This weekend sees all 24 teams back in action after the FA cup second round last week. Only one league fixture was played last weekend between Notts County and Gillingham, Callum McGregor was the star man scoring twice and earning Shaun Derry a crucial first win as boss.
Bradford City vs Leyton Orient
Bradford have had a lengthy lay off in preparation for this week’s clash with table-toppers Orient, the bantams have had almost two weeks off since their draw with Oldham and will be looking to regain their place in the top six. Leading scorer Nahki Wells will want to add to his impressive tally which is currently 13 in 15 league appearances with two assists, it is looking like Bradford’s biggest problem over the next month will be convincing the Bermudan to stay put as it is rumoured a host of clubs are considering a move for the striker. Dean Cox fired Orient into the third round of the FA cup last weekend scoring the only goal of the game in a fiery encounter with Walsall. Russell Slade will be frustrated with Dave Mooney who needlessly got himself caught up in an altercation with Paul Downing which will see the top-scorer suspended for next three games.
Easily the most appealing fixture across the division and one that promises quality, I am going to go for a tight game with the league leaders to nick it.
Prediction: Bradford City 1-2 Leyton Orient
Shrewsbury Town vs Walsall
Shrewsbury haven’t kicked a ball during December and head into the busy festive period with a local derby against Walsall this weekend. Graham Turner will be expecting a performance as a win over their rivals would see the Shrews just two points off the saddlers. Shrewsbury will be without Liam McAlinden who has returned to Wolves after impressing in his short loan spell, netting three goals in five starts at New Meadow. Walsall head into this fixture in poor form, winless in their last four and have only managed one goal during that period. Dean Smith will be targeting the busy Christmas period to bring success to Walsall whose next six league fixtures are against opponents who are currently in the bottom half. In order for Walsall to consider themselves play-off contenders they need to become more consistent and there is no better time than the present for the saddlers.
As both sides haven’t been that free-scoring this season I am predicting them to cancel each other in the afternoon’s early kick off.
Prediction: Shrewsbury Town 0-0 Walsall
Crawley Town vs Preston North End
Crawley have been given a lift before a tough encounter with one of the league’s form sides, Josh Simpson has been passed fit along with Mike Jones who missed the clash with Bristol Rovers. John Gregory will be praying for a miracle on Saturday as his Crawley side haven’t won in the league since October and have only managed to score once in their last eight league games. Their opponents, Preston, are quite the opposite having won five of their last eight league games netting eleven goals in the process. The lilywhites will be without their leading scorer Joe Garner who has one more game to serve of his three-match suspension. Simon Grayson will be looking to take advantage of Crawley’s form and put real pressure on the top two, if either slip up at the weekend Preston could close the gap to just three points.
I have this down as an away win, although this is John Gregory’s first league game in charge I think Preston will have too much for Crawley on Saturday.
Prediction: Crawley Town 0-2 Preston North End
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Milton Keynes Dons
Wolves will be looking to make up for their disappointing result at Peterborough last time out, suffering a rather undeserved defeat to Darren Ferguson’s men. The wanderers face the rather mixed bag that is MK Dons who will be looking to put a halt to their run of three league games without a win. Kenny Jackett has gone public with his comments this week regarding Wolves’ goal tally, he has recalled Liam McAlinden and is hoping that Wolves can start to become more ruthless in front of goal. Wolves are currently joint-fourth top scorers in the division and Jackett is hoping that some of the other players can start chipping in as half of Wolves’ league goals have been scored by Leigh Griffiths and Bakary Sako. MK Dons have only picked up nine points in their last ten league games which has partly coincided with Bamford’s dip in form. The Chelsea loanee has only scored once in his last six league games and will be hoping he can return to the score-sheet against the league’s best defence. Wolves will have to be wary of giving away fouls around the penalty area as they face the free-scoring centre-half Shaun Williams who has netted seven set-pieces so far this term.
After a lengthy rest period Jackett will have galvanised his men and be looking for all three points to keep up with Orient, I’m going for a home win.
Prediction: Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 Milton Keynes Dons
Brentford 2-1 Oldham Athletic
Bristol City 1-2 Rotherham United
Carlisle United 1-1 Tranmere Rovers
Colchester United 0-0 Notts County
Coventry City 2-0 Crewe Alexandra
Gillingham 0-1 Peterborough United
Port Vale 2-1 Stevenage
Sheffield United 1-2 Swindon Town