League Two Midweek Tips: Harrogate can Weave another win

Derek Adams, the Morecambe manager
Derek Adams and Morecambe have big ambitions but could be held to a draw by Crawley

Simon Weaver's side have strength in depth to continue a fine run says Ian Lamont who also tips Tranmere and Bolton to keep up winning ways...

"The Shrimps don't score in big numbers, netting twice in a game just three times this season. A goal difference of -1 overall might undo their play-off ambitions. Just seven clean sheets in 31 games gives most teams a chance against them."

Sulphurites prove strengthening brings success

19:00 kick-offs unless stated

Barrow 2.8615/8 v Harrogate 2.89/5; the draw 3.412/5

Harrogate rested captain Josh Falkingham and vice-captain Warren Burrell on Saturday. Yes, rested. In League Two. And they still won.

Beating Grimsby might not have been the biggest surprise, but Simon Weaver was picking his moment, hedging against a hectic schedule and knowing that his squad had been strengthened in January.

Among the seven players to arrive, Simon Power (Norwich), winger Josh McPake (Rangers), and Josh March (Forest Green) have made significant contributions to the Sulphurites winning five of their last seven games. This has alleviated any danger they might fall back into non-league and pushed them to just five points outside the play-offs.

The captain should find his way back, but he might worry about his place in the side. Jack Muldoon, top scorer with 11 goals, has started the last seven games as a substitute.

What should worry Barrow - who are battling Grimsby at the bottom - is that Harrogate have one of the top half a dozen away records, with seven wins and two draws.

The layers are not totally convinced however, given the price, preferring to note that Harrogate's last away game resulted in a 3-1 reverse to in-form Scunthorpe. Before that, however, they won at out-of-form Crawley, scored twice at Tranmere (lost 3-2) and drew 2-2 at Salford. Opta stress that they have won only one of their past five away, but have scored each time. In fact they have in fact scored in their past seven away games, which strengthens their case of success at Barrow.

The Bluebirds have only failed to score twice at home this season, according to the Opta stats, and they haven't lost three league games in a row since 1971. I find it more relevant that they are on their third manager of the season and haven't scored in three of their past five matches, netting twice and conceding six times.

Reports suggest they frustrated Bolton for long periods of their 1-0 defeat on Saturday, in a dogged performance with few chances.

Scott Quigley, their top scorer with eight, has netted all three of their goals in the past six games. Fans seem to have confidence in Rob Kelly, who previously gained two late December wins as caretaker. However, Harrogate have their tails up.

Reds can dent Morecambe bid for home comforts


18:30 kick-off

Morecambe 2.47/5 v Crawley 3.412/5; the draw 3.55/2

A run of eight points from six games (and 15 points from 10) puts Morecambe bang in the middle of the form table. Yet League Two is so compact they remain fifth, just a few points off the top three. Eight points separate the top seven, with the leaders on 55. In League One 12 points separate the top six (leaders on 61), that margin being 15 points in the Championship (leaders on 67). The topsy-turvy nature of League Two makes results the toughest to predict. It was ever thus.

The Shrimps have two wins, two draws and two defeats in six. How's that for unpredictable? They are the answer to the quiz question: who were the final side Ross Embleton beat as Leyton Orient manager before being sacked seven games later? But then last Tuesday they defeated Salford City, just as the Ammies were finally getting their act together for a push into the top seven.

Manager Derek Adams and the board have ambitions to be a stable League One club by 2024. Lovely to watch providers of goals - and occasional scorers - such as Aaron Wildig would love that chance. Substitute AJ Leitch-Smith should have grabbed a late leveller at Mansfield on Saturday, but fluffed the chance provided by top scorer Carols Mendes Gomes.

Adams will be looking for far better than what he perceived was a frustratingly poor performance in a poor with "no quality" from either side. By contrast, Stags boss Nigel Clough felt it was his side's best performance since his arrival!

Whatever the truth, Adams will be glad to return to the Globe Arena, after only one home match in the past six (the win over Salford).

