Striking options helping to lift Rovers
Tranmere 2.1211/10 v Barrow 3.814/5 the draw 3.711/4
Charlie Jolley hasn't looked back after scoring on his EFL debut for Tranmere. It's no wonder the 20-year-old framed the shirt after netting the only goal against Oldham the other week, having been recalled from Chester where he was on loan.
Two further starts seem to have cemented his place in Micky Mellon's side, despite Rovers having most of their strikers available. Paul Glatzel is the only one out, with a hamstring injury.
Mellon's chance on Jolley has been rewarded, not least as he helped them to avenge their 4-0 thrashing by Leyton Orient in the FA Cup with a league win against them. While Orient are draw kings away, the Merseysiders have been excellent at home, securing a joint League Two high seven wins. An eighth should be on the cards, here, even if Tranmere have only scored 11 times in 10 home games.
They have kept results tight to lift themselves into the play-off picture. Mellon clearly recognised he needed another option when recalling Jolley with the likes of Elliott Nevitt scoring just twice in 16 appearances. Defender Peter Clarke is still top scorer with three strikes.
Could Barrow upset the apple cart and the odds? It seems an uphill task. Opta say they have not scored in three of their last four trips to Tranmere. They add that the hosts, having lost their last two games on Boxing Day, have not lost three in a row on that date since the mid 1970s.
Ollie Banks (7) and Josh Gordon (4) can match Tranmere's home goals tally between them. However, they have won twice and drawn three of 10 away. Mark Cooper's men picked up one point from four League Two matches in November, and haven't scored in three away games.
They have defeated Swindon at home in December though and progressed against Ipswich in the FA Cup. The manager reflected how they were on a "different level". That's what the FA Cup does to you. This game, however, should belong to the hosts.
Momentum building at Mansfield
Mansfield 2.0621/20 v Hartlepool 4.03/1; the draw 3.814/5
When you've got momentum you don't want a break. Whether you are a snooker player on top at the mid-session interval, an athlete building up to a big event, or a revived side in League Two looking to build on nine wins from 10 games in all competitions.
Nigel Clough has been very vocal about not wanting any more enforced postponements because of Covid, in the midst of several games on Boxing Day already being called off.
After a poor return in the previous 15 games, the manager says confidence is now high. There was "real disappointment" when their trip to leaders Forest Green was called off. But the Stags have a real chance to go into 2022 in the play-off positions and starting to real in the leaders when they host Hartlepool.
Equally on an unbeaten run, under new boss Graeme Lee, Pools will have to contain Stephen McClaughlin, who has two goals in as many games, and Rhys Oates who is back in form, too. The hosts have won their past four at home, drawing the previous two.
This is a first league away game for Lee, whose side defeated Lincoln City away in the FA Cup under his stewardship to buck away trends. They have one win, one draw and just six goals on the road, while being almost unbeatable at home. Mark Cullen needs to find some support for his scoring talents up front. Opta state the hosts are unbeaten in their last four Boxing Day home games, winning two. They should be able to add another win to that list.
Hill seeing positive signs for mountain climb
Oldham 2.245/4 v Scunthorpe 3.814/5; the draw 3.711/4
Identify. Belief. Effort. Keith Hill is starting to see aspects of each, he says, believing that a first win under him is close for Scunthorpe. Opta give him hope, saying that the Iron have lost just twice to Oldham in their past 10 meetings. A clean sheet and a goalless draw against Hartlepool certainly brought a win closer. It was a fifth draw in his sixth game.
An enforced Covid break leaves him with a Boxing Day trip to Oldham for a clash of the two bottom clubs.
Scunthorpe have not won away yet this season (and only twice at home), but do have six draws on their travels. And four at home. Oldham have won four in total, two at home.
Myles Hippolyte, Ryan Loft, Aaron Jarvis and Jake Scrimshaw have all rewarded their new boss with a goal - in some cases two - but now the team needs to combine scoring with keeping a clean sheet.
That seems a highly unlikely prospect at Oldham, who have reverted to last season's goal blitzing, based on their last outing, a 5-5 draw with leaders Forest Green. Naturally, boss Selim Benachour wants to "build" on that draw. Did the Latics use up all their goals at once having not scored in the previous two league games?
The hosts certainly showed a resolution to battle back, from 4-1 down. There is reason to be further cheerful in the performances of Harry Vaughan, 17, who has burst onto the scene in the past 18 months. However, he could be sold to Burnley imminently to ease financial running costs. Can Davis Kellior-Dunn add to his six for the season? Or will Hallam Hope beat him to it?
Either way I think both sides are showing more resilience than at the start of the season, which could leave both sides stuck nursing a draw.
Orient far from having things their own way on the road
Colchester 3.814/5 v Leyton Orient 2.111/10; the draw 3.711/4
A cursory glance at the League Two table might lull casual onlookers to bet on Leyton Orient to win at Colchester. Afterall, Kenny Jackett's men are pushing against the door of the play-off spaces and Hayden Mullins' side continue to try to swat away suggestions they are in a dog fight to stay in the division.
But over, for example, six games, there isn't much to separate the pair, Orient picking up seven points in that time and the U's eight. Indeed, Opta say that Colchester have lost just three times in 25 home games against Leyton Orient (but two coming in the past five games). They add that the visitors have failed to win any of their past five against the U's.
In more recent times, this season Leyton Orient are away draw kings with seven - narrowly losing at Tranmere last weekend by the only goal. That meant they have suffered consecutive defeats for the first time this season.
Midfielder Tom James' hamstring injury could keep him out for 12-16 weeks and disrupt their season. He has been a virtual mainstay this season. They also have Hector Kyprianou and Callum Reilly missing. Jackett hopes "Covid related" absentees from the Tranmere trip, Alex Mitchell, Theo Archibald and Omar Beckles, will return in time.
Paul Smyth has limited fitness that will restrict him at present to the substitutes' bench (which was only half full at Tranmere), but Jackett is salivating at the prospect of having him in behind Harry Smith and Aaron Drinan in the second half of the season if he can keep them all fit.
Colchester should be fresher for having had last weekend's match called off - as well as the one in midweek against Forest Green. In their favour, they have also kept home matches pretty tight, with three wins, three draws and four defeats, and a 10-12 goals record. Having not scored in either of their two most recent matches - both away - they will be glad of home comforts, where they have one defeat in their past six, to surprise package Sutton United.
They have held Newport and Bristol Rovers and beaten Harrogate and Exeter at home in that spell, with Freddie Sears scoring in the last four there. Just a bit of extra zip from Sly Jasper or Noah Chilvers and they should be able to earn a point - maybe more than that.