Gabriel Sutton returns once again to provide his expert opinion and his EFL picks ahead of the weekend’s action.
“Keane Lewis-Potter is one of the most exciting young players in the Championship right now and I see him continuing his stand-out season with a goal against out-of-form Albion.”Gabriel Sutton
Hull City v West Bromwich Albion
Keane Lewis-Potter to score anytime
Hull ended a tough February on the right notes, ending a six-game winless streak with a comprehensive 3-0 victory at Peterborough.
The Tigers’ new owner, Acun Ilicali – branded “the Turkish Simon Cowell” – has promised that funds will be available in the summer, but the key priority will be retaining key assets.
Keane Lewis-Potter, having starred in 2020-21’s League One title win, has proved his value to the HU3 club this term by excelling in different roles.
When full-backs Lewie Coyle and Callum Elder got injured, Grant McCann switched from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2 and Lewis-Potter – despite being a forward by trade – thrived as an extremely attacking left wing-back.
Although McCann’s replacement, Shota Arveladze, has stuck with the wing-back system, Lewis-Potter has been moved back to a more advanced role, where he bagged twice last time out.
KLP is quick and vertical in his movement with and without the ball, but he is also extremely intelligent.
He’s capable of slotting through a searching ball, but knows when to hold onto it in the final third, capable of running past an opponent but knows the duels he can’t win, capable of striking for goal but only when he’s in the best position.
Put simply, Lewis-Potter has at 21 the talent to go to the very top, likewise defender Jacob Greaves, who along with the rest of the rear-guard will be hoping to consign West Brom to a seventh game without a goal in eight.
Steve Bruce’s side have crashed out of the Play-Off scramble in recent weeks and into the division’s bottom half, after a 2-0 loss to Swansea last time out: the new manager has admitted confidence is low.
As for Hull, Lewis-Potter is one for the future, but there has also been a nod to the past: the new regime have shown their willingness to embrace the heritage of the club by naming the stand after it’s all-time top goalscorer.
🏟️ Hull City are proud to announce the East Stand at the MKM Stadium will be renamed in honour of the club's all-time record goalscorer, Chris Chilton.
More Info ⤵️#hcafc
— Hull City (@HullCity) March 2, 2022
“QPR are in the Play-Off mix, despite having rarely convinced this term. I fancy Steve Morison’s Cardiff to travel back to South Wales with a point or three in their pocket.”Gabriel Sutton
Queens Park Rangers v Cardiff City
Double Chance: Draw/Cardiff
QPR’s promotion bid has stuttered in February with a run of one league win in six, after a 1-0 defeat at Blackburn last time out.
Mark Warburton admitted that his players looked “a bit weary and leggy” and regretted the decision not to freshen up the XI, but after some positive training sessions, he had felt the need to stick with what he had.
The Rs struggled to match the intensity of their opponents, especially in the first half, and thus struggled to get into their rhythm and were forced into some dangerous errors.
That could offer some encouragement to Cardiff, who moved 16 points clear of the drop zone with a 1-0 victory over Derby last time out.
The result prompted the Bluebirds hierarchy to hand manager Steve Morison a new deal to the end of next season as opposed to this one, with the former target man overseeing 24 points from 17 games.
That return, over a full season, would have put City in the top half of the Championship and with the success of January recruits like Tommy Doyle and Jordan Hugill, it’s easy to see why ‘Moro’ has gained an improved deal.
If the visitors start this game strongly, they have a chance of stopping their hosts from getting into their stride.
Steve Morison given Cardiff City extension until the summer of 2023.
For large parts of the season, xG for was lower than xG against . An improvement has followed the good business in the transfer window and a tactical tweak from 3-4-3 to a 3-5-2. #CCFC pic.twitter.com/jrtZXcyZg2
— EFL Stats (@EFLStats) March 2, 2022
“Sam Smith has been in good goalscoring form lately but, against a compact Shrewsbury side, Cambridge may miss the greater physical presence of Joe Ironside, who is absent through injury.”Gabriel Sutton
Cambridge United v Shrewsbury Town
Cambridge Under 0.5 goals
Shrewsbury have alleviated some of their relegation fears over the last week, winning 2-0 at Burton before holding runaway leaders Rotherham to a goalless draw.
