News

Stoke keep visitors at bay, but tensions flare as points are dropped

16/09/2021 - Championship

By Lewis Williamson, Stoke City writer

Stoke came into this game looking to continue their winning form after a 2-1 win against Huddersfield at the weekend, and the lineup reflected this with Joe Allen being the only fresh face coming in for Sam Clucas in midfield.

On the other hand, Barnsley had faced a 3-0 trouncing at the weekend at the hands of Bournemouth, so they were looking to reverse their fortunes to get their second win of the campaign.

This was not to be the case for either side as the points were shared in a thrilling 1-1 draw at the Britannia, with Stoke opening the game strong with chances against keeper Bradley Collins. Barnsley responded at the other end, only being kept at bay by solid tackles from Harry Souttar and the strong hands of Joe Bursik in the sticks.

The Potters managed to break the deadlock within the first twenty minutes as a ball came into the Barnsley box from Tommy Smith on the right flank, and the ball fell to the feet of Sam Surridge, who smashed it home past Bradley Collins. This was only Surridge’s second in the league so far, failing to find the net since the opening day of the Championship.

The score should have been doubled only moments later as Tommy Smith again found Surridge unmarked at the edge of the six-yard box, but the ball was miss kicked sending it back to the Barnsley defence.

Callum Styles proved to be a thorn in Michael O’Neill’s side throughout the game, but no more so than when he prompted a harsh tackle from Joe Allen in midfield to win a free-kick for skipper Cauley Woodrow to slam home past Joe Bursik in the top left corner.

Towards the end of the first half, Surridge was through on goal again when the Barnsley stopper came out of his goal to prevent the early shot, and Surridge went over in the box for a penalty. There looked to be minimal contact, if any, but it was enough for the referee to point to the spot. Up stepped Mario Vrančić hoping to secure his first goal in Stoke colours, but the shot was directly at keeper Bradley Collins and tipped off the cross-bar.

The rest of the game provided non-stop action between Surridge and Collins, with seven shots on target stopped by the keeper to even the points at the end of the day. Finally, on the pitch, there was a sending off for Tommy Smith after a reckless challenge in the 85th minute as the Stoke right-back led into a tackle with his studs up to be shown a straight red card by the referee.

Off the pitch, however, there were three further sending offs for sideline staff as Stoke assistant coach Dean Holden attempted to get the ball back from Barnsley boss Markus Schopp. A scuffle ensued with Holden, Rory Delap, and Barnsley assistant Joe Laumann all being dismissed.

Chelsea begin Champions League defence at the Bridge

14/09/2021 - Europe

By Louis Pantziarka, Chelsea writer

Champions of Europe Chelsea begin the defence of their title at home on Tuesday, as they welcome Russian giants Zenit St. Petersburg to Stamford Bridge.

Thomas Tuchel rung the changes for the Premier League clash against Aston Villa on Saturday and won’t have been overly pleased with his side’s performance, even if they did run out 3-0 winners. The Chelsea boss will be expecting a much better showing against Zenit, as the Blues look to protect their European crown.

On the injury front, N’Golo Kante and Christian Pulisic are still out, but Tuchel has confirmed that England defender Ben Chilwell is in contention for the game, after a disappointing Euros and start to the season. He could replace Marcos Alonso at left wing back, who’s enjoyed an unexpected upturn in form since Frank Lampard left.

New signing Saul Niguez was thrust into the starting eleven against Villa, but was subbed off at half time following a torrid first 45 minutes. He’ll be hoping for another opportunity to make his mark at Stamford Bridge in a game where he’s likely to get more time on the ball than you’d expect in the Premier League. Having come from La Liga, this is a game that could suit him.

Thomas Tuchel has been speaking to the BBC and has made a concerted effort to ward off any signs of complacency after a perfect Champions League campaign last year:

“The most important thing is not to look back, but keep the feeling and the hunger. It is addictive, this game is about winning because it changes the atmosphere and feeling and gives you natural confidence."

Chelsea are the clear favourites for this game, which is reflected in an offering of just 3 points for a home win. You’ll get 45 for predicting a draw and if you’re feeling particularly brave, you can bag yourself 90 by backing Zenit.

Preston up Next as Blades look to build upon six-star win

14/09/2021 - Championship

By Owain Wyse, Sheffield United writer

Preston up Next as Blades look to build upon six-star win

After their emphatic win on Saturday, United will be looking for another strong performance under the lights as the Lilywhites travel to S2.

The Blades found their scoring touch and showed quality in all areas as they recorded a thumping victory over Darren Ferguson’s side. Iliman Ndiaye started the romp with his first Blades goal as a cut back from debutant Gibbs-White allowed space for Ndiaye to fire well placed finish into the bottom corner at the Bramall Lane end; a dream start for the youngster dubbed the signing of the summer by many within the club. However, despite the Blades dominance in the first half a mistake from Jack Robinson allowed Posh striker Jack Marriot in behind to score his first of the season.

