League Two Tips: First Barrow win can be Taylor made

Michael Flynn, the Newport County manager
Michael Flynn's Newport have had a busy and successful start to the season

David Dunn's men should be able to take victory, says Ian Lamont, who selects games at Cambridge and Oldham to continue the trend of a draw-strewn division...

"Cambridge are showing a lot more resilience than last year. Newport do have a tendency to be pegged back if they are not careful. Draws in the division have been running at a shade under one in three games."

Barrow need to get a first win Dunn

Barrow 6/42.5 v Leyton Orient 11/53.2; the draw 5/23.5

David Dunn said his team lacked creativity and guile in the derby defeat at 10-man Carlisle last Saturday. He was given food for thought after making 10 changes for Monday's EFL Trophy match, including by the performance of new boy Jason Taylor, the 33-year-old midfielder who has plenty of Championship experience.

The Bluebirds certainly need all the experience they can get as they try to stabilise in League Two, having not won any of their opening four games. They scored in the first three, taking two draws. They have added striker Courtney Baker-Richardson, formerly of Swansea, to their squad this week.

On Monday, boss Dunn said he gave the squad some home truths at half-time. He's not generally a ranter or raver, he added, preferring to present solutions over tellings off. Whether the right players heard it all in time for Saturday is a different question, given the differences in team line-ups.

Scott Quigley returned after suspension in the draw at home to Colchester and this game against Leyton Orient presents a good chance for the hosts to accomplish a first win.

Not being too harsh on Leyton Orient, or opportunistic, the O's are still adjusting to interrupted preparations from Covid-19. Last weekend, manager Ross Embleton described how he had only 10 minutes on the pitch with his squad on the morning of the defeat to Cheltenham, as they returned from individual isolation.

They would have benefited more than most then, from an EFL Trophy match, in which they defeated AFC Wimbledon with goals from Lee Angol, supplied from Jordan Moore-Taylor, and his replacement Conor Wilkinson.

Danny Johnson, who has a career strike rate of 0.35 goals per game which is better than many recognised forwards, will want to take his place back and add to the four league and cup goals he has netted already this season. Defender Olatunji Akinola will be eager to make his mark. However, I think the Holker Street hosts will be eager to register that first victory back in the Football League.

In-form pair would settle for a draw

Cambridge 9/52.8 v Newport 15/82.92; the draw 12/53.4

Despite Newport playing 10 games in 30 days, and Michael Flynn being nominated for manager of the month, the Exiles have to be worth considering to win at the Abbey, especially at the price.

Actually winning the monthly award can be a handicap for a manager's next match. Being top of the league this early in the season has also proved a hazard over the years. But it would surely be a surprise if the visitors didn't score, having done so in their eight League Two and League Cup matches. The EFL Trophy is no form guide, but evergreen Kevin Ellison was one of three players to gain match time - the full 90 minutes, along with Saikoh Jenneh and Tom King. Hauling off Scott Bennett as a precaution after 32 minutes shows the size of the fixture list task at present, as well as Flynn's priorities.

Flynn promises the 5-0 reverse to Norwich's U21s won't dent their momentum. It is astonishing to think that clubs have played a maximum of four league games. The manager will be pleased that several players have contributed goals, from Tristan Abrahams and Ryan Taylor to youngster Scott Twine and Matt Dolan.

They certainly had no easy ride at home to Mansfield, coming from behind to win, but had six shots on and 10 off target. That was bettered last weekend in League Two only by Forest Green's 10 and 17 - and yet Rovers struggle to score.

Cambridge will be encouraged that Newport rarely manage clean sheets: one in the league, three across those eight mentioned above including when beating United 1-0 in the League Cup. Opta says the U's will be looking for their third straight clean sheet at home for the first time since April 2017. Meanwhile, the goal pace has slowed for the hosts, after a fabulous start to the season - a 3-0 win over Carlisle and netting five against Morecambe. Their game against Tranmere was goalless and they lost 2-0 at Exeter.