Results mean Steve Cotterill’s side are seven points clear of safety as opposed to having the four-point cushion they had a week ago, so Fleetwood and Wimbledon look likelier to get dragged into the mire if there is a resurgence from Gillingham or Morecambe.
The last two results, however, have come off the back of their opponents producing arguably their worst performances of their respective seasons to date, so how does that reflect on Salop?
On the one hand, it shows they have been water-tight at the back, competitive in midfield and persistent in attack.
Ryan Bowman – nicknamed ‘Bengals’ for whatever reason – grafted selflessly at the Pirelli, even when the service was not as precise as the ball-to-feet, hold-up front-man would have liked.
In midfield, Tyrese Fornah would consider himself a neat-and-tidy, deep-lying playmaker – having dictated proceedings at the midfield base in a 3-1-4-2 for Plymouth Argyle last season – but he’s shown a willingness to bulk up and battle.
With the rest of the team all doing the basics around him, Ethan Ebanks-Landell does not have to worry so much about getting caught out for his lack of pace, and can simply focus on dominating his penalty area with his physicality and heading balls out of the box.
With all those units in place, the Shrews look capable of doing the business they need to secure another season in League One, ahead of a summer of off-field change.
Vice-chairman Paul Delves is set to replace long-standing number one Roland Wycherley, who will step down after 26 years at the helm, and may bring some fresh ideas to the table moving forward.
Shrewsbury should tick another point or three off towards the 50 mark by avoiding defeat at Cambridge, who themselves need merely another six from their remaining 13 games.
Steve Cotterill hails “outstanding” second-half display. Feels Millers keeper Josh Vickers was the best player on the pitch. #salop
— Lewis Cox (@LewisCox_star) March 1, 2022
“Burton look burnt out this season already, so I could see Oxford – having scored nine goals in their previous three encounters - firing a few past Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s side.”Gabriel Sutton
Oxford United v Burton Albion
Oxford -1 handicap
The league table shows Burton, 14th, to be a midtable side, but the more accurate perception might be that they have been a below-average side that happens to have been capable of exploiting gaping holes in the opposition.
If a team is sorely vulnerable to crosses into the box, like Morecambe were in October, or liable to giving the ball away in ridiculous positions, like Accrington Stanley were the following month, then the Brewers could establish superiority.
When Shrewsbury came to the Pirelli Stadium last week and did the bare minimum, however, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s troops had no response: they fell to a 2-0 defeat.
Burton’s only pattern of play has been to work the ball wide, attempt a speculative cross from deep with no real co-ordination of movement designed to get into the best positions to deliver, and settle for a throw-in.
The Brewers have a long throw specialist in Tom Hamer, who will sometimes feign a launch before going short, but neither move has led to a goal recently because there is not enough of an aerial threat in the opposition box – especially in the absence of Ryan Leak.
With that in mind, Oxford will sense this as an opportunity to boost their top six prospects with a fourth win in five, after a 3-2 loss at Portsmouth in midweek.
The attacking trio of direct Gavin Whyte, channel-runner Sam Baldock and back-post poacher Matty Taylor looks a potent one for Karl Robinson’s side, who also have Cameron Brannagan’s driving runs from midfield – the former Liverpool academy graduate can fire them in from distance, too.
Losing centre-back Elliott Moore to injury is a blow for the Yellows at the back, but going forward they can do so much damage to a Burton side that do not look as though they have much left to give this season.
