This weekend sees every team back in action after the international break. Once again the fixture list doesn’t disappoint with some key clashes at both ends of the table.
Crawley Town vs Walsall
Crawley have been struggling of late but Billy Clarke’s dramatic equaliser last weekend ended their drab run of four league defeats without scoring. Richie Barker will want his side to recreate the form they showed at the start of the campaign which saw the Reds win away at Peterborough and suffer an unfortunate defeat to Wolves where they dominated for long periods. Crawley’s poor form has coincided with the absence of leading scorer Clarke who has netted five times this season in the league. Although the Saddlers have been inconsistent over their last five games they will come into the fixture with great confidence after their convincing display against Peterborough on Monday night. Smith’s men played some really attractive football and on another day could have won by three or four but this has been the story of their season. Walsall are currently the lowest scoring side in the top half and if they are to push for the play-offs they will need to take more of their chances in the coming games. Losing Will Grigg and Febian Brandy was always going to affect the midlands side but since leaving the pair have only managed four league goals between them this season.
Crawley have been on a poor run recently and I think Walsall will have enough to nick a result here.
Prediction: Crawley Town 0-1 Walsall
Bristol City vs Sheffield United
The Robins are currently on a five-match unbeaten run in all competitions and will be hoping this form continues as they look to pull clear of the bottom three. Sean O’Driscoll has hinted that both Scott Wagstaff and Joe Bryan are in with a chance of facing the Blades this weekend. Sam Baldock scored his first league goal since September last weekend and will want to add to his to his tally of six against a struggling Sheffield side. Nigel Clough got the perfect response to his appointment with a convincing win over Crewe but since then it hasn’t quite gone to plan for the Blades. Defeats to both Shrewsbury and Gillingham have left United in a perilous position just two points clear of rock-bottom County. Clough is confident that United will turn it around under his guidance as long as they cut out the individual mistakes that are currently being made on a regular basis.
Similar to the Tranmere clash last week which was very close but I fancy Bristol to steal all three points with the firepower they have up front.
Prediction: Bristol City 2-1 Sheffield United
Swindon Town vs Leyton Orient
Mark Cooper will be pleased with the reaction he has got from his team since the embarrassing cup defeat to non-league Macclesfield Town two weeks ago. Since then the Robins have beaten Wycombe in the JPT and grabbed a vital win away at Colchester last weekend. Swindon currently occupy the top six and after Orient slipped up against Preston last time out they will be targeting all three points at the County ground on Saturday. Dany N’Guessan has been in lethal form this year and will want to add to his six league goals in his last eight matches. You could run out of superlatives to describe Orient’s performance away at Peterborough at the start of the month but things soon change in football. Since then Orient have been knocked out of the JPT and currently find themselves a point behind leaders Wolves. However, the London club have bolstered their squad with the emergency loan signing of midfielder Josh Wright who has arrived from Millwall. Every football club has a busy Christmas period and it looks like Slade is keen to add to his relatively small squad.
Orient will be determined to keep up their form in the league but will not find it easy against Swindon who have won their last two league games. A game that could easily go all three ways but I’m going to have it down as a draw.
Prediction: Swindon Town 1-1 Leyton Orient
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Brentford
In most cases the statement “the league doesn’t lie” is not far from the truth but for Wolves this season I feel it paints an inaccurate picture. The midlands side sit top of the table, unbeaten in their last nine league games and have only lost once. Although they have been winning games even the purist of Wolves supporter will tell you they have been rather fortunate this season. Jackett has built his team around a solid defence and although often uninspiring going forward not many teams in the division have been able to penetrate Wolves regularly. Saturday will be a real test for Wolves as they face a Brentford side in sublime form that are starting to look like the side that almost clinched promotion last season. Wolves will also be without winger James Henry who injured himself in the win against Notts County, he is expected to be missing for around three weeks. The Bees have netted 12 goals in their last five league games and will be confident they can silence the home crowd at Molineux come the weekend. Clayton Donaldson will be looking to add to his brace last weekend which took him to nine goals in all competitions this season. If Peterborough slip up at home, Brentford could go above the promotion favourites and close the gap on the top two.
This is Brentford’s first trip to Molineux for 20 years and they are set to bring around 2,000 on Saturday. Considering the form of Brentford and the flattering position of Wolves I would steer clear of a home win on your accumulators this weekend.
Prediction: Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-2 Brentford
Coventry City 3-1 Tranmere Rovers
Crewe Alexandra 0-1 Port Vale
Gillingham 1-1 Oldham Athletic
MK Dons 1-2 Bradford City
Peterborough United 2-0 Stevenage
Preston North End 2-0 Colchester United
Rotherham United 2-1 Carlisle United
Shrewsbury Town 1-0 Notts County