Boss Mark Bonner, who is also on the shortlist for the September manager award, loved the intensity at Exeter in an "encouraging" performance. One would imagine he has also loved Paul Mullin's contributions that have led to the former Tranmere striker's nomination for player of the month. The hosts have plenty of other talent, not least in Luke Hannant whose double helped them beat Burton in midweek.

Cambridge are showing a lot more resilience than last year. Newport do have a tendency to be pegged back if they are not careful - and showed stamina to come from behind against Mansfield. Draws in the division have been running at a shade under one in three games. Layers clearly expect another, given the prices and the chances are that two teams who have started the season well will be happy with that outcome. Winning four straight games has eluded the visitors since September 2018, point out Opta.

Absences adding up against Carlisle

Port Vale 6/52.16 v Carlisle 3.9; the draw 13/53.6

Two Opta stats could prove crucial in assessing this match. Firstly, Port Vale's run of 11 games unbeaten came to an end at Morecambe last time - and they haven't lost back to back fixtures since last December. This is important because the Valiants were on a strong upward curve just as the season was curtailed in March and, from eighth, seemed poised to rise into the play-off positions.

Secondly, Carlisle have alternated between wins and defeats in their last seven games, winning their last. While such flip-flop sequences are a little flimsy as strong evidence of form, it does show their propensity not to draw, reducing the chance they will do so. Their last victory was at home, 1-0 over winless Barrow.

Add in that they have not scored an away goal in League Two, or in the 3-0 League Cup defeat at Oldham, and Chris Beech does seem to have an uphill task.

In addition, the strike force has been decimated. Not only is Joshua Kayode on international duty with the Republic of Ireland U21s, striker Gime Toure and Gavin Reilly are both struggling with injuries and midfielder Brennan Dickenson is out for a while. On the positive side, Aaron Hayden's red card from Saturday's victory has been overturned.

All in all, Port Vale's price still seems generous, despite having nobody who has played right-back. James Gibbons and Zak Mills are both injured, while Nathan Smith, a centre-back who has played in the position, is self-isolating because of a family member's Covid symptoms.

John Askey is capable of working magic, modestly suggesting that the decision to throw in Devante Rodney up front against Exeter was one decision that worked, when some don't. He does have plenty of options and experience up front, including Mark Cullen, Theo Robinson and the unused so far Tom Pope. He's saving his legs over 46 games.

The Valiants will hope for better conditions than last weekend's heavy rain and driving wind. They do need to justify the price - and their potential for a promotion push - by ending a run of two games without scoring. And if they can't do it here, seasonal aims will be in jeopardy.

In-form Shrimps can cancel out improving Latics

Oldham 11/82.36 v Morecambe 5/23.5; the draw 12/53.4

The 5-0 reverse at Cambridge is beginning to look like an aberration in their formline. Three wins in their other League Two matches might have been tight, including the "scrappy" one against Port Vale said defender Sam Lavelle, but earned the points.

This season feels "different" says the 24-year-old centre-back, who is still not sure of a place with more experienced professionals around him. He's in his fourth year and normally they have struggled in the first few games. A clean sheet on his birthday was a fabulous birthday present.

Boss Derek Adams was no doubt pleased to have a midweek off and even with the Shrimps winning ways will have wanted to work with his attackers. Goals have largely come from midfield - Adam Phillips netting in all three victories, but two of them penalties - with Aaron Wildig bagging another.

He also scored the only goal in the League Cup victory over Oldham, at home. Since then, the Latics have started to score, twice at home to Crawley in defeat and three including a late Conor McAleny penalty equaliser to take a first point of the season at Colchester.

It's difficult to know how much they have improved, but Dylan Bahamboula, a Congo international signed on the eve of the game, played a large part as a half-time substitute, according to boss Harry Kewell. A change of formation allowed the new boy to open up the game. The secret is out now. Can Morecambe suss him out?

Opta point out that Morecambe don't win three consecutive league games in a row too often, last achieving it in August 2016. They add that the last time Oldham failed to win any of their first five league games was in 2017-18 - when they were relegated from League One. They are certainly edging closer to victory, but with the visitors showing a bit more confidence than in the past they will be eager not to lose, and that could lead to both sides evening each other out for a draw.

P/L 2020-21


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