Mansfield’s strikers at their peak
Is this the time to back Mansfield before they become too short to consider? They have won twice, both at home, against sides that many pundits expect will do well this season.
There is much for Nigel Clough to be happy about. His men have beaten Bristol Rovers and Newport (two teams who seem uncooked). Both matches have finished 2-1 and there have been four different scorers.
The latest scorer, skipper Ollie Clarke, believes fans being present helped him and the team “dig deep” and “get over the line” in the final 15 minutes to beat the Exiles. The Stags might not have many supporters travel to Colchester, but now they know their level of resolve. Clough feels they have won twice without hitting top gear, showing “glimpses” of what he wants them to achieve.
Clough has set his stall out high by recruiting Leyton Orient’s top scorer last season, Danny Johnson, and Ipswich’s Oliver Hawkins, both in their sporting prime, in their late 20s. He has been rewarded. Both scored on the opening day.
Could they win at Colchester, who have one point from two games? A striker seems a priority for Hayden Mullins to recruit. Michael Folivi sustained an injury when about to turn a loan from last season into a permanent deal. Freddie Sears, 31, once free scoring on loan at Crystal Palace in the Championship under Neil Warnock, has yet to land a goal, while established performer Frank Nouble has also had opportunities to score this season.
It might just be a matter of time before one of the strikers converts a chance created by Mullins’ new “bright spark” Sylvester Jasper, on loan from Fulham. However, the visitors have shown they can score twice in a game and have some confidence now, on which to build a sustained promotion campaign rather than traverse through a season that peters out before it has really got going. Clough will hope they can continue to overcome the club’s penchant for draws.
Bradford can dent Boro’s fine start
Who compiled this midweek fixture list full of such long-distance travelling? Who said Stevenage would be looking to push above their mid-table finish last season, against the layers’ pre-season predictions of a relegation struggle? Who imagined they would be second after two games?
Alex Revell’s men showed great economy in one sent at Bristol Rovers – scoring from both shots on target! Chris Lines refused to celebrate against his old side before Luke Norris finished off the result. They have yet to concede in League Two this season and have progressed in the League Cup.
A trip to fancied Bradford at any time, however, is a daunting prospect, not least with minimal away following on a Tuesday. Derek Adams‘ record in this division is three seasons, one play-off final defeat and two promotions.
Valley Parade’s supporters will be glad enough to be back – Adams believes the and the atmosphere really lifted his side – and even happier that Lee Angol netted twice on Saturday to bring a first home win, against Oldham, when it looked like the Latics had snatched a late point.
He would love Andy Cook to score and when he’s got players such as defender Yann Songo’o from his old club Morecambe and Abo Eisa not making the squad yet we know there is strength in depth at the club. The visitors haven’t conceded yet, but their resistance could be broken here as the Bantams take a narrow win. That would extend Adams’ winning run over Stevenage. Opta point out he was won four and drawn two of his last six against them, while they add that Stevenage are winless in their last five away games in Yorkshire..
Carlisle can take down Valiant
The exit of defender Aaron Hayden to Wrexham, because of the “vision” and opportunity they sold him, prompted one local analyst to highlight the problems Carlisle apparently have with mustering such a notion. A “succession” from one ownership to another stalled during the pandemic.
On the field, Swindon boss Ben Garner warned that the Cumbrians’ attackers were a “real threat” and he was proved right when Chris Beech’s men defeated them 2-1.
Tristan Abrahams made his mark with the winner. It’s probably only a matter of time before midfielder Jon Mellish starts his season’s goal tally as the visitors seek to build on an unbeaten start. Their tails seem up with four points from two games.
Quite what is holding up Port Vale’s progress is a bit of a guess. Yes, they were held by what looked like a decent Tranmere side. Devant Rodney would have scored late on but for a stunning save. Brett Walker and Tom Pett controlled the midfield. However, the Valiants are yet to win.
Boss Darrell Clarke doesn’t need to worry, despite that extending their winless streak to four going back to last season. He just needs to buck that trend. It might not be possible on Tuesday. Opta say Clarke has lost four of his six Football League encounters with Carlisle as a manager. They add that Carlisle have won seven of their last 10 away at Port Vale, winning there in three of the past four seasons.
Edwards has Forest Green purring
While it is always dangerous to back a team who are top in this division, Forest Green’s strong start under Rob Edwards is hard to ignore.
The manager has really found a way to get Matt Stevens and Jamille Matt clicking. Stevens was sent out on loan to Stevenage last season, while Matt has had several clubs. Stevens, 23, has three goals already and Matt also scored in Saturday’s win at Walsall, as well as the League Cup win at Bristol City.
Maybe owner Dale Vince was right in assessing that Mark Copper, sacked in April, had taken the team as far as he could after five seasons.
Rovers are ambitious, wishing to notch up how far they can climb each year. Edwards has spent a fair bit of time developing England youth sides, as well as club ones. Could it be that he can get the best out of young players, as Vince wishes, and that could be the key to success? Regan Hendry, a central midfielder, has joined from Raith because Rovers want to play football. Ebou Adams, it seemed, frustrated Cooper as much as thrilled him.
Cooper always came across as a tough interviewee, indicating a strict management style. There’s a place for that. Edwards needs, then, to up that a notch by helping players enjoy their work and seems to have done so thus far.
Similarly to Edwards, boss Robbie Stockdale is a young manager with lots of coaching experience – at Sunderland, Hibernian and West Brom. Maybe the 6ft 6in teen striker Josh Andrews, on loan from Birmingham, will be someone Stockdale can develop into a quality finisher. He was on loan at Harrogate from February last season.
With a possible takeover in the background, relegation and then a manager only appointed in July, the hosts are yet to find their feet this season. Forest Green could take similar advantage as they did at their only previous meeting: Opta point out that Rovers won 2-0 in the FA Cup second round in 2008.