GW 35 – Ones to Watch

Matt: It’s been a tough couple of weeks for us ‘pundits’ (and i use that term very loosely!) here at TUG, with goals much harder to come by than we’re used to and some real head-scratching results leaving us…….well, scratching our heads! February has been nowhere near as kind as January and that’s reflected in the level of scoring we’re seeing throughout the Global league, but let’s see if we can end the month on a high note.

With no less than 11 different competitions available for you to choose from, there’s certainly no lack of options this week! I’m delving into League One to begin with, where a resurgent Oxford United are once again chasing down a play-off spot following three league wins on the spin. Prior to that, The U’s had begun to slip away from the top six after a taking just a solitary point from their previous three fixtures, but two convincing home wins over AFC Wimbledon and Accrington Stanley, with a superb victory away at Ipswich Town sandwiched in between, have got their promotion hopes right back on track. On Saturday they face a Southend United side who already need snookers if they are to avoid relegation into League Two, with The Shrimpers in abysmal form after losing five league games in succession, conceding 12 times in the process. The last three of those were all on home turf at Roots Hall and all ended in defeat, so a trip to the Kassam Stadium to face an Oxford team who have scored 8 goals there in the past ten days will surely mean no let-up for the already beleaguered visitors. Manager Sol Campbell is going to have to work miracles to keep his troops in the division from here, but it’d be something approaching a miracle if Oxford didn’t find a way through their opponent’s backline in this fixture – Southend have conceded a staggering 82 league goals already this season. I’m predicting The Yellows to edge that number closer to the dreaded 100 on Saturday afternoon!

It’s always very tempting to dip into the lesser known competitions when they’re available, particularly the FA Trophy (although i should probably steer clear after tipping FC Halifax in the previous round, only for them to succumb to a shock 1-0 home defeat by Halesowen Town!) I’m going to stick with my instinct though and it’s the fixture between Notts County and Aveley that i’m picking out. We’ve reached the Quarter Final stage now and on that basis alone i’d firmly expect County to put a strong side out, with a trip to Wembley only two wins away. The Magpies have had a full week’s rest after their game at AFC Fylde in midweek was postponed, and they’ll also be keen to get back to winning ways after losing at Hartlepool United last time out. They’re unbeaten in their past eight home matches and have only failed to score once at Meadow Lane since mid-November. They knocked out fellow National League outfit Yeovil Town in the previous round, courtesy of a 2-1 win, and that same scoreline saw them also dispose of Dagenham & Redbridge before that. Incredibly, Aveley have already played NINE times in this competition this season, impressively eliminating the likes of Hornchurch and Chelmsford City along the way. The Millers ply their trade in the Isthmian League North Division, currently sitting 4th in the table. They’re the second top scorers in that league with a massive 61 goals to their name, meaning they won’t be afraid of taking the game to County, but they also concede goals too; no clean sheets in any competition this calendar year and a recent 3-3 draw away at AFC Sudbury suggest that they’re very much an ‘attack is the best form of defence’ type of side! It could be an FA Trophy classic! Good luck to you all.

Ally: My first tip this weekend takes me to South Yorkshire and the curiously named New York Stadium, about a million miles metaphorically speaking from the glamorous US city, but home to League One leaders Rotherham United. This Saturday sees them take on the struggling MK Dons, as they seek to get their title challenge back on track. The Millers had a disappointing 2-2 draw against Wimbledon in their previous home game a fortnight ago, but managed an impressive draw at Coventry last week with whom they are tied on points at the top of the table.Their home form has otherwise been good of late, winning 5 of the previous 6 in all competitions to the the Wimbledon game, and have scored in each of the last 8 there since an unexpected 1-0 reverse against Rochdale in early December, notching 19 goals. The Dons meanwhile are winless away from Stadium:MK since mid September, a run of 14 matches in all competitions, and they have also failed to keep a clean sheet in that time. With relegation not a realistic prospect, MK have very little to play for, which can make for a dangerous opposition but I’m backing the stats and form book to come up trumps and I fully expect to see Rotherham amongst the goals again.

For my second tip, I’m heading to Scotland where Stirling Albion travel to rock bottom Brechin City. The Binos are on a magnificent run of form away from home, having won 6 of their last 7 games and scoring 16 goals. Incredibly, this is in complete contrast to their home form, where they have lost their last 5 matches! Brechin’s form is poor regardless of where they are playing, though they have managed successive 0-0 draws including last weekend’s coupon buster at promotion chasing Edinburgh City, and again in midweek at home to Queen’s Park, just their second home clean sheet of the season (the other being against the equally atrocious Albion Rovers!). However, Stirling still have a sniff of the play-offs, and will surely see this as an ideal opportunity to put pressure on rivals Elgin, the aforementioned Queen’s Park and Cowdenbeath. Good luck with your selections!