Gabriel Sutton returns to provide you with his EFL preview ahead of a busy weekend with an impact on promotion and relegation.
“Luton are priced as huge underdogs at 11/10 via the draw no bet option, but only size of club suggests there is not a mere Rizla paper separating them and West Brom on the field: in fact, the Hatters have a superior PPG. This bet will land if the hosts win, and return the stake if the game ends all square.”Gabriel Sutton
Luton Town v West Bromwich Albion
Luton draw no bet
Luton and West Brom had expected their respective seasons to lie in different vicinities of the Championship table, but instead their campaigns have grown entwined.
The Hatters have built an unlikely Play-Off push with one of the lowest budgets in the division, through smart recruitment and excellent coaching from Nathan Jones.
On top of that, the Bedfordshire outfit have leant on the organisational qualities of Sonny Bradley at the back as well as the goals and hold-up play of Elijah Adebayo.
Albion, meanwhile, have slipped out of the top six because, despite having strong individuals like Alex Mowatt, Karlan Grant and Callum Robinson, they have looked disjointed all season.
The West Midlanders have accrued a paltry one point from their previous four league games, and have not scored in any of them, so are hoping Steve Bruce can turn their fortunes around.
In the midweek draw with Blackburn, though, Bruce admitted neither side created much and that, despite having Grant and Robinson on the field, his team struggled to get men close to Andy Carroll.
Unless that changes at Kenilworth Road, the target man could become isolated against Luton’s back-three, especially if Bradley is back fit to bring much-needed leadership to the back-line.
Teams to have taken more points than Luton Town (16) in their last eight Championship games
End of list.🎩🎩🎩#CCP | #LTFC pic.twitter.com/iuvhsNx8nK
— The Championship Chat Podcast (@Champchatpod24) February 17, 2022
“Chris Willock has been one of the best players in the Championship this season and I expect him to show his brilliance once again, against a Hull side looking to tick off the points they need to secure their Championship status.”Gabriel Sutton
Queens Park Rangers v Hull City
Chris Willock to score anytime
QPR come into Saturday’s game off the back of successive away defeats, losing 1-0 and 2-0 to Barnsley and Millwall respectively.
Those results mean the Rs can look less towards chasing down an automatic promotion spot, and more towards tying up a Play-Off berth, which would represent continued progress under Mark Warburton.
Having drawn three blanks in their last five league games, though, the West Londoners cannot afford to continue leaning too heavily on the individual quality of Ilias Chair and Chris Willock, particularly the latter.
There have been plenty of games, this season, in which Warburton’s side have been on the back-foot, then Willock has conjured up a sporadic moment of magic from outside the box that changed the direction of the contest.
QPR need to work on exerting control for longer periods within their games, but they can always fall back on an excellent defence, comprising of the likes of Rob Dickie and Jimmy Dunne.
Hull possess a talented set of centre-backs themselves including Sean McLoughlin and Jacob Greaves, who had to defend defiantly in the goalless draw at Sheffield United last time out, as the Tigers came under a lot of pressure.
It might not be enough at Loftus Road, though, if Willock can produce those pieces of quality from outside the box.
Why are fans so against Seny Dieng coming back into the starting line up? I like David Marshall a lot but Seny has been our number 1 for nearly 2 seasons and played majority of this season minus being away at AFCON, I’ve wanted him back in the starting line up from day 1. #QPR
— Mark (@Carter_QPR) February 16, 2022
“Defensively, Jordan Storey has lifted Wednesday to another level. I see them winning to nil here against a struggling Donny side.”Gabriel Sutton
Doncaster Rovers v Sheffield Wednesday
Wednesday win to nil
Doncaster gave themselves a glimmer of hope in midweek.
Rovers won 1-0 at Lincoln to move within six points of safety, though have played at least one more game than each of their relegation rivals.
Gary McSheffrey has overseen a return of 12 points from 14 games in charge which, although superior to 13 from 19 beforehand, will not be anywhere near enough to keep Donny in League One.
Should the PPG return needed to be 20th be the same at the end of April as it is now, then the South Yorkshire outfit must produce the same form ninth-placed Ipswich have produced this season, having lost two-thirds of their league encounters to date.
Realistically, it’s too big an ask, but the wider picture is that McSheffrey has lifted the move around DN4, united what had grown a fractured club under Richie Wellens, and has started the process of building a side that, if needed, could challenge for promotion from League Two next season.
Sheffield Wednesday hope to fare better against this fellow South Yorkshire side than they did at home to Rotherham last time out, losing 2-0 to the Millers at Hillsborough.
That defeat, though, followed a run of four consecutive league victories to nil, which shows Darren Moore’s side have solidified at the back since Jordan Storey came into the team.
Equally, three of Doncaster’s last five league games have seen them be defeated without finding the net and will be hoping to avoid a repeat of that against their former manager.
Sheffield Wednesday unavailable team- Dawson, Iorfa, Dunks, Dean, NML, Shodipo, Hutchinson, Dele Bashiru, Adeniran, Gregory, Windass, Sub- John-Jules
And Darren Moore is supposed to get this club promoted? It’s a miracle they are 8th #SWFC
— Geoff SWFC (@GeoffSWFC) February 16, 2022
“The job for Shrewsbury is to make sure their four-point buffer to the drop zone does not get cut on Saturday, whereas for Morecambe it’s a case of going all out to drag them into trouble. The psychology of this match may favour the visitors.”Gabriel Sutton
Shrewsbury Town v Morecambe
Morecambe to win
League One’s relegation dogfight looks a case of two from five going down.
