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Football League Preview – 25th September

Another big weekend in the Football League, and the times they are a-Changin’! We focus on some of the more characterful managers across the league, one in his early days of employment, a veteran whose been short-changed recently and a household name struggling to turn the tide. As ever, we have a nice little 6/1 accumulator for you at the bottom of the page too.

Nottingham Forest v Millwall – Time to deliver League success for Cooper

Credit: The 72

There are 24 teams in the Championship, so it’s very rare we’ll pick the same team in two consecutive weeks. However, there was no way we could avoid Forest this week. I was adamant last week that Hughton’s sacking was a bad move, however, Steve Cooper is a fantastic manager at this level achieving back-to-back playoff finishes at Swansea. His style of play may well suit the way this Forest team is built too, for while there were periods when the Swans were pleasing on the eye, their success was built upon defensive solidity, short of flair and adventure, and more about grinding results out.

There was a new manager bounce for Forest last week, as they managed a smash and grab with 30% possession and two goals from four shots on target. Lewis Grabban continued his good September form and they will look to him once more as the difference-maker in order to get something from this game.

Given the propensity of both Forest and their new manager to allow the opposition to dominate possession, they face an intriguing prospect in Millwall who have also built their game around it this season. Millwall have drawn their last three league games, with percentage possession in the low 40’s. They can be dangerous on the break however, and unlike Forest have a consistent eleven that are capable of creating scoring opportunities from open play and set plays alike. 

This is a tough game to call, and could genuinely go either way, dependant on who wins the tactical battle. It’s tempting to plump for a 1-1 here, however, I have a feeling that Forest have the upper hand given recent results. I don’t think Cooper will have had time to instill his defensive mantra just yet, and Millwall’s set piece threat give them a goal in my opinion.

Verdict: Nottingham Forest 2-1 Millwall

Best Bet: Both teams to score – Evens

MK Dons v Wycombe – League One delivers again

Credit: The Guardian

Spare a thought for Wycombe fans this week. Relegated after finishing a single point below Derby last season, they watched as Ram’s owner Mel Morris accepted a 12 point penalty delayed from the previous term. To make matters worse, leading 1-0 against Manchester City after 22 minutes, they eventually succumbed to a 6-1 defeat. Gareth Ainsworth’s team have the opportunity to right some wrongs here, as League One throws up yet another top of the table clash for the third week in succession. This league is fast-becoming the most interesting in English football in my opinion.

Wycombe face an in-form MK Dons team, unbeaten in 7 games in all competitions and having scored in every game they have played this season. They play an interesting variation on a 3-4-2-1 or 3-5-1-1 dependant on available personnel with ex-Chelsea products Josh McEachran (28) and Charlie Brown (22), and Tottenham loanee Troy Parrott (19) available to manager Liam Manning. Scott Twine (22), and Max Watters (22) should also feature in this one. 

Wanderers have several key veterans at their disposal however, and much of their play revolves around the key cornerstones Gareth McCleary (34), and Sam Vokes (31) who are set to return after sitting out the League Cup game against City. I’ve got to go with the young guns here despite being a big fan of Ainsworth. I can only see MK Dons taking the three points here that pushes them into direct competition with Wigan and Sunderland for the automatic promotion places.

Verdict: MK Dons 2-0 Wycombe

Best Bet: Best Bet:  Most Corners Taken: Wycombe +1 at Evens.

Walsall v Bristol Rovers – Time to deliver on a promise

Credit: Bristol Post

It’s Deja Vu time for us Gasheads, as Bristol Rovers face a similar scenario replicating the 13/14 season. Successive managerial failures, and staring back-to back relegations in the face. Their last home game was over as a contest within 42 minutes, however it was what happened after the game that gave an insight as to why this time around it might be different. Courtesy of @gasheadmemes, manager Joey Barton spoke with fans after the game, and directly addressed the issues they raised. “He acknowledged we are massively underperforming… he took over the club in a downward spiral, he hasn’t succeeded (in challenging for promotion) but it’s nowhere near the end”.

There are other reasons to be hopeful, Brett Pitman looks better each game up front, and should be well-equipped to cope at this level. In midfield, recently-signed veteran Glenn Whelan is gaining match sharpness and should assist the impressive Sam Finlay to provide a platform on which to build.

For Walsall, their problems are confined away from home. The Bescot has been somewhat of a fortress for the Saddlers this term, with only table-toppers Forest Green taking a victory away. Walsall create a lot of chances from set-pieces, although they’ve not been converting them so far. They come up against a Rovers team who have conceded more goals from set-plays than any in League Two, so this could be the key to victory. The Saddlers press far more than their Southern counterparts. 

Our one-to-watch is Barnsley loanee George Miller who has two goals in three games, and has had a hand in a further three for his teammates. He looks a real handful at the level, and the Rovers defenders will have a job on their hands keeping him quiet on Saturday. 

For Rovers, I am hopeful that brighter days lie ahead, however, I cannot see them taking any points back to the West Country from this one. They do have the capability to sneak a goal however, so it may not be as one-sided if they can score first and sit back.

Verdict: Walsall 3-1 Bristol Rovers

Best Bet: Walsall to win and both teams to score 11/2.

Accumulator Special: Most Corners – Swansea, Wycombe (+1) and Walsall @ 6/1.

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