League Two Tips: Pirates to test Pools resolve

Dave Challinor, the Hartlepool United manager
Dave Challinor took Hartlepool to promotion last season

Dave Challinor's men can continue their fine form, says Ian Lamont, who also tips Exeter, plus a scoring draw at Crawley...

"Fans talk of a feelgood factor, with supporters’ groups re-integrated to Swindon under owner Clem Morfuni. They like boss Ben Garner’s brand of on-the-ground football. And they like the strength of depth in midfield, with Ben Gladwin and Anthony Grant among them."

Clarke can give Challinor's men clinical edge

Hartlepool 2.111/10 v Bristol Rovers 3.814/5; the draw 3.412/5

Hartlepool have had a cracking start back in League Two after promotion - especially at Victoria Park where they have notched three straight wins. Even in defeat at Barrow, they scored twice.

However, hosting Bristol Rovers is a test of how they will fare without Millwall winger Tyler Burey, who scored in three consecutive games before suffering a hamstring injury in defeat at Tranmere. It could keep him out for several months, says boss Dave Challinor.

The manager had harsh words for another loanee, Will Goodwin, for not picking up his man at a corner for the only goal of the game last Saturday. That was after the teen striker missed a couple of decent chances to score. Had he done so, Challinor said, the mistake would not have mattered or been the overriding factor in his thoughts.

Goodwin has also scored this season but where else do Pools look for goals now? Well, midfielder Gavan Holohan has plenty in his career, including two already this season. He struck eight last season. Mark Cullen has plenty of experience, when fit for selection.

The game has extra edge. Clint Hill, a former assistant to Rovers boss Joey Barton, has been "helping out" his former teammate Challinor at Pools, having left the Pirates a month ago.

Barton will just be pleased to get a second league win. However, both this season have been at home, with just a point at Barrow to show for their travels. Leon Clarke's introduction on Saturday at least provided a target for what one reviewer described as often aimless long balls up front. Winning without playing well was the conclusion. Sam Nicholson and Anthony Evans were urged to get up the pitch and contest more second balls. Aaron Collins looked frustrated up front.

On the positive side, the Gas defended stoutly after Clarke scored. Also, they have scored in all but one League Two game this season. But with the hosts notching two per game in their last two at home they might well be able to eek out another win. Opta add that Bristol are winless in 18 away league games and that their hosts have the last 100% home wins record this season in the division. Four in a row would be their best start to a season since 1956-57.

'C' teams seeking consistency - back the draw

Crawley Town 2.915/8 v Carlisle United 2.89/5; the draw 3.412/5

The only consistent thing about League Two is its inconsistency. Practically anything could happen. About six teams lead the division before one gets a grip on it and draw levels are high, bunching the division's teams close together.

Crawley, for example, beat pre-season favourites Salford at home one week then are as poor as you like in the second half at Forest Green, collapsing - like an England batting line-up - from 2-2 at half-time to lose 6-3.

The next week they drew nil-nil.

Now, on the back of a terrible away record, they attempt to keep up an unbeaten start to the season at home - after that goalless game with Northampton - knowing that Carlisle have never lost to them at the Broadfield Stadium, say Opta, in eight attempts. The Cumbrians have drawn four of those, however, and in fact have finished level in nine of their past 14 matches, emphasise the stats men.

At Bristol Rovers last weekend, Reds boss John Yems was left frustrated that the Reds couldn't finish a host of chances. Ashley Nadesan, Tyler Frost and Jake Hessenthaler were all among those who had seven shots on target and 17 off between them for the Sussex side.

Striker Tom Nichols, who started for the first time this season, has been rewarded this week with a new contract while capturing experienced former Sunderland defender Joel Lynch on a short-term contract.

Carlisle are no less inconsistent. They have also beaten Salford, after losing at Hartlepool. Tight games seem to be the fashion, with two goalless draws and three finishing 2-1 to them or their opponents. Tristan Abrahams is just happy to find a home - and a starting berth - after a stop-start time at Newport and being sent on loan to Leyton Orient. Midfielder Jon Mellish, who scored 16 times last season, has found his first goal. The visitors are dangerous.

However, Yems needs to collect points quickly I feel. I sense a few goals but a draw. I've had 2-2 in my head since starting to look at this fixture, so I am going half a point each on the draw and correct score, available at 17.016/1.

Proctor can help Robins capitalise

Swindon 2.56/4 v Port Vale 3.39/4; the draw 3.412/5

It can't be often that a striker scores a brace in consecutive weeks and wins one game but loses another. Welcome to League Two Jamie Proctor! The former Rotherham frontman netted an early double against then league leaders Forest Green, earning a 2-0 win, before notching two more against Rochdale, who beat the Valiants 3-2.

At least it gave the fans some cheer after low-scoring starts to the season. Boss Darrell Clarke isn't happy, though, with the start to the season. After all, he left Walsall because he thought this was a step up and, so far, only one win has materialised. The Rochdale match was a first defeat, however.

Swindon's games have been similar, featuring two 2-1 reverses but three clean sheets including their first two wins of the season. A draw at Stevenage was under par, it seems. Fans talk of a feelgood factor with supporters' groups re-integrated to the club under owner Clem Morfuni. They like boss Ben Garner's brand of on-the-ground football. And they like the strength of depth in midfield, with Ben Gladwin and Anthony Grant (when not on international duty) among them.

Opta say Swindon are looking to pick up consecutive home wins for the first time since February. They seem in a positive mood and optimistic after a change of ownership. Port Vale have one win in eight. The hosts have every chance to capitalise.

Green Grecians need to clean up

Scunthorpe 3.211/5 v Exeter 2.546/4; the draw 3.412/5

I've always liked Matt Jay. He said this week that as important as football is to all of us, nothing is as important right now as saving the planet. Of course, he was promoting something called Cup26 (a play on words for COP26, the international climate conference in Glasgow in November). The idea is clubs progress in a competition depending on the environmentally friendly sign up actions of their supporters.

Let's hope the Grecians take an electric train, coach or series of cars to the long away trip to Scunthorpe this weekend, then. Anyway, the midfielder, who often scores goals, has promised that this is the weekend that they kick start their League Two campaign in earnest. Opta say he has a great record against the Iron, scoring on each of his last three appearances against them.

As far as false dawns at getting out of this division go, the Grecians have had a few. This season, they might only be defeated in one league game, but have drawn four of the six. Scunthorpe have lost twice, draws three and - also - won once only.

Jay much admires the form of Cameron Dawson in goal. Others admire midfielder Harry Kite as another potential £1million player should he continue to net goals, especially. Sam Nombe and Padraig Amond could do with catching up by notching their first strikes.

The Iron have proved hard to beat this season, riding their luck at times. They have centre-back Emanuel Onariase suspended and a doubt over fellow defender George Taft. The visitors must surely look to win - especially as their hosts have won just once in 16 league games, point out Opta - even if the visitors have not scored in four of their six games this season.

P/L 2020-21

-8.9pt

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