“Forest look revitalized under Steve Cooper and I feel their resurgence may continue at Ashton Gate, especially if Bristol City have the same issues engaging with their opponents as they did against Bournemouth.”Gabriel Sutton
Bristol City v Nottingham Forest
Forest to win
Bristol City were unable to so much as lay a glove on Bournemouth on Saturday, falling to a 2-0 defeat.
The obvious conclusion is that City were beaten by the expensively-assembled league leaders and that they should not be judged based on how they fare in this type of match, especially given the progress made this season in many respects.
The flip side to that is that Nigel Pearson’s side made just eight tackles – five below their average for the season – which shows they did not give themselves the best chance of pulling off a surprise result.
Another no-show could be exploited by Forest, who have taken 13 points from the last 15 available and look transformed under Steve Cooper.
Barely three weeks ago, the East Midlanders could have been regarded as relegation candidates due to the catastrophic start under Chris Hughton, but the subsequent turnaround has been so stark, the Reds are now just six points off the Play-Offs.
Cooper has breathed life into their club and optimism into their season, while there is an energy about the team that did not exist previously.
Key to the shift are wing-backs Djed Spence and Max Lowe, who have bags of stamina and running power, making it easier for Forest to transition from defence to attack.
A front-three of dynamo Brennan Johnson, ball-carrier Phillip Zinckernagel and predatory finisher Lewis Grabban, meanwhile, has torn opponents apart, given freedom by the solid midfield platform provided by athlete Ryan Yates and the diligent Jack Colback.
All in all, Cooper’s side look very well-rounded and could be set to continue their rise up the table.
Most enjoyable #NFFC performance at the City Ground for … longer than I want to remember!
Everyone on it, every player good on the ball. Best atmosphere for a long time. Steve Cooper doing the business 🌳👌🏻
— Daniel Taylor (@DTathletic) October 16, 2021
“Bournemouth look good for a top two finish so far and I expect Scott Parker’s side to secure a third successive victory at Play-Off contenders Stoke, who suffered a late defeat at Sheffield United last time out.”Gabriel Sutton
Stoke City v AFC Bournemouth
Bournemouth to win
Bournemouth held on to top spot in the Championship at the weekend with a 2-0 victory at Bristol City.
Key to the Cherries’ excellent start to the campaign has been the left sided combination play between full-back Jordan Zemura and winger Jaidon Anthony, both 20.
There were calls for Jason Tindall and Jonathan Woodgate to give Zemura a run of games at many points last season, especially when Diego Rico was underperforming, but Scott Parker appears to have a more meritocratic selection policy.
Zemura and Anthony are two quick, direct runners who love to attack the flank, which means that when opposing teams stop one of them they still have another to deal with.
Bournemouth also have pace on the other flank in right-back Jack Stacey and wide forward Jamal Lowe, which means there is plenty of space in central areas for Ryan Christie to create, for Phillip Billing to link play and for Neil Kilkenny to dictate from deep.
At the back, meanwhile, Gary Cahill has forged a stubborn centre-back pairing with Lloyd Kelly, arguably the strongest in the division.
Being a former Premier League and Champions League winner, Cahill brings elite class and experience, while Kelly is strong, quick and agile.
With Dominic Solanke finding goalscoring form this season and Mark Travers making some crucial saves, Bournemouth appear to have all the ingredients to win promotion – and secure victory in Stoke.
Not saying Fulham fans were wrong to have their opinion on Scott Parker,some fits are better than others. I’m also not saying that some #AFCB fans were wrong to be sceptical of his appointment.Surely though, even the most sceptical fan will recognise that he’s onto something here
— Alex Deutsch (@alexdeutsch) October 17, 2021
“After a vastly improved display against Sunderland, I’m backing Gillingham to end their four-game losing streak with victory over fellow strugglers Doncaster.”Gabriel Sutton
Gillingham v Doncaster Rovers
Gillingham to win and Under 3.5 goals
Having been in the Play-Off conversation for parts of the previous two seasons, Gillingham and Doncaster are now looking over their shoulders.
The Gills, though, can take huge encouragement from their performance against Sunderland at the weekend, even if they suffered a 2-1 home defeat.
The return of Mustapha Carayol, on the left side of a four-man midfield in Steve Evans’ 4-1-4-1 setup, means the Kent outfit have a quick outlet – somebody who can carry the ball upfield at pace.
Carayol produced a highly lively performance earlier in the season, in a 1-1 draw at Burton, before picking up an injury shortly after that and his return is massively welcomed.
Stuart O’Keefe, who has endured his own battles with injury, brings unique experience and battling qualities – always invaluable to an Evans side – in midfield.
Carayol and O’Keefe make a big difference to this Gillingham side, who have an excellent target man in Vadaine Oliver, who wins 12.9 aerial duels per game: the most in League One.
Evans’ troops will therefore hope to build on the performance against Sunderland with victory over bottom side Doncaster, who accrued just seven points from their first 11 games.
