GW 23 – Ones to Watch
Ally: After my last 2 predictions were wiped out by the weather I’m hoping for better fortunes this weekend, though in the aftermath of Storm Christoph that may be easier said than done!
My first pick should have no such issues with the weather, given that it is the home of Premier League side West Ham United. London’s Olympic Stadium plays host to the FA Cup Fourth Round clash between the aforementioned Hammers and League One side Doncaster Rovers. The home side are enjoying an excellent season under David Moyes, who has brought some much needed stability to the club following years of turmoil caused by poor player recruitment, high managerial turnover and off-field friction between the fans and owners. Indeed, to illustrate the point this is Moyes’ second spell in charge at the club, but is already far more successful than his first where he recorded just 9 wins in 31 games. He’s already doubled with 18 victories from his 44 games this time around. The Hammers have scored in their last 11 matches in all competitions at the London Stadium, and while Moyes is likely to ring the changes in terms of personnel there is sufficient squad depth to still field a very strong side. Doncaster make the journey to east London in fine form themselves, recording 9 wins from their last 11 games, and they already have an FA Cup scalp to their name this season after a 1-0 win at Championship side Blackburn Rovers in Round Three. Despite their good form they do have a tendency to concede goals, with just 3 shut-outs in their last 14 matches away from the Keepmoat Stadium, and while I think Donny will make life tough for their illustrious opponents the home side’s superior quality should come to the fore and ensure a safe passge to Round Five.
My second pick of the weeks takes me to League One, where in form Oxford United take on Bristol Rovers at the Kassam Stadium. They may occupy a relatively lowly 14th place but don’t let that fool you as the hosts are on a 5 match winning streak which has seen them hit the net an incredible 15 times, all bar one of which have been in their last 4 league games. This represents a remarkable turnaround for Karl Robinson’s side as prior to this run they had just one win in their previous 6 league outtings to their name, and that was at lowly Wigan. The visitors arrive on the back of a 4 match losing streak which has seen them concede 8 times, albeit that run includes a very creditable performance in the FA Cup where they gave Sheffield United a thorough examination at the Memorial Stadium before the Premier League’s basement side eventually ran out 3-2 winners. John Sheridan’s side do concede goals, with just one clean sheet in their last 10 outings in all competitions. The U’s are currently 8 points off the play off places but they have games in hand over most of the teams around them, and with confidence sky high following recent results this should be an ideal opportunity to continue their upward trajectory. Good luck with your selections.