Preview: Peterborough United

You could say that Wednesday night’s defeat away at Sheffield United was a cold, hard dose of reality, but that was one game versus a lifetime of waiting to see this club win something. If you’re going to let an individual defeat sour the experience of Sunday, football just might not be for you.

Possible Line-Up

That being said, failing to win this upcoming game against Peterborough and having relegation confirmed would be a major buzzkill less than a week after winning at Wembley. Although relegation is inevitable at this point, it would be nice to preserve the sense of pride about supporting this club that came from last Sunday for as long as possible. These remaining home games are a chance to win new fans over and tempt old ones back, we cannot allow apathy to set back in so easily.

The line-up against Sheffield United indicated just how many injuries we’re carrying in the squad at this point. It’s likely then that the team selection for this forthcoming game will be a case of who’s fit rather than picking a team specifically designed to beat the opposition. Just who will be available is unclear, but don’t be too surprised to see further starts for Marcus Tudgay and Kevin Foley – maybe we’ll even get to see Michael Folivi finally.

Last Time We Met

In an alternate reality, Peterborough don’t score in the final minute at London Road back on New Year’s Eve, Russell Slade gets his first win, that confidence boost gives us an edge over Slade’s first few games in charge, we remain competitive in the league, Slade leads us out at Wembley, and his name and face are etched into our memories in a positive way. But that didn’t happen and the 1-1 draw against Peterborough earlier in the season was a sign of things to come under Slade.

It’s worth pointing out though that our home record against Peterborough is not only good in recent years, but we always seem to pull off remarkable comebacks against them. The last two meetings at the Ricoh Arena have seen us be two goals behind in each game, only to win 3-2. It was the same scoreline back at Sixfields, only Peterborough were 1-0, then 2-1 up before succumbing to a Leon Clarke masterclass in the second-half.

How Are They Doing?

It’s been a frustrating season for Peterborough where things just haven’t quite clicked for them on a consistent basis. They have a squad jam-packed with exciting attacking players such as Marcus Maddison, Tom Nichols, Paul Taylor, Leo da Silva Lopes, Brad Inman, Martin Samuelsen and Gwion Edwards, but have only demonstrated their potential on intermittent occasions, which is why they’re currently in mid-table rather than in the play-off position they really should be.

Peterborough’s bloated squad is probably the reason why they haven’t achieved what they should have this season. When there were on the fringes of the play-offs in January, Grant McCann wanted the squad trimmed, instead, five first-choice players were signed and it took too long for McCann to integrate them into the side.

The strength in depth though has to be considered a major threat heading into this game. The rangy and mercurial winger Marcus Maddison stands out as Peterborough’s best players and probably one of the best in the division when he’s at his best. He has an absolutely thunderous left-foot and can strike long-range efforts at an angle from long distance from both dead ball situations and set-pieces.

Currently, it is a strike pairing of Tom Nichols and Junior Morias for the Posh. Nichols has had a decent season in front of goal, registering 10 as well as a fair few assists, but hasn’t quite been a reliable finisher. Morias has come in from non-league Boreham Wood and scored some absolutely stunning goals and is a fairly pacey player as well, so he’ll have to be watched carefully.

Possible Line-Up

In midfield, Peterborough have dynamic players in Chris Forrester and Leo da Silva Lopes who’ll play in the wide positions of a 4-4-2 diamond formation. Sitting at the base will be Anthony Grant, who is an absolute bastard, probably the best at what he does at this level of football. He’s a fairly tidy midfield player and a decent tackler, but it’s that he’s an expert in winning soft free-kicks, making nasty, niggly tackles that seem to go unnoticed by referees and wasting time – a nightmare to play against when you fall behind.

Peterborough’s defence is probably the weak area of the side, they have good players for this level in the form of Michael Bostwick, Jack Baldwin and Michael Smith, it’s just that their playing style can leave them open at the back. In goal, they have Tottenham youngster Luke McGee who has had a decent season, especially considering he was a bit of a panic signing at the end of the summer transfer window.

Prediction

I’m in two minds about this game. I’m concerned that the number of injured players we’re carrying is going to make this a tired and disjointed performance against a team with a number of very talented attacking players. However, I’m hoping that the sense of goodwill following the win at Wembley will give the team the shot in the arm they require to get the win here to stave off relegation.