The Shrimps don't score in big numbers, netting twice in a game just three times this season. A goal difference of -1 over all might undo their play-off ambitions. Just seven clean sheets in 31 games gives most teams a chance against them.

John Yems' Crawley are restabilising after their FA Cup exit and now have two wins from three, both at home. The "old guard" (before the three months of Max Watters grabbing the headlines) of Tom Nichols and Ashley Nadeson scored to net a fine victory over Exeter.

The Reds never used to fear anyone on the road, said Yems at the turn of the year as they beat Forest Green and Bolton. Opta state that these two teams have faced each other 12 times, with four of every result. All four draws ended 1-1, which could happen again here. They will hope history will not repeat itself after losing their last two away games: they last lost three in a row on their travels in March 2019 - the third at Morecambe.

Goal power can give Tranmere victory

Tranmere 2.68/5 v Newport 3.211/5; the draw 3.211/5

Newport boss Mike Flynn must be overjoyed to have an away match. Sharing Rodney Parade with rugby is clearly a problem, creating a terrible surface through over-use.

However, the Exiles' away record recently hasn't been that great. A goalless draw with rising Stevenage on Saturday was their best result in three on the road (having lost at Oldham and Harrogate), matching draws away at Cheltenham and Crawley since Christmas.

Their problems seem deeper set, however. In 10 matches, they have scored eight goals and conceded nine. Flynn has been angry enough with his team slipping from top spot to jettison experienced Robbie Willmott and promising youngster Tristan Abrahams, out on loan, while still keeping Padraig Amond in reserve on the bench.

The hazards of loanees, with Scott Twine returning to Swindon, hasn't helped. Experienced players such as Luke Gambin and Nicky Maynard have been recruited along with players from high-level U21 sides.

Contrast their three goals for and four against in six games with Tranmere's 12 scored and seven conceded in the same period as they have shot up to fourth.

Newport's tight defence might mean we don't see a goal tally to match, but Tranmere have won four of their last six at home, raising their overall return at Prenton Park to eight wins this season.

Kaiyne Woolery has forced himself into Keith Hill's starting line up and rewarded his boss with six goals in seven games, James Vaughan netting seven in eight games too. They should be able to ignore losing their last two at home, as stressed by Opta, knowing that a victory could push them into the top three.

Stick with Bolton's late surge

Oldham 3.211/5 v Bolton 2.3611/8; the draw 3.55/2

Will Bolton's rise into the play-off positions ring a small setback, as so often happens when teams climb into the top seven, top three or go top? Or is the fact they have taken 21 points from 10 games the sign we need to think they can win at Oldham?

Opta point out that the Latics' last six home games have all been decided by a one goal margin, with Harry Kewell's side losing four and winning two. They lost the last one, conceding in the 89th minute to Barrow for a 1-0 defeat, while the others have all featured over 2.5 goals.

As much Dylan Bahamboula has started to find his scoring feet in recent weeks, with three of his four goals this season in the past five games, the defence has undone the attackers' hard work by failing to keep a clean sheet in nine games. Kewell was bred of course on Liverpool's attacking style when winning the Champions League as a player.

Conor McAleny has enjoyed the service, top scoring with 12, but can the Trotters unpick their hosts who only have four home wins and a -11 home goal difference? They have three away wins in a row, state Opta, who add their last better run was five in April 2017.

They almost match Oldham for tight victory margins: amid three 1-0 wins and a 3-2 humdinger at Mansfield, 2-0 victories were achieved over Leyton Orient and Scunthorpe at home. Ian Evatt's side have four clean sheets in five matches, as well.

Declan John has netted twice since arriving from Swansea on loan, and power off the bench ensures they finish games strongly, when other teams are fatigued. For example, in eight substitute appearances Shaun Miller has netted twice, having replaced 12-goal top scorer Eion Doyle on both occasions. Six of their last eight goals have come in the final 16 minutes. They are worth chancing for victory late in the game. Bolton were title favourites back in September. Maybe their late goals are a metaphor for their season.

P/L 2020-21

League Two -20.59pt
FA Cup +13.86pt

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