“Luke Berry has four games to his name already this season and I’m backing the midfielder to add to his tally at The Den.”Gabriel Sutton
Millwall v Luton
Luke Berry to score anytime
Over the last 12 months, Millwall have floated between winless runs and unbeaten streaks, without their performance levels fluctuating accordingly.
Rather, the Lions have drawn 21 of their last 48 league games, with clusters of ties dispersed largely by unconvincing victories and unlucky defeats.
It could be another tight game for the Londoners against Luton, who are hoping to secure successive top-half finishes.
Key to their hopes is Luke Berry, who has four goals to his name this season, having played alongside Glen Rea in midfield in the 0-0 draw with Huddersfield last time out.
There were doubts about whether Berry was Championship-ready, but manager Nathan Jones has a way of elevating the levels of his players to new heights through excellent coaching.
Last season the former Cambridge man struggled to get into the side due to the form of Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, on loan from Leicester, but this year he has enjoyed a run of games as an old-fashioned number eight.
Berry can put a challenge in, he can play a sharp 15-yard forward pass and he’s more than willing to have a shot from distance, all while maintaining the exemplary work ethic that is mandatory in a Jones side.
Millwall operate with three solid centre-backs in Dan Ballard, Shaun Hutchinson and Jake Cooper, who between them could dominate Luton’s strike-pairing – Elijah Adebayo and one of Harry Cornick or Cameron Jerome – which means the away side’s shooting opportunities may not come in the penalty box.
Instead, it may be about releasing Cornick in the right channel or getting Amari’i Bell flying down the left, then pulling the ball back for a shot from distance: Berry will not be afraid to pull the trigger.
Luke Berry. Luke Berry. Luke Berry. Luke Berry. Luke Berry. Luke Fucking Berry. pic.twitter.com/f2MGKZJHxh
— We Are Luton Town (@wearelutontown) September 30, 2021
“Reading might have a long injury list but I don’t see their excellent form coming to a halt against a struggling Barnsley side.”Gabriel Sutton
Reading v Barnsley
Reading to win
Reading went into the international break with a fortuitous 1-0 victory over Cardiff.
The Royals scored from one of only two efforts at goal in the Welsh capital, whilst their hosts failed to find the net from 27.
Naturally, a repeat of that performance level is unlikely to yield another victory, but there is reason to think Veljko Paunovic’s side will improve, too.
They have suffered injuries to 10 different players this season, including key men like Michael Morrison, Andy Rinomhota, Alen Halilovic and Lucas João.
The hope is that the two-week interlude has given Paunovic the space to get a few of these players back, even if it may just be Rinomhota on Saturday.
Still, Barnsley could be without five players: key defender Mads Andersen has a knee injury and forwards Carlton Morris (knee) and Obbi Oulare (back) are out, while midfielder Josh Benson and defender Aapo Halme are out.
On top of that, head coach Markus Schopp has come in for heavy criticism from supporters, many of whom had been hoping for a change of leadership.
The evidence is that the hierarchy will stick with Schopp – if they had planned a change it would likely have happened before the international break – which could favour Reading.
While there is nothing to suggest the players have turned on Schopp, and many of them have spoken out admirably about their own responsibilities, there is a feeling that the boss’ tactics are not getting the best out of them.
Reading, meanwhile, have a former Premier League title-winner in Danny Drinkwater pulling the strings at the base of midfield in Paunovic’s 4-1-4-1 system, while Ovie Ejaria, Tom Dele-Bashiru and John Swift can all link up superbly in the final third.
‘John Swift isn’t the best midfielder in the championship’ 🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩
— Reece 🏴 (@Reece_RFC) October 13, 2021
“Given Hoolahan’s Norwich connections, I’m expecting a Wessi wonder-show against Ipswich, which is why I think Cambridge will score as well as the expensively-assembled visitors.”Gabriel Sutton
Cambridge United v Ipswich Town
Both teams to score
Wes Hoolahan holds the key to Cambridge’s chances.
The Norwich legend will tell anyone from the media who listens that this is just another game for him, no more important than any other, but the fact it is Ipswich will surely have a subtle motivational effect.
“The Irish Messi” will be inundated with texts and messages from those from the yellow side of East Anglia, telling him he has to perform against the Tractor Boys and that surely has an impact.
Not to mention, Hoolahan is already a supremely gifted footballer with a deftness of touch and an audacity of vision that has graced the Premier League and major international tournaments.
This match for the U’s, therefore, will be all about finding Hoolahan and that will require bravery on the ball, especially with the first pass after a turnover, because Paul Cook will set his Ipswich side up to play at a high intensity.
If Mark Bonner’s side can consistently find Hoolahan, though, the 39-year-old will act as a prompt for Shilow Tracey and James Brophy to fly forward on the flanks and for Adam May to start timing his run into the danger zone, in support of grafter Joe Ironside.
If Cambridge can do that, they should ask questions of an Ipswich defence that misses a dominant presence and has kept just two clean sheets all season.
Town are improving, though, having taken 10 points from their last five matches and they do carry individual attacking threats in Macauley Bonne – joint-top goalscorer in the division with nine goals – and Wes Burns, who brings pace and direct running from the right.