Given Peterborough’s inconsistent nature this season, I’m going to go for positivity heading into this game. I think we’ll win, and it will be a 2-1 scoreline.

Preview: Port Vale

It was sad to see Tony Mowbray go, but a 10-game winless run to start the season should speak louder than sentiment. Even if you think he was let down by the owners, it was clear that he just couldn’t get results with this team. Whether anyone else can is a legitimate question, but it’s better to try something else than to stick with something that wasn’t working.

It took some honesty and integrity from Tony Mowbray to walk away from a job that he would seemingly have been able to hold onto despite the results. The worry is that the lack of leadership behind-the-scenes that meant Tony Mowbray had to make the decision to leave may make the search of his successor a difficult, and unsuccessful process. Mark Venus has a massive job right now as both caretaker manager and also seemingly in identifying a new manager.

Wednesday night displayed the immediate challenges that Mark Venus and Tony Mowbray’s eventual successor will face. This current squad lacks the edge in both penalty areas to take advantage of dominating games for spells and withstand pressure when it comes. The new man is not only going to have to instil a defensive rigidity but also a killer touch at the other end if we’re going to move up the league.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

Having failed to beat the teams 20th, 22nd and 23rd in the table, serious and immediate improvements are required to get this team out of trouble. With Mark Venus having had just two days to work with the players, he is going to have to produce something remarkable to get anything out of a clash against one the division’s strongest teams at home this season.

Unless Mark Venus has something radical up his sleeve, I doubt there will be many changes from Wednesday night. Not only because Venus has had such little time to work with the team and is close to Tony Mowbray, but also because we pretty much played our strongest team on Wednesday night, barring Jodi Jones. Maybe though, some consistency in team selection is just the thing this team needs right now.

Last Time We Met

A defeat to Port Vale in our last meeting back in February may have brought Tony Mowbray’s time at the club over sooner than it eventually unravelled. Off the back of three defeats and the sale of James Maddison that began our slide from promotion contenders to relegation candidates, Tony Mowbray set the team out in as cautious a manner possible to prevent a fourth consecutive defeat. With Jacob Murphy and Adam Armstrong to call upon in attack, we always had a chance of snatching something, which is what we almost did when Jacob Murphy scored midway through the first-half, only for Port Vale’s Sam Kelly to score a screamer past the otherwise impressive Reice Charles-Cook.

How Are They Doing?

Port Vale chairman had grown frustrated with ex-manager Rob Page’s dull-but-effective brand of football and decided to go for something completely different after Page’s departure for Northampton Town over the summer. The Portuguese manager Bruno Ribeiro was plucked from relative obscurity (although he did play for Leeds and Sheffield United), along with a raft of unknown foreign players with no experience of English football. It seemed to be a classic case of over-correcting that seemed to spell disaster for Port Vale.

Instead, Vale have started the season in impressive form and seem to be getting better as their new-look squad gels. However, few of the foreign players have made that big an impact thus far for Bruno Ribeiro’s side with several English players stepping up to the mark and Vale posing a big threat from set-pieces, as well as well-executed counter-attacks.

Nathan Smith in central defence has been the star performer this season, returning from a loan spell last season at Torquay United with a series of assured defensive performances. Standing under 6 foot, Smith isn’t the most physically dominant of defenders but commands the back-line with authority and also poses a threat from set-pieces. Alongside former Newcastle youngster Remie Streete, who spent much of last season either injured or on the bench, Port Vale have one of the best central defensive partnerships in the division.

The other stand-out performer for Port Vale this season has been Birmingham City loanee Alex Jones, who leads Vale’s scoring charts with six goals. Jones had been banging the goals in last season for Birmingham’s under-21 side, and has shown he has the pedigree to score at senior level this season, despite often being deployed on the wing by Ribeiro. Former Blackburn youngster Anton Forrester has proven an effective target-man up front, Jerome Thomas has been a threat on the wings and Bruno Ribeiro has even gotten Martin Paterson scoring goals after a lean few seasons for the former Burnley man.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

With five assists already this season, another big threat that Port Vale pose is Sam Foley in midfield. Via a combination of pin-point set-piece deliveries and some accurate passes, Foley has stepped up to the mark as Vale’s chief creator. With the brilliantly cynical Anthony Grant as the midfield enforcer, Port Vale have a mix of technical quality and a physical edge to impose themselves on the game.

