GW 27 – Ones to Watch
Matt: Some gameweek we just experienced last weekend wasn’t it! No less than 49 of you booked a table at Club 100, comfortably the highest amount of diners we’ve seen there this season. 2020 has gone off with a bang alright!
Whilst we haven’t got a juicy amount of FA Cup ties to complement an attractive looking fixture list this week, we do still have cup competition in the form of the FA Trophy Second Round – and all 32 teams involved are available for selection. More about that in a moment, but my opening tip comes from League One where i’m hoping Coventry City can reproduce their recent away form on ‘home’ turf – if you can call playing 20 odd miles away at Birmingham City’s St Andrews Stadium home turf that is!! The Sky Blues haven’t played there since the 21st of December (a 1-0 win over Lincoln City), but they have been in action on the road three times since, picking up two hugely impressive league wins and an FA Cup draw and amassing 10 goals in the process. The highlight of that trio of matches has to be the fantastic 4-1 win at current table-toppers Wycombe Wanderers, with exactly the same outcome at Tranmere Rovers three days later propelling City into the top three of the league table. Whilst The Dons have finally climbed out of the relegation zone after three wins in their last five, this is solely down to their home results; all three of those wins have come at Stadium MK. Their away form on the other hand is absolutely woeful – they’ve taken just 2 points from a possible 24 in their previous eight away games, have only one away league win to their name all season and just for good measure they got hammered 3-0 by League Two Newport County in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday evening. If Cov come out of the blocks fast on Saturday then this could be another healthy afternoon in front of goal for them!
Going back to the aforementioned FA Trophy, there’s no shortage of options available here! The main problem with this competition is you can never be quite sure just how seriously clubs take it, but if the First Round proper is anything to go by then it looks as though plenty of sides fancy a crack at getting to Wembley in May. The team i’m backing in this section is National League Eastleigh, who take on Matlock Town of the Northern Premier League. It’s The Spitfires vs The Gladiators and on paper this should be ‘plane’ sailing for the home side as their opponents have shown very little in the way of warrior like qualities over the past few weeks, indeed Matlock’s season has begun to completely unravel after a scintillating start that saw them hit the top of the NPL in August, following a maximum 12 point return from their opening four league fixtures. However, despite their current run of three consecutive defeats, Town have already knocked out a hat-trick of other teams to reach this stage, most notably in the last round when they held Eastleigh’s fellow National League side Chorley, before winning away there on penalties in the replay. Both matches finished 2-2 and with Eastleigh scoring 6 against Yate Town in the same round, goals look to be the order of the day here. The Spitfires themselves aren’t in great form, doing marginally better than Saturday’s opponents by taking 1 point from their last three games, but crucially they always seem to find the net and at their home ground Ten Acres they’ve had some outstanding results in the not too distant past – aside from that huge win over Yate, they’ve banged goals in against the likes of Torquay Utd and Harrogate Town. I’m banking on more of that here. Good luck to you all.
Ally: My first prediction sees me put my faith once again in Scottish League One leaders Raith Rovers, as they face a trip up the east coast to face struggling Forfar as they attempt to put some daylight between themselves and nearest rivals Airdrie and Falkirk. This is in spite of having been badly let down by Raith on two previous occasions already this season! Normally they are such reliable scorers, but as recently as 21st December they drew a blank in a 2-0 home defeat to Dumbarton, and then back in November they drew 0-0 at home to Saturday’s opponents Forfar much to my dismay, as prior to that game Forfar had lost 7 successive away games. Putting the focus back on recent form, Forfar have lost their last 2 home matches, conceding 7 goals in the process, while Raith’s last outing on the road on 28th December saw them record a superb 5-3 win at East Fife. I’m hoping they can recreate some of this goalscoring prowess at the weekend and avenge that goalless scoreline from November.
Next up is a trip into the unknown, for the FA Trophy clash between Isthmian League Premier Division side AFC Hornchurch and Isthmian North Division outfit Aveley. Hornchurch are in the 7th tier of the English football league pyramid, while visitors Aveley are one level further down. The hosts are 4th in the Premier Division with at least 2 games in hand on all of their rivals, so have a real chance of promotion this season. I’m therefore hoping that they take this competition seriously and aren’t putting all their eggs in the proverbial league basket. Aveley have a similar dilemma though, as they are 2nd in the North Division and while they score goals by the bucket load, they also seem to concede a few too, as evidenced by their results in getting to this stage of the competition, needing home replays to dispatch Carshalton and Taunton after drawing both away games 3-3, and so I hope Hornchurch’s pedigree will come to the fore here. Good luck!