Baring an unlikely resurgence from Crewe and Doncaster, it’s two spots that are in doubt and with Lincoln in resurgent mood, Shrewsbury, Fleetwood and Wimbledon look the three teams currently outside the bottom four who could get dragged in.
Gillingham are resurgent under Neil Harris, but Morecambe – four points better off than the Gills – are likeliest to climb out.
The Shrews are missing an attacking spark under Steve Cotterill, winless in seven league games and with just two goals in that period, since their FA Cup defeat at Liverpool.
Their visitors, by contrast, have been inspired by a glamour cup trip, with a competitive performance at Tottenham giving players a belief about what they can produce at the best.
Results have not come since that day, with just one win in eight, but showings against Wigan and Gillingham could easily have garnered six points rather than one.
There is a modicum of momentum behind Morecambe, who have little to lose currently sitting in the relegation zone, whereas Shrewsbury may have a cautious mindset of looking to preserve the gap.
The danger of conservatism creeping into the psyche of Salop players could be something to watch out for on Saturday, whereas Morecambe can dictate terms.
They have two attacking full-backs in the intelligent Ryan Cooney and direct runner Greg Leigh, they have a midfielder in Toumani Diagouraga who always shows for the ball – even under pressure – and rarely misplaces it.
Elsewhere in midfield, Shane McLoughlin is energetic with an aptitude for 50-50s, while Adam Phillips loves to make runs deep into the final third.
Although Cole Stockton is the Shrimps’ go-to hitman with 18 goals – the division’s top scorer, no less – Jonah Ayunga is a physical specimen who loves to attack goal from the right and aim to power one into the far corner.
📊 Following this afternoon's draw with @TheGillsFC, we want you to vote for your Man of the Match from the below four contenders.. 👇#UTS 🦐 | #MORvGIL
— Morecambe FC (@ShrimpsOfficial) February 12, 2022
“Pools are building something special under Graeme Lee and I fancy them to inflict back-to-back defeats on their fellow 2020-21 National League promotees, although Sutton are having an excellent campaign.”Gabriel Sutton
Hartlepool United v Sutton United
Hartlepool to win
Hartlepool and Sutton were promoted from the National League last season and both find themselves in healthy positions in League Two.
Pools have found form for the first time since Dave Challinor left them in the lurch by upping sticks to Stockport, with the current head coach, Graeme Lee, overseeing three straight league victories which have prompted faint hopes of a late Play-Off tilt.
Matt Gray’s side, meanwhile, are mounting an unlikely promotion challenge, sitting just three points off the top three.
The South Londoners, though, do come into this game off the back of a 2-0 defeat at Bristol Rovers, their fourth game without a win, so form in this one is with the hosts.
Given the success achieved under his predecessor, it may have been difficult for some coaches in Lee’s situation to put their own stamp on the team, but the former Middlesbrough Under-23s boss has done so very quickly.
Lee has renovated the side, switching from the 3-5-2 under Challinor to a 4-3-3, whilst getting the best out of the likes of Tom Crawford and Luke Molyneux, who were peripheral figures in the National League promotion-winning campaign.
On top of that, January recruitment has been spot on, with midfielders Joe White and Bryn Morris plus striker Omar Bogle all making an instant impression.
If Hartlepool could secure a fourth win in succession, it could make for an exciting conclusion to the season.
There’s something building here… #NeverSayDie pic.twitter.com/uU4h3SmMX6
— Hartlepool United FC (@Official_HUFC) February 15, 2022
“The data has always reflected kindly on Bradford, who were creating chances under Derek Adams, and with Mark Trueman’s softer man management style, I see them defeating relegation strugglers Oldham to stay in the Play-Off picture.”Gabriel Sutton
Oldham Athletic v Bradford City
Bradford to win
A trip to Oldham has often been the game that precipitates a managerial change at Bradford, with Stuart McCall losing his job in his last two stints after defeat at Boundary Park, likewise Gary Bowyer.
On this occasion, though, the mere threat of a doomsday in OL1 has been enough for the Bantams to part company with their gaffer, as Derek Adams departed with the pre-season promotion favourites languishing in midtable.
Mark Trueman, who took charge for five months of last season, stepping up from Academy Manager, will now be caretaker for a second time and has a chance to make a claim for the permanent gig.
There is potential for the 34-year-old to rejuvenate the group after Adams’ more distant man management style, but Saturday’s game is not just the Trueman Show.
John Sheridan saved Oldham from relegation from League One in 2016, then again in 2017 and five years later, in his sixth stint in the dugout, he could be about to do the exact save.
The former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder has overseen eight points from his four games in charge, leaving the Latics just two points off safety, but this time they could be victims rather than beneficiaries of a manager’s honeymoon period.
Adams in or out, absolutely everyone has to get behind MT now. Bleeds claret & amber, 100% saved this club last season and chose to stay having no way anticipated this – but has landed a challenge again. If it’s 1 game or 14.. let’s have it. Mark Trueman’s Bradford army. #bcafc pic.twitter.com/0w6UCPHY4x
— Tom (@tcbcafc) February 16, 2022