Of the foreign signings, it’s only really been left-back Kjell Knops, striker Rigino Cicilia and midfielder Paulo Tavares who’ve been first-team regulars. Of the three, Knops has made the biggest impact despite being deployed out-of-position from his preferred centre-back role at left-back. Cicilia has been a useful physical presence when deployed, although mainly from the bench. Tavares has been somewhat inconsistent but has shown signs that he could really stand-out if he can find some form.

Prediction

As mentioned earlier, Port Vale has been particularly strong at home this season and this doesn’t really seem like a presentable opportunity to get that first win of the season. Our main hope is the old ‘dead cat bounce’ – something which saw us beat eventual promotion winners MK ‘Dons’ at the Ricoh Arena after Pressley’s departure – but there is no rational reason to believe that we can get something from this game.

Port Vale look a better team in pretty much all areas of the pitch right now, so it should be little surprise that I’m tipping them to beat us 2-1.

Preview: Port Vale

First of all, Merry Christmas. Second of all, let’s get down to the football.

Last week was what we hope another stumble on what we hope is the path to promotion. Reice Charles-Cook’s slap in the general direction of a goalbound effort cost the team two points, adding to previous mistakes in the past two games. I’m all for letting young players learn from their mistakes, but given our aim this season, it would be negligent to simply allow Charles-Cook to continue making mistakes.

Whether Tony Mowbray sees this as the time to send the message to Charles-Cook that that was one mistake too many last week is still anybody’s guess. The hint of a foul may let Charles-Cook off the hook, but he really needs to assert himself in the penalty area, even if he does think he’s being fouled. Something also known as ‘playing to the whistle’.

The concern heading into this Boxing Day clash with Port Vale is that the opposition will know that we have a weakness in the side and will show no let up in targeting it. With Ben Turner missing from the side, it’s going to be even harder to deal with those hanging set-piece deliveries. The best way to overcome this weakness in this game may be to score so many goals as to render Port Vale’s efforts academic, easier said than done.

It’s something of course that we have also struggled with in recent games, where we have seen plenty of the ball but struggled to create telling opportunities with it. The strength of this team is counter-attacking and opponents are now wary of giving us space on the counter, somehow we have to find a way to break down banked defences much better than we have been doing.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

The performance of Joe Cole last week came under the spotlight with the ex-England international still looking a few steps off the pace despite having come back from a long rest. It’s still a little premature to say whether this is because he’s still adapting to League One football or that he really has suffered from losing his pace over the last few years. With there being such a need in this side for someone to pick a pass in the final third, and James Maddison still recovering from a long-term injury, it would be welcome if the real Joe Cole could please stand up.

Elsewhere, hopefully the return of Jacob Murphy to the starting line-up will make a difference. The one upside for Ben Turner’s injury means that we don’t have to worry about not being able to play all of our loan players, so there is little preventing us from picking the strongest side possible.

Last Time We Met

It was Tony Mowbray’s very first game in charge the last time we faced Port Vale but the end result was one of those afternoons where you questioned just whether we would ever find success. After a very bright start where Jim O’Brien side-footed in an effort from the edge of the area to reward an attacking and energetic beginning, the team flagged badly in the final 60 minutes of the game.

Mark Marshall tortured our defence which led to two quick goals to hand Vale the half-time lead. Despite little improvement in performance, Frank Nouble bludgeoned his way through Port Vale’s defence before laying the ball off for a Sanmi Odelusi tap-in. It was scarcely deserved given the flow of play at the time and Port Vale made sure that they left the Ricoh with all three points after Michael O’Connor scored a long-range free-kick past Lee Burge, having come close from nearly the same spot a few minutes earlier.

How Are They Doing?

Port Vale are having a strange season, on the one hand, the budget has been slashed, the squad stocked with freebies and they suffered a cup defeat to Exeter so poor that it led their owner to putting the club up for sale. On the other hand, Vale have been quietly impressive this season with their re-jigged squad and are only just outside touching distance of the play-offs.

Vale’s somewhat surprisingly strong league position may owe somewhat to the lack of quality in this division overall. They have played some good football in patches under Rob Page, in his first full season as a manager, but have been inconsistent and struggled for goals.

