League Two Midweek Tips: Duo can keep Bradford rolling

Recruits Cook up success for joint bosses

Bradford 2.3411/8 v Leyton Orient 3.412/5; the draw 3.55/2

Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars hoped that every step taken away from the bottom of the table might hasten the decision to turn their temporary roles leading Bradford into permanent ones. They got their wish this week. Now, they could even be looking at a top seven finish. Tentatively.

The Bantams have been in fine form since the pair took over from Stuart McCall in mid-December, losing once. That run has included seven wins and three draws and the team have scored twice in each of their past five matches.

Andy Cook, a recruit a month ago from Mansfield on loan, made his mark with a brace to inflict a rare defeat on Cheltenham at the weekend. Other January signings, Danny Rowe (from Oldham), and Charles Vernamhave also netted twice each.

They could be aiming to make up the seven point gap to the play-off spots. It’s surprising, therefore, that they are not odds-on to beat a fellow mid-table side – especially one which has won once in six games.

Leyton Orient might be 11th, two places higher than their hosts, but manager Ross Embleton will surely be concerned they have scored just once in six games, drawing the last three. Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Port Vale offered some improvement – they scored through midfielder Dan Kemp, an attacking midfield recruit from Blackpool.

More importantly perhaps, Embleton was glad to have 14-goal top scorer Danny Johnson back playing. Whether his return can reverse form of six defeats away in eight matches is doubtful with the Bantams in such fine form in front of goal, scoring 16 times in 11 games, as Opta reveal.

Go for goals with Harry’s happy troops

Oldham 2.68/5 v Barrow 2.89/5; the draw 3.613/5

Exiting Barrow boss Michael Jolley must be cursing his luck after four straight defeats against high flying or in-form sides led to his departure this week.

Visits to Bradford and Salford, either side of a home game with Cambridge, reaped no points and only one goal. Then Morecambe visited Holker Street on Saturday and took all three points, leaving their hosts still in the bottom two.

Several new faces have certainly had a baptism of fire. Midfielder Mace Goodridge, on loan from Burnley, impressed his new boss on his debut while Jolley felt Mikael Ndjoli, formerly of Bournemouth, was well shackled by Salford up front.

Scott Quigley, one of the old guard before a succession of January recruits, did manage to score against Morecambe, but Jolley didn’t like the “character” of his side. He said they were well below expectations in the first 25 minutes.

Before the game, he had insisted the side were “not too far away” from being competitive as they battle against a return to non-league. He believes they have not been thoroughly beaten, before or after his appointment. Fair enough, a 4-2 loss at Crawley in mid-December, just before David Dunn’s exit, and the 2-0 one at home to Cambridge are their biggest margins of defeat. “Differing visions of how the team should play,” between Jolley and the board led to his exit, leaving Rob Kelly in temporary charge again until May at least.

It is questionable whether another change of management at the Bluebirds can truly make a difference, now the transfer window has closed. The assignment at Oldham looks tough, even if the Latics have only four wins at home and the second highest number of home defeats (9) in League Two.

However, there seems to be a freedom and enjoyment playing under Harry Kewell, given the number of goals the Latics score – and concede. Only Exeter and Cambridge have scored more than Oldham’s 46, while they have conceded the most (52).

That must give any team hope and Opta report that Oldham have yet to keep a clean sheet since February 2020). The difficulty is out-scoring them. Even Forest Green had to break their own low-scoring mould to beat the Latics 4-3. The last time these two met, in November, Oldham won 4-3.

Kewell wants his side to stop having to produce something spectacular to gain points. Dylan Bahamboula‘s long strike earned a point at Tranmere. His third goal of the season came in tandem with Davis Keillor-Dunn for the second time in three games.

The manager will hope 12-goal top scorer Conor McAleny (who scored twice in defeat at Forest Green) can recover from injury, but he was delighted with how his five substitutes contributed, including Australian forward George Blackwood who hadn’t played since November. Two defenders were sent on to bolster things up when Sido Jombati was sent off, offering strength in depth.

Barrow have little choice but to attack if they are to survive in the division. Oldham have netted 11 and conceded 12 in six games and have won their last two at home. This game could reap over 3.5 goals at 3.412/5, as well as a home win.

Weaver’s men can hold Stags to steady draw

Harrogate 3.02/1 v Mansfield 2.89/5; the draw 3.211/5

The fragility of form exasperates managers and fans at the best of times. Mansfield sat top of the six-game form table for weeks, after five straight wins and a draw, but couldn’t get a game on. Everyone else had longer to see they were there to be shot at.

Since their return, Nigel Clough‘s side have endured two draws, at Walsall and Colchester, while suffering defeat at home to Bolton having been 2-0 up, then losing to leaders Cambridge.

The Stags’ momentum has well and truly melted. Clough believes they competed well with the leaders and that 3-0 was harsh. They matched them for long periods. They were just less ruthless in front of goal. Youngsters Jason Law and Tyresse Sinclair will be given more chances after impressing from the bench, added Clough.

Jordan Bowery and Jamie Reid will look to make amends here for that lack of a clinical edge in front of goal, but Harrogate – who beat the Stags in early December – will have other ideas.

Simon Weaver said ahead of last Saturday’s match they had a point to prove. That’s even more the case after a 3-1 defeat to Scunthorpe. Defensive lapses proved costly and contrasted to the foundation of a great win over Carlisle last Tuesday.

The squad has a lot more depth after January than before, when it could look jaded, like in the first defeat to Scunthorpe in December. Several players have been recruited, including Josh March from Forest Green who has netted five times. It means Jack Muldoon is no longer an automatic starter. Energy levels dropping will be the key to changes in a hectic upcoming schedule, says the boss.

Both teams are regrouping and developing then, mindful of tough schedules ahead – and even plotting for next season. A draw might satisfy both sides, especially as Mansfield look to avoid three defeats in a row, last suffered in January 2020 say Opta.

The statisticians add that Harrogate have failed to score in six home games. Only Stevenage (8) have failed more times at home. Harrogate’s 10 goals makes them the second lowest home scorers, to Grimsby’s nine.

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