabled Martin’s troops to come from going behind against West Brom inside a minute and win 2-1.

The link-up play between Jamie Paterson and Joel Piroe is a delight to watch and in Matt Grimes, Swansea have a midfielder capable of dictating a game.

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“I still think Fulham will win the league, but Bournemouth are also capable of running away with automatic promotion. I see Jaidon Anthony doing some damage in this one.”

Gabriel Sutton

Bournemouth -1 handicap

AFC Bournemouth v Huddersfield Town

Starting a season 13 league games unbeaten is some achievement.

Bournemouth have won nine times in that sequence, too, so it is not as if their record is distorted by a series of draws: Scott Parker’s side are five points clear at the top of the Championship and six ahead of the Play-Off places.

The Cherries have added further quality in free agent Robbie Brady, but the Ireland international will have to compete with the talents of Jaidon Anthony, who has begun the campaign in sizzling form.

In fact, Parker may favour the pace of Anthony in this match, simply because Huddersfield operate with a 3-5-2 system and push their wing-backs high up the pitch.

Sorba Thomas, at right wing-back, has been inspired form this season and has adjusted to Championship level surprisingly quickly, having only signed from National League outfit Boreham Wood as recently as January.

The task for Bournemouth will be to take advantage of the attacking instincts of Thomas, a forward by trade, by releasing Anthony in behind and getting the 20-year-old running at right-sided centre-back Matty Pearson.

Do that and the Cherries could continue their unbeaten start with another convincing victory against a Huddersfield side that have started better than expected but created very little in the midweek goalless draw with Birmingham.

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“Morecambe have problems defending balls into the box, and Dan Scarr is one of the most aerially imposing centre-backs League One has to offer. I really like this 12/1 shot.”

Gabriel Sutton

Dan Scarr to score anytime

Morecambe v Plymouth Argyle

After a run of three straight defeats, Morecambe are sliding into relegation trouble.

Stephen Robinson has done a wonderful job to get the Shrimps firing in attack, scoring more goals than third-placed Wycombe, with playmaker Alfie McCalmont, direct runner Arthur Gnahoua and hold-up front-man Cole Stockton all looking excellent at times.

Stockton, though, is not going to sustain his current return of 10 goals in 13 games over the full campaign – he’d be doing brilliantly to hit 20 in his first season at this level – so the Lancashire outfit must tighten up.

They can do that in at least one of two ways: firstly, to become more destructive in front of the defence and Robinson is hoping the energetic Sean McLoughlin’s return from injury can help that.

Secondly, to become more dominant in their own penalty area, because – in recent games especially – Morecambe have given opponents cheap, free headers inside the six-yard box.
The Northern Irish head coach has attempted to remedy this by switching to a back-three, with Ryan Delaney coming into defence, but they remain short of somebody who can command the box.

That is something 6’2” Dan Scarr will look to take advantage of, with the former Stourbridge defender having mustered 16 efforts at goal this season: no centre-back in League One has taken more.

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“I have huge respect and admiration for Nigel Adkins, but the results simply weren’t good enough and he had to go. Charlton’s new manager won’t come in time to take charge on Saturday, so I’m expecting a comfortable Sunderland win.”

Gabriel Sutton

Sunderland -1 handicap

Sunderland v Charlton Athletic

7/4

There are five teams capable of challenging for automatic promotion from League One this season and Sunderland are undoubtedly one of them.

The Black Cats responded defiantly to an off-day at Portsmouth, where they lost 4-1, with a battling, 10-man 2-1 smash-and-grab at Gillingham, before running out 4-0 victors at Crewe in midweek.

A ‘dominant’ performance? Perhaps not, or at least not quite to the extent the scoreline suggested. Controlled? Assured? Incisive? Clinical? Absolutely.

What separated Sunderland from their opponents was their outstanding link-up play in the final third, involving target man Ross Stewart, poacher-turned-link-up-specialist Aiden O’Brien and two enigmatic technicians with Premier League experience in Alex Pritchard and Aiden McGeady.

The quartet fashioned numerous clear cut chances and scored four goals with reasonable service from midfielders Dan Neil and Luke O’Nien, plus full-backs Carl Winchester and Dennis Cirkin – so imagine what they can do when Sunderland are dominant in the middle third?

That could be the case against struggling Charlton, who have begun the hunt for a new manager after Nigel Adkins was sacked following the 3-2 home loss to Accrington Stanley.

Interim boss Johnnie Jackson has a huge job on his hands to inspire his players to a result on this arduous trip to the north-east.

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“James Rowberry inherits a reliable template from Wayne Hatswell, who should be credited for a steady job as caretaker. I don’t think Newport’s four-game unbeaten run will end at Bristol Rovers.”

Gabriel Sutton

Newport draw no bet

Bristol Rovers v Newport County

1/1

James Rowberry takes charge of Newport for the first time this weekend, after being confirmed as the new head coach on Tuesday.

Rowberry inherits steady groundwork laid by caretaker gaffer Wayne Hatswell whom, it is hoped, will stick around to assist the rookie and bring invaluable knowledge of the first team squad, after overseeing a four-game unbeaten run.

Under Michael Flynn, the starting XI changed frequently which made it difficult for players to forge an understanding and become familiar with their tactical roles, which has changed under Hatswell.

In fact, the former Kidderminster defender has named the exact same XI in each of the last four league encounters.

This means that while Rowberry is getting to know his players well enough to develop his own perspective on how Newport should set up, he has a reliable template to start off with.

Defender James Clarke, midfielder Ed Upson and creator Oli Cooper have all impressed in recent weeks, while Dom Telford has forged an excellent strike-pairing with Courtney Baker-Richardson, recently back from injury.

Telford is full of running and has an eye for goal, while Baker-Richardson not only has physical qualities, he is also capable of moments of genuine quality from outside the box.

For that reason, Rowberry will be hopeful of keeping the unbeaten run going in his first game in charge, even if hosts Bristol Rovers are improving with just one league loss in five.

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“George Miller I believe is one of the best strikers in League Two. I think he’ll prove it against Barrow, too.”

Gabriel Sutton

George Miller to score anytime

Walsall v Barrow

George Miller has proved an inspired acquisition for Walsall.

The Bolton-born forward is already the joint-10th top goalscorer in League Two, and that is despite having arrived in the Black Country late in the window.

Because of that, Miller has only played eight games whereas the strikers ahead of him on the top goalscorer list have played 11, 12 and 13 matches.

The 23-year-old endured a difficult start to his career, unlucky to find himself in poor Bury and Bradford sides while Championship moves to Middlesbrough and Barnsley gave him little game-time.

Had the 6’10” forward began his career with two seasons at a good, well-coached League One or League Two side, he might be playing in the Championship by now, but circumstances mean he has had to drop into the fourth tier.

There is no doubting, though, Miller’s physical qualities, both in terms of his upper body strength, his mobility and his running power: he is ideal for a pressing system.

On top of that, the forward is an instinctive finisher, unafraid to take shots on first time – as he proved in his best performance for the Saddlers so far, the 3-1 victory over Mansfield – he also averages 2.1 shots in the penalty area per game.

Barrow, winless in three, will have to be wary

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Odds are correct at the time of posting

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