Cameron Brannagan v Cambridge United:
Passing Accuracy – 86.7%
Shots – 5
Tackles Won – 4
Shots On Target – 2
Clearances – 2
Fouled – 2
Goals – 2
Crosses Attempted – 1
Interceptions – 1
Key Passes – 1#OUFC #LeagueOne #EFL pic.twitter.com/wRVzB5kvXB
— The Near Post (@TheNearPostEFL) February 28, 2022
“I’m pleased to get quotes as big as 7/5 on the Vale win, considering that the visitors are unbeaten in nine and gunning for a top-seven berth, while Colchester look in serious danger of the drop.”Gabriel Sutton
Colchester United v Port Vale
Port Vale to win
The resurgence of Oldham under John Sheridan and Carlisle under Paul Simpson means Colchester are one of a group of teams with Barrow, Stevenage and Leyton Orient who are bang in danger of going down with Scunthorpe.
The U’s enjoyed a brief honeymoon period under Wayne Brown, taking eight points from the first 12 available, but the former defender may fall short in terms of managerial pedigree, if compared with other bosses in the same situation.
Not all the criticism of Brown is valid and, in some cases, it’s an outpouring of frustration from supporters of the Essex club – Championship home specialists of 2006-07, no less – that their EFL status is in so much peril.
There is a feeling, though, that the ex-Leicester man is picking defenders on status rather than merit, that he is deploying one up top when two is a valid option.
If Colchester start badly on Saturday, then home supporters may grow restless as the team tries to defeat promotion-chasers Port Vale.
Granted, the Valiants are missing key midfielder Tom Conlon – as well as manager Darrell Clarke due to compassionate leave – but still they confidently dispatched Stevenage 2-0 last time out.
The Burslem outfit operated with a 3-4-3 incorporating a trio of out-and-out centre-forwards – James Wilson, Jamie Proctor and Ryan Edmondson – who made up for the absence of an advanced, creative, central playmaker by being so brisk and incisive in their play.
Colchester have defenders like Luke Chambers and Tommy Smith who would struggle significantly if dragged into a one-on-one footrace with Wilson or Edmondson, which means the hosts have to be cautious in how they use their full-backs, which in turn could impact the dynamics of the contest generally.
Having slept on it, we gave it a much better go 2nd half & were probs unlucky not to win. Another Gibbo assist & Edmondson goal are huge positives. 14 to go & 7 wins + 2-3 more draws should see us into the playoffs. Doable, just about turning more draws into wins yet again. #pvfc
— Scott ⚽🇺🇦 (@PicardyBreezer) March 2, 2022
“Orient and Stevenage are both low on confidence, both on prolonged winless streaks, both struggling badly for goals and both in a position of being the chasees rather than the chasers in this relegation dogfight: the result could be a stalemate.”Gabriel Sutton
Leyton Orient v Stevenage
Under 1.5 goals
Orient and Stevenage were not expecting to be among the relegation strugglers this season.
The O’s had appointed a manager in Kenny Jackett who has led Portsmouth to successive top six League One finishes, while Boro were billed as the division’s dark horses, but things have not panned out accordingly for either.
The East Londoners have plummeted alarmingly by taking a paltry three points from their last 12 games and finding the net only twice in that period, leading to Jackett’s sacking with Matt Harrold placed in temporary charge.
Neil Lennon, a former Champions League Round of 16 contestant with Celtic in 2012-13 and the mastermind behind an iconic victory over Barcelona, is the current odds-on favourite to take charge at Brisbane Road.
Of course, Lennon’s reputation has subsequently taken a significant hit – otherwise he wouldn’t be linked with a job in League Two – so can he put himself back on the map?
Elsewhere, Stevenage mustered a single shot on target in last week’s 2-0 loss at Port Vale, despite having been behind from the sixth minute and two behind from the 12th: a paltry 10 shots in those circumstances suggests a worrying lack of urgency from Paul Tisdale’s side.
Since we beat Hartlepool 5-0 on 30th October our league form reads as follows:
11pts from 51pts available
3pts from 36pts available since our last win
If we continue at an average of 0.647pts per game we end the season with 43pts
3pts from the drop #lofc
— Adam Parkes (@parkesey1881) March 1, 2022