The form of Ajay Leitch-Smith over the past month or so has been welcome considering the struggle for goals. The former Crewe man was once regarded as a bit of a prospect a few years ago before becoming one of those hard-working strikers who never seem to score. Something has clicked recently and he has scored six goals in his last eight appearances.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

There is quality in midfield for Port Vale to keep an eye out for, Michael O’Connor, last season’s tormentor, remains a class act in midfield and his set-piece delivery looks to be a real danger for us. He will be partnered by Anthony Grant, previously of Crewe, one of the most infuriating midfielders in the division for opposition fans. Grant is one of the best cheaters at League One level, niggly fouls, time-wasting, feigning injury, this guy has every trick up his sleeve to antagonise you if his time is on top.

In goal Vale have Jak Alnwick, a player who 12 months ago made his name at Newcastle with a memorable debut from the bench to deny then-league-leaders Chelsea. For some reason, the Tynesiders dispensed with the youngster’s services in the summer only for Vale to pick him up on a free transfer after an injury to their first-choice keeper Chris Neal. Alnwick has been a stand-out performer thus far for Vale as he sets out to prove Newcastle just how wrong they were for letting him go.

Prediction

It’s going to be interesting to see the reaction from last week and our previous run of results since the Gillingham game in general. For much of Tony Mowbray’s reign, whenever we’ve had a few difficult results, there has been a strong reaction. Yet there has been the opportunity in the past couple of games for that reaction to manifest itself but instead we’ve produced some pretty laboured performances. Four games without a win for a side chasing promotion is poor, five games without one would be criminal.

Port Vale themselves have the ingredients to ruin the festive cheer for us on Boxing Day. They have some excellent set-piece takers and experienced campaigners throughout the side, they could exploit our weaknesses and then sit on a lead for the remainder of the game. The onus will be on us to break them down and put the game to bed.

I am predicting a 1-1 draw.

It Happened Again!

Another abject defeat at the Ricoh Arena, with the usual vainglorious fightback which came far too late. No matter how many times we have seen it happen, this team seems powerless to stop the inevitable coming. It is utterly infuriating to witness as a fan, surely knowing how things can go wrong is the first step to stopping them from happening?

This hastily written article is part a dissection of the faults that led to today’s defeat and also an exercise in rehashing the reasons why we continue to lose home games so softly.

Lack of Quality From Full-Backs

Set-up when in possesion.

Set-up when in possession.

The tactical set-up of the team is on paper a 4-4-2, but with the two wide players (Barton and O’Brien) playing so narrowly, it leaves the full-backs with the responsibility of providing penetration from out wide. Not only are the wide players positioned narrowly, but they look to come short for the ball when we are in possession rather than create 2-on-1 situations on the edge of the opposing penalty area.

The upshot of this is that it means that our full-backs either have to beat two defenders to get the ball to the byline for a pull-back or put in a perfect cross from a deep position towards the back post. With Aaron Phillips and Chris Stokes both lacking belief in their ability to take on opposing defenders and deliver crosses and our two strikers poor competitors in the air for their height, it was an approach that did not play to our strengths.

Lack of Penetration Overall

Related to our inability to create chances for all full-backs, was the general slow pace of build-up play which allowed Crewe’s defence to set themselves into good defensive positions whenever we had the ball. The team was set up to play slow football with our wide players both looking to come towards the ball rather than make telling runs off it. Conceding the early goal meant that Crewe could sit deep and further deny us any hope that we could find space behind their defence.

When we threw the kitchen sink at Crewe.

 

As we tried to expand the pitch to turn the screw on Crewe, the midfield four formed a square in front of the opposing penalty area. The wide areas turned into a 1-on-1 contest between our full-backs and their wing-backs whilst Crewe’s back three could mark Nouble and Proschwitz with the comfort of having a spare man to snuff out any danger we intermittently caused. The natural thing to do would have been to introduce Sanmi Odelusi to play as a traditional winger, except when he did come one, Nouble was pulled out wide and Odelusi played as a central striker.

We were relying on either a moment of individual brilliance from one of our players to break through Crewe’s massed ranks, a perfect cross from out wide or simply an individual error. When we eventually went for the ‘hail Mary’ in the final 20 minutes, there was at least more of a concerted effort to create 2-vs-1 situations out wide with

Whilst we shouldn’t read too much into tactics when one team is desperately chasing the game and the other is three goals up, that sense of urgency but also the desire to get in behind the opposition was needed much earlier than it did come. We had the ball for long periods but were playing in front of Crewe not creating too much danger and then leaving gaps for Crewe to exploit on the counter.

