Chesterfield v Grimsby: Mariners to progress?


Grimsby Town are making progress in League Two, after a hugely impressive 5-2 win over Tranmere in midweek.


They had a sticky August when managing leads became problematic, then endured a torrid September period during which they were ravaged by injuries but, since then, the Mariners are fifth in the League Two form table with five wins from 10.


At a time when there is a divide between the fans and the board, Michael Jolley has got supporters onside by revolutionizing their style of play since taking over in Spring.


Forward-thinking midfielder Elliot Embleton has gained rave reviews since joining on loan from Sunderland; Ben Pringle, deemed one of the hottest prospects outside the Championship four years ago, is re-building his career with impressive technical displays.


Up top, Wes Thomas’ selfless runs creates space for the likes of Harry Cardwell and Charles Vernam.


Danny Collins’ suspension has made way for Harry Davis to have a spell at centre-back next to the impressive Alex Whitmore, who returns to the club at which he spent a brief loan spell recently.


The Cleethorpes outfit will therefore be a daunting proposition for Chesterfield, who are not having the best of seasons in the National League.


After relegation from League Two, an early recruitment drive suggested an instant return was the aim.


However, an opening sequence of three consecutive league wins was followed swiftly by a horrible run of six straight defeats, since which the Spireites have drawn 10 in 12 in all forms.


Tom Denton looks their chief threat up front after scoring a hat-trick in the 3-1 win at Billericay in the First Round replay. 

Zavon Hines, formerly of West Ham, adds trickery out wide while right-back Sam Muggleton is a long throw specialist who has worked with manager Martin Allen before.


Because the Spireites so rarely show superiority against National League opposition, however, one imagines that they could struggle against a reasonable League Two side and, off the back of their biggest victory since 2016, Grimsby look good value.


Tip:  Grimsby to win


Barnet v Stockport: could the Bees be stung?


After relegation to the National League last season, Barnet have displayed, perhaps, a willingness to be patient this season.


When Martin Allen had decided to call time on his fifth stint with the club, Tony Kleanthous appointed John Still as manager.


The 68-year-old, who has had prolonged stints with Dagenham and Luton, is best known for his ability to nurture lower league players; as well as his level-headedness.


Still favours a 3-5-2 system; he pairs target man Byron Harrison, formerly of Cheltenham and Barrow, with nippy Fulham loanee Josh Walker.


Barnet manager John Still reacts during the Pre-season friendly between Barnet and West Bromwich Albion on July 7, 2018 in Barnet, United Kingdom.


Charlee Adams, who came through the academy at Birmingham City, dictates play from deep to allow the energetic Wesley Fonguck and Jack Taylor to take on box-to-box roles either side of him.


However, the Bees are very inconsistent: while they have picked up some impressive results like the 2-1 win at Bristol Rovers in the First Round replay, they have also been prone to the occasional no-show like the 2-0 home loss to Maidstone in early November.


Their visitors, Stockport County, will not be afraid to take on a team in a higher division, having progressed to this stage courtesy of a 3-1 win at League Two Yeovil, where they fought back from conceding the opener after just eight minutes.


Forward Matty Worthington, who scored a sumptuous free-kick in that match, also came off the bench last month to score an 17-minute hat-trick in a 3-0 win over title contenders Chorley; the quickest treble from a County player this century.


Jim Gannon’s side have begun to pose a threat from set pieces too in recent weeks, with Oldham loanee Jamie Stott making his mark from central defence.


They have a sizeable fanbase, with a history in the second-tier of English football this century, but to compete with well-backed clubs in the National League North, they need a good cup run and should be capable of avoiding defeat at the Hive.


Tip:  Stockport +1 handicap



Bury v Luton: thriller at Gigg Lane?


Bury and Luton Town have been arguably the most entertaining outfits in their respective divisions.


Most teams that play expansive, possession football only operate with one striker, to avoid getting caught out in transition, but Ryan Lowe and Nathan Jones have a different philosophy.


Shakers boss Lowe religiously employ a 3-4-1-2 system which incorporates not only front-men Nicky Maynard and Dominic Telford, but also a lot of attacking talent behind them.


Nicky Adams, a winger by trade, has been given suitably extreme creative freedom at right wing-‘back’, number 10 Danny Mayor has completed by far the most dribbles in League Two while even midfielder Jay O’Shea has played in a more advanced role for much of his career.


By having so many positive thinkers in that side, the Lancashire outfit sustain pressure which ball-playing defenders like Chris Stokes plenty of time in possession.


The same can be said of Luton, who set up with a 4-1-2-1-2.


Glen Rea, who has improved his leadership qualities thanks to learning from Alan McCormack, is the pivot in this Hatters side who allows almost everyone else to push forward; including full-backs Jack Stacey and James Justin who are crucial in all three thirds of the pitch.


Last season, we saw Luton start with James Collins and Danny Hylton up top but with the latter injured more recently, Harry Cornick has filled the void and the attack has arguably gone up another level.


As we saw in the 3-1 win at Gillingham, Cornick’s makes some wonderful driving runs in wide areas, which allows the likes of Elliott Lee and Andrew Shinnie to make well-timed runs into goalscoring positions.


With both sides so exciting to watch, this promises to be a thriller.


Tip: Luton to win and both teams to score


Odds are correct at the time of posting

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