Harrogate might just edge past buckled Iron
Scunthorpe are having a really tricky time at the foot of League Two. Keith Hill has not be able to turn results around since taking charge of the Iron last November. One win in the past 16 matches highlights the difficulties he has faced.
Ryan Loft leaving for Bristol Rovers in January didn’t help. Victory over Walsall in early February and two goalless draws – against Northampton and Crawley – have been scant consolation in the past couple of months.
Defender Lewis Thompson is out with a long-term injury. Hill said he was at his all-time lowest after a 4-1 defeat to Sutton. It’s hard to imagine what he further felt after a 5-1 defeat at Salford. Joe Nuttall has two goals in three games at least.
Could the Iron firm up for a point? They will surely fancy their chances of gaining something here. However, Harrogate will look to get back on their feet, so to speak, in this fixture, too.
The Sulphurites are winless in seven (three draws) emphasise Opta, who add it is their joint worst run in the EFL, matching such a run last March and April.
They have only one win in 11 games. They have not scored much in the past seven fixtures, either – just three times. Defeat at home on Tuesday was pretty humbling, 3-0 to Leyton Orient.
It seems a huge comedown from last season for the likes of Jack Muldoon, who made such a strong start to last season. He netted 13 last term, and has 10 this season. Luke Armstrong, who joined last summer, has 11 goals, including two in the past four games, but Harrogate were pressing for the play-offs a year ago.
Simon Weaver’s men seemed so strong of mind back then. Now, they are bobbing around in lower mid-table, like a static buoy in a waterway. A win for them is well overdue. I think they could become the latest team to puncture any chance Scunthorpe have of staying afloat in the EFL.
Hughes to earn first home point
Mark Hughes has yet to earn victory – or a point – at Bradford’s home, Valley Parade, since being appointed as manager. At least the Bantams have scored in their past four games, which gives them a chance of a positive result at home to Newport.
Six different scorers in that time shows that Bradford have variety, too. Charles Vernan will be happy with his first goal since mid-November on his comeback from injury. The hosts are surely working towards next season rather than looking at a play-off finish now.
Andy Cook will want to stretch his 11 goals this season to 20. The team have consecutive clean sheets away, at Forest Green and Hartlepool, so why can’t they keep one at home?
The hosts have places for next season to play for, when Hughes and his board will surely demand a squad which can gain promotion. Automatically.
Newport, meanwhile, have much to offer, such as a run of eight games in which they have scored, winning four and losing just once. They average two goals per game in that time – and they have conceded in all but one of those matches.
Rob Street has impressed his manager James Rowberry, while Finn Azaz has three goals in six games, which has doubled his tally for the season. Dom Telford, who has netted 24 goals, has done more than enough this season. Opta emphasise this by reporting that, in League Two, only Matt Stevens‘ 23 goals for Forest Green have directly earned more points (20) for his team than Telford (18).
Telford has not scored in five games. I am sure he will use the well worn phrase by strikers who haven’t netted in a while: he won’t care who scores, as long as the team wins.
The Exiles might not be able to force a victory, because Bradford will be fighting for that first point at home under their new boss.
Ammies to be held to a draw
Salford, say Opta, are on the longest current unbeaten run in League Two, of eight games (four wins, four draws). Their 5-1 win over Scunthorpe was their biggest EFL win, too.
All this doesn’t mean Gary Bowyer’s men are top of the form table though, either over six or 10 games. They might lie pretty handily in fourth in both, but unless they string a good deal of wins together the pre-season favourites for the title still won’t make the play-offs. They have too many draws and only twice have won consecutive games.
Three draws preceded their victory over the Iron – a struggling team. Brandon Thomas-Asante build confidence with a hat-trick, taking his tally to nine for the season.
He had not scored since netting twice in separate games in January. Next highest on the Ammie’s scoring charts is Matthew Lund, who had a nice return of three goals in four games as autumn turned to winter. He netted his sixth in the draw with Rochdale.
By contrast, Walsall have two players who have reached double figures – the first time a Saddlers’ duo has done so since 2012-13, report Opta. Conor Wilkinson’s penalty against Harrogate last weekend took him to 10 – and George Miller is already on 11. Furthermore, Wilkinson is clearly in form having scored in five of the past six games.
Micky Flynn must have revived his passion. Miller has scored three times for him. The Saddlers, unbeaten in six games with three wins – all at home – have drawn their past three away games. They have the same number of points (12) over six games as their hosts and one less (18) than Salford (19) over 10 games. This could well be another draw.
Barton’s boys can bounce on
It’s almost impossible not to see draws all over the schedule this week. But if one team could burst Carlisle’s revival bubble it could be the team that pips them to the top of the form table on goal difference – Bristol Rovers.
Joey Barton’s men seem to have momentum after rising to the dangerous rallying cry that he felt they would take some stopping, on the back of beating Harrogate 3-0 the other week. They have proved him right so far, winning five of the past six to step agonisingly close to the top three, a place that barely looked possible at the turn of the year.
Four clean sheets from keeper James Belshaw and his defence in those six matches have really helped. In fact the Gas have only conceded three times in 11 games. That’s been a real platform for midfielders Harry Anderson and Elliot Anderson to share goals, supplemented by Aaron Collins and Anthony Evans.
The Cumbrians have scored in six consecutive games, Omari Patrick obliging with three and Jordan Gibson twice. So the Pirates might well have to score twice to win.
That’s totally possible, because Paul Simpson’s side have also conceded in each of the past four games. The visitors have much more at stake and need to keep winning.