Lack of Cynicism

It’s aggravating to watch a side such as Crewe so perfectly win soft free-kicks, feign injury, waste time and just generally turn the game into an unwatchable, stop-start contest. There was that moment when Marcus Haber, Crewe’s lengthy Canadian striker, tripped up on the turf and went down clutching his face. Our tormentor in chief though was Anthony Grant in midfield who once again showed us exactly how to spoil a game with his niggly tackles and proclivity to fall to the floor at the slightest inkling of a foul.

In an ideal world, Crewe would have had four or five players booked for diving and time-wasting but refereeing is largely subjective so it serves for very little getting angry about it. What I would have liked to see was Coventry City players learning a few tricks from Anthony Grant and Crewe’s books. There was very little pressure on the referee from our players when decisions went against us, compared to Crewe spending most of the game in constant dialogue with the ref.

As we saw with Crewe’s second goal which was a clear foul on Lee Burge, it is rare for referees to be impartial arbiters of the laws of the game. The referee is another opponent to come up against, the teams that win promotions or come up top in relegation battles know that and try and win the battle of the referee. This isn’t the time for ethics, a point today would have made a big difference.

Soft Goals Conceded

The second goal we conceded today was unfortunate because it was a foul on the keeper that nearly every referee in this country gives. Still, the fact that the team stopped playing as Crewe worked the ball into the net was absolutely criminal. Against Oldham, were failed to spot a short free-kick routine that arguably cost us the two points that would have meant we would be safe now. You can go even further back to the Leyton Orient, Doncaster and Port Vale games where the team has gifted opposing teams soft goals.

It has now been proven that Reda Johnson’s presence in the side does not entirely mitigate against these silly goals being given away. Heading into another big relegation scrap next weekend against Crawley who will be similarly streetwise to Crewe, you worry that it is going to be another wholly preventable goal that sends Coventry City to the fourth-tier for the first time since the late 50s.

Closing Thoughts

Peterborough’s remarkable comeback against Crawley today means that if we can keep a clean sheet next Sunday, we will stay up. However it also means that Crawley have to beat us to ensure survival. The pressure on that game will be remarkable, especially given that results could potentially mean that one team relegates the other. Mistakes are seemingly inevitable and I worry that our lack of a goal threat, having that knowledge of how we are going to score goals, could mean that when mistakes happen, we will be unable to respond to them.

Today’s result and performance was simply unacceptable yet the shortcomings that were on display both tactically and psychologically took too long to be addressed. Sometimes a result and performance can be particularly scarring in a relegation battle, with that defeat away to Bristol City three years ago condemning us to the drop despite there being several games to go. Continually losing in the same manner throughout the season is going to have its consequences and this result may well have massive psychological consequences.

We are heading into the biggest game of the season off the back of a defeat and very little form in winning the big pressure games. It is going to be a long week looking at all the potential ramifications. We have had multiple chances to get ourselves out of this mire only to shoot ourselves in the foot with these kind of performances.

Bloody Crewe!

Preview: Crewe Alexandra

Having taken exactly one point more than anyone expected us to take at Bristol City last weekend, we head into the final two league games knowing that we only have to avoid defeat in one of them to secure survival. Those of us prone to anxiety would much prefer it were the matter of survival put to bed before next Sunday’s potential pressure cooker tie against Crawley Town.

'It's alright, it's only Crewe'

‘It’s alright, it’s only Crewe!’

In our way, blocking our hopes and dreams once again lies Crewe Alexandra, also scrapping for survival. Having ended both our Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and play-off dreams back in February 2013, it would be cathartic to secure safety against one of our biggest bogey teams and mark the start of a new era at Coventry City. At the very least, a draw would be welcomed given the potential for this game to throw our season into turmoil once again.

Despite the point and performance against Bristol City putting us in a relatively safe position, survival could be assured despite a defeat here, you would hope that the players take this opportunity to repay fans for a long, hard season. It has been when the pressure of falling into the bottom four has lessened when this team has taken their foot off the pedal and coasted through a number of games rather than pushing on which has waylaid a season that had promised so much. A win would be celebrated but we may reflect at full-time, being possibly only 15 points away from the play-offs, had the intensity been slightly higher for slightly longer, we could have achieved something meaningful this season.