“U’s will want pace on the flanks with Wes Hoolahan supporting Joe Ironside”
Who will Cambridge boss Mark Bonner pick to face Ipswich this weekend?
Listen back to last night’s Extra Time here 👉 https://t.co/a0NkdTkiQS pic.twitter.com/pMYtl8ef3w
— BBC Cambs Sport (@BBCCambsSport) October 12, 2021
“Mo Eisa makes such a difference to this MK Dons side and I expect them to beat Steve Cotterill’s Shrewsbury, who are being punished for a lack of summer attention to their midfield. Salop sit 23rd with a meagre eight points from 12 games.”Gabriel Sutton
Shrewsbury Town v Milton Keynes Dons
Half-Time/Full-Time: MK Dons/MK Dons
Having cultivated an extreme, possession-heavy style under Russ Martin in the previous two seasons, MK Dons are now kings of chance creation under Liam Manning.
Switching from last season’s 3-4-2-1, which saw them fashion a high-volume of half-chances, the Buckinghamshire outfit are now creating clear cut chances for themselves with a 3-4-1-2.
In fact, Manning’s men average 1.58 Expected Goals For (xGF) per game, which is the third-best in the division and it gets better: Mo Eisa is back.
One thing MK missed last season was a clinical centre-forward: somebody who could not only finish chances, but also swerve away from defenders around the edge of the box and set themselves up for a neat finish.
We saw signs of Eisa doing that in August, especially in the 2-0 victory over Cheltenham, and since the former Greenwich Borough striker got injured, the team has not had the same cutting edge – although creative forward Troy Parrott and long-range specialist Scott Twine have remained in good form.
Parrott, Twine and Eisa has the potential to be the strongest front three in League One.
🗣 "I'm ready to get back and start scoring some goals again"
Follow the link below to watch an exclusive interview with Mo Eisa on iFollow MK Dons 👇
— Milton Keynes Dons (@MKDonsFC) October 9, 2021
“Age is just a number: Peter Clarke, at 39, remains one of the best centre-backs in League Two, and has been in among the goals recently too.”Gabriel Sutton
Carlisle United v Tranmere Rovers
Tranmere win to nil
An incredible quirk of this fixture is that the team going into it in 22nd have scored more goals than their opponents, who are fifth.
What truly separates these sides, therefore, is their defensive work.
Tranmere boasts a firm, steady base with the athletic Josh Cogley at right-back, the intelligent Calum MacDonald at left-back, while in central defence, aerial battler Tom Davies has forged an excellent pairing with veteran Peter Clarke.
Clarke’s first professional appearance came in the Premiership for Everton against Coventry back in 2001, when he played alongside the likes of Kevin Campbell and David Unsworth in a 3-1 with at Highfield Road under Walter Smith.
20 years on, the 6’0” defender is doing the business for Tranmere: Clarke is a key part of an unforgiving defensive unit that has conceded only four goals in 11 league games, having himself scored three in his last two.
Clarke and Rovers are hoping for another clean sheet against managerless Carlisle who, having dispensed with the services of Chris Beech after the 3-0 loss at Bristol Rovers last time out, will be led in the interim period by Gavin Skelton.
The Cumbrians are crying out for a reliable, screening presence in front of the defence – much like what Tranmere have in Jay Spearing and Sam Foley – and have conceded some cheap goals in recent weeks.
Skelton’s main priority will try to iron out those issues, which may come at the cost of attacking endeavour.
— Nigel Adderley (@nadderley) October 8, 2021
“If Newport can isolate George Ray against Dom Telford with through balls from Oli Cooper, Finn Azaz or Ed Upson, they could have some joy.”Gabriel Sutton
Exeter City v Newport County
Dom Telford to score 2 or more goals
Exeter boss Matt Taylor is facing calls to drop his 3-4-2-1 formation, in favour of a back-four.
The theory was that George Ray, who is not the most mobile, would be supported by two other defenders and less at risk of being isolated into an individual duel with an opposing striker.
In practice, though, the wing-back system has had the opposite effect, because outside centre-backs Pierce Sweeney and Alex Hartridge have been tasked with supporting wing-backs Josh Key and Jake Caprice from behind, while neither are blessed with searing pace.
For that reason, opponents find it too easy to cut the Grecians open; a modicum of midfield creativity is required to release a quick, nippy forward up against Ray and get in behind.
Newport striker Dom Telford, therefore, can take inspiration from Walsall’s George Miller and Stevenage’s Elliott List, who bagged braces in their respective 2-2 draws with the Devoners.
Telford is already forging a promising strike-partnership with Courtney Baker-Richardson – strong and capable of the spectacular – under the caretaker stewardship of Wayne Hatswell.
Exeter City🇬🇷 Vs Newport County🟠
Clarke🏴 CB, Demetriou🏴 CB
Norman🏴 RWB, Haynes🏴 LWB
Upson🏴 CM, Willmott🏴 CM
CBR🏴 ST, Telford🏴 ST
Bench – Townsend, Missilou, Lewis, Cain, Azaz, Greenidge, Fisher#NCAFC⚫️🟠
— BenRJH ⚫️🟠🏴 (@ExiledBen) October 13, 2021