Rovers had 64% possession in their 2-0 loss to Wycombe, but there was no real spark, creativity or drive in the final third to suggest, having gone two down inside 17 minutes, that they would get back into the game.
Ethan Galbraith, who was on the field for just 33 minutes, was awarded the official man-of-the-match: Gillingham will be difficult to break down and it’s hard to see Donny having the conviction to do it.
I thought we saw Stuart O'Keefe back to his best for Gillingham against Sunderland, won the penalty which saw Danny Lloyd open the scoring, put himself about with several combative challenges, and O'Keefe's half volleyed effort towards goal was saved by Hoffman in the second half
— Lee Clifton (@FOM_BLOG) October 16, 2021
“Lincoln are hoping their late winner against Charlton can be a springboard for Michael Appleton’s side to put a run together and enter Play-Off contention. I see them accruing back-to-back wins for the first time this season against AFC Wimbledon.”Gabriel Sutton
Lincoln City v AFC Wimbledon
Lincoln to win
For the first time this season, Lincoln are now as close to the Play-Off places as they are to the relegation zone.
The Imps thoroughly deserved their 2-1 victory over Charlton, their performance especially impressive in the absence of an orthodox centre-forward.
The false nine in Michael Appleton’s 4-3-3 setup was Chris Maguire, who produced a star performance: often dropping in to link play, or drifting out wide, which opened up space for Lewis Fiorini, Anthony Scully and Teddy Bishop to threaten goal.
Elsewhere, the reliable Conor McGrandles broke up play superbly while Joe Walsh’s return to defence represents a huge boost for Appleton, bringing leadership and organisational qualities next to Lewis Montsma, who pinged delightful diagonals at will.
A repeat of that performance level should yield victory against AFC Wimbledon, who have dropped to 17th after going a fifth league game without victory: Mark Robinson’s side have fallen behind in each of their last eight matches, too.
When I close my eyes I can still Lewis Montsma playing an inch perfect 50 yard diagonal pass 😍
— TomFM (@TomFM_YT) October 16, 2021
“Port Vale have won five of their last six league matches and, after entering the top three last time out, I see Darrell Clarke’s side continuing their excellent form with victory at underperformers Mansfield.”Gabriel Sutton
Mansfield Town v Port Vale
Port Vale to win
Vale boss Darrell Clarke thinks the team spirit in the dressing room at his current side is up there with the best he has managed in his career.
That is saying something because Clarke also managed a group at Bristol Rovers – who won back-to-back promotions then a top half League One finish – who had a fantastic synergy and leaders everywhere he looked.
The Mansfield-born boss has been praised for his in-game management, which paid dividends in the 3-1 victory over Barrow last time out.
The Valiants were trailing at the break, when Clarke opted for a double substitution, including taking off six-goal top scorer Jamie Proctor.
As it happened, the two players the 43-year-old brought on at the interval – Dennis Politic and Mal Benning – were among the goals in a 3-1 victory.
Politic was one of the few to impress in Bolton’s 2019-20 relegation campaign from League One with his excellent dribbling ability and, were it not for the long-term injury he suffered the following summer, he might now be at a top third tier club if not in the Championship.
Vale took the chance that the injury had not affected him too much and Clarke has been right not to hand him a league start yet, but rather ease him in – and the Romanian has changed games from the bench.
They are proving now that they have excellent strength in depth, beyond the first XI that Clarke has settled on early.
You best believe this is Darrell Clarke’s Port Vale. We are on the way😎
— Kie (@kvpvfc) October 16, 2021
“Oldham’s Dylan Bahamboula could dazzle the natives once again, but Walsall’s Jack Earing may also catch the eye with his delightful passing.”Gabriel Sutton
Oldham Athletic v Walsall
both teams to score
Oldham’s 3-0 victory over Stevenage on Saturday highlighted their main strength: the two attacking midfielders in Keith Curle’s 3-4-2-1 setup.
Dylan Bahamboula – strong, skillful, and capable of mesmerising quality for the level – is one of the best players in the division and it is remarkable that the Frenchman has stayed at Boundary Park this summer.
Davis Keillor-Dunn, who bagged a brace against the Boro – brings composure and guile in the final third, often producing perfect placement with his efforts at goal.
Bahamboula and Keillor-Dunn are more than capable of causing problems for Walsall, who are missing a tenacious enforcer, especially with Liam Kinsella sidelined with a long-term injury.
Joss Labadie is powerful and aggressive but, at 31 and the other side of numerous nasty injuries, does not have the agility to turn and run back quickly if his initial attempt to close down is unsuccessful.
Sam Perry is neat and tidy but has little physicality, likewise Jack Earing, who has gravitated from an advanced, attacking role, into a deeper position.
Though Earing must work on his defensive awareness if he is to be a successful component of Matt Taylor’s double-pivot, his passing range is extensive and execution, sublime.
Bahamboula and Earing could be the stand-out performers in a game between two sides who will be hoping for better things.