There isn’t a great deal to go by in terms of team news except for an injury to Jordan Willis. Aaron Phillips will step into Willis’s slot and it will be a chance for him to stake an early claim for a starting spot next season given that attacking full-backs will be one of Mowbray’s potential priorities in the summer. James Maddison continues to sparkle from the bench but given that a balance seems to have been found in the starting 11, our ‘next big thing’ will at best be given another cameo role.

Possible Line-Up: (4-4-2) Burge; Phillips, Pennington, Johnson, Stokes; Barton, Ward, Fleck, O’Brien; Proschwitz, Nouble.

Last Time We Met

A game which confirmed just how lily-livered this team has been this season without Reda Johnson. The Sky Blues were quite simply outfought by a Crewe team who wanted to win far more than their opponents. Our perennial tormentor Febian Brandy opened the scoring for Crewe and youngster George Cooper smacked home an impressive free-kick for his first goal in professional football. An own goal from a Danny Pugh (remember him?) free-kick should have given us something to chase but Crewe ran-out fairly comfortable victors.

How Are They Doing?

Crewe’s season has come in bursts, a disastrous start, an improvement before Christmas, another loss of form, another improvement in Spring where they looked like pulling themselves away to now where they are back in the relegation mire. Crewe have the joint second-worst defensive record and the second worst attack to give them a goal difference of -33 which leaves them with little breathing space despite a two-point margin from the bottom four.

Steve Davis knows a thing or two about beating Coventry City.

Steve Davis knows a thing or two about beating Coventry City.

Under Steve Davis, Crewe set up largely to play reactive football, hoping to soak up a lot of pressure before springing on the counter. That has relied upon their inexperienced defenders George Ray and Harry Davis making few errors, this is where Swansea loanee Alan Tate has helped provide a calming presence at the back. Tate though is injured and out for the rest of the season, so Steve Davis will be hoping that his young defence have learned some vital lessons from their experienced team-mate.

Crewe have been without several key players through injury over the past month or so but could have a few back. Young Ben Garratt in goal has earned recognition at England under-19 level but his absence has left Crewe with just one fit goalkeeper in the squad, he could be back for this game. Right-back Matt Tootle has developed into one of the club’s most reliable performers over the past few seasons but he too could return. Finally, Stoke loanee Jamie Ness, once a prodigy alongside John Fleck at Rangers, could provide some vital creativity into midfield if he makes it back in time for this game.

With or without Ness, we will have to watch out for Anthony Grant in midfield and hope that the referee pays close attention to him too. A physical presence in the centre of the park, Grant is an expert at winning soft free-kicks to break up play in the middle of the park and devolve games into thuggish scraps. His know-how could help Crewe execute yet another masterful away performance at the Ricoh Arena.

Crewe play a slightly unorthodox attack three, featuring three out-and-out centre forwards. Nicky Ajose provides the pace and is the closest of the three to a winger, he is without a goal since Valentine’s Day. Lauri Dalla Valle, who played in that JPT game, has returned to the club this season following a spell in Holland and is more of a goal poacher. Lengthy Canadian Marcus Haber is a traditional target-man who will compete with Reda Johnson for aerial supremacy.

From the bench, Steve Davis will be able to introduce the young talents of George Cooper and Ryan Colclough. Cooper impressed in our last meeting and is essentially a winger who can play in the middle of the pitch and induce terror with his direct running. Colclough has spent a frustrating two seasons kicking his heels after bursting onto the scene but announced his return to action with a fantastic goal against Sheffield United to give Crewe a vital win a few weeks ago.

Possible Line-Up: (4-3-3) Rachubka; Turton, Ray, Davis, Leigh; Jones, Ness, Grant; Ajose, Haber, Dalla Valle.

Prediction

The Crewe factor clouds my analysis of this game, they are a side who undoubtedly have a hoodoo over us and have shown in a recent win over Sheffield United that they can take results in big game atmospheres. The way they set up will allow us to have time on the ball and we have to both create enough chances and hope that one of our attacking players can finally take one. The first goal in this game looks set to have a massive say over the final result, meaning we will have to be switched on at the back, unlike in our last home game against Oldham.

So with the bogey team factor in mind, I am going to curb my optimism and predict a 1-1 draw.