In the second half United would make their control count. Firstly, John Fleck pounced on a loose ball played it into Sharp and continued his run into the area, Sharp’s return ball found the Scotsman who put the Blades back in front. Just two minutes later, some excellent football saw unlikely scorer Ben Osborn arriving late into the area to slide the ball home and lift the roof.

It wouldn’t be long to wait until the 4th, again Ndiaye and Gibbs White combining with the latter thrashing a finish into the top corner. Ndiaye would be involved in another goal shortly after as he latched onto Sharps cross, a hat-trick of assists for the skipper, and his header nestled into the corner of the goal.

It wasn’t quite the perfect second half for the Blades however. Egan lunged in and brought down Jonson Clarke-Harris who dusted himself down and stepped up to slam the penalty down the middle. The game wasn’t done yet though, in injury time substitute McBurnie found Osborn to score his second. The 6 goals scored in the game equalled the tally the Blades managed in their last 10 competitive games.

After the wonderful performance at the weekend United will be looking to carry their form into tomorrow’s game. There are no fresh injury worries for United and they could be bolstered by the returns of Ben Davies, Sander Berge, and David McGoldrick. Sweden’s number one, new signing Robin Olsen, could also be available however Jokanovic was still unsure about the situation of his new keeper during the pre-match media. New free agent signing Adlene Guedioura is eligible for selection tomorrow after he signed a one-year deal with United after training at Shirecliffe with the squad for a while before the move was confirmed.

As for Preston, Ched Evans is unlikely to be available for selection against his former club, but ex-Owl Conor Wickham is in contention to feature after he signed a short-term deal with the club earlier today.

With United high on confidence from the crushing victory at the weekend the fans are hoping for another high class performance against a strong Preston side that have only conceded one goal in their last four Championship outings. Prediction wise I’m going for a 3-0 win for United.

More home action as Sutton welcome Hartlepool

14/09/2021 - League Two

By Finley Chung, Sutton United writer

Sutton are back in EFL action on Tuesday evening as they welcome high flying Hartlepool United to the VBS Community stadium. This is Sutton’s third home game in a row, with home fixtures now coming like London busses, for the London based side.  The two sides have gone from being National League sides to EFL sides, with Sutton coming out on top in the last time the two sides met, with Isaac Olafoe, Rob Milsom and Louis John scoring in a 3-0 win for the home side.

The visitors come into this one sat 4th in the league after a very encouraging start. 4 wins out of 4 for Pools at home, however Sutton will take confidence in the away form so far for the northern side, with pools losing both their encounters away from home so far this season. Tyler Buery, a Millwall loanee who is the visitor’s top scorer will be unavailable for this fixture, along with Gavin Holohan and David Ferguson unlikely to make the trip south.

One absentee for Sutton is Joe Barden, who was forced off with injury against Stevenage which will likely see Joe Kizzitake his place in Suttons back four.

Regarding Footrace points for this encounter, should the home side be victorious for the second game in a row, 12 points will be yours. Adding ten points to that total will give you 22 if you pick the sides to be level pegging. The visitors will gain you 25 points if you feel Hartlepool will take 3 points back up North with them!

Reality check for Spurs as they get humbled by Crystal Palace

13/09/2021 - Premier League

By Archie Burkinshaw, Tottenham Hotspur writer

Well that's the honeymoon period well and truly over for Spurs as they were convincingly beaten 3-0 by Crystal Palace on Saturday. In defence of Nuno he was dealt an extremely tough hand with Son Heung-min, Steven Bergwijn, Cristian Romero, Giovani Lo Celso, Davinson Sanchez and Ryan Sessegnon all unavailable for this game. He then saw Dier limp off after 12 minutes and just to top it all off Spurs were reduced to ten men after Tanganga received a red card.

Player availability aside there were few redeeming features from this awful Tottenham performance, according to Opta, Tottenhams two shots is their lowest tally in a Premier League game since August 2005 (when they managed one in drawing 0-0 at Blackburn Rovers under Martin Jol), and they didn't register a single one in the first half. This match also marked the first time Kane, who was badly isolated throughout, completed 90 minutes in a Premier League game without having a shot or even a touch of the ball in the opposition penalty area.

The lack of creativity was incredibly worrying, Nuno opted to start a midfield three of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Oliver Skipp and Harry Winks who all failed to create any concrete chances, whilst Bryan Gil and Tanguay Ndombele (possibly the two most creative players in the squad) sat on the bench for the entirety of the game. In the final 20 minutes Spurs defensively, fell apart, giving away a sloppy penalty and two goals to debutant Odsonne Edouard.

It is going to be interesting to see Nuno's response to this test, unlike his predecessor Nuno did not blame the situation he found himself in, he stayed clear of excuses, simply stating the performance was not good enough. Nuno will have to get his available players ready for a massive week as they first travel to Rennes on Thursday before a huge home tie against unbeaten Chelsea on Sunday.

This will all have to be done with a makeshift defence after Dier left the dressing room on crutches, Tanganaga will be serving a suspension, and Romero and Sanchez will only be returning a day before the fixture against the European champions. According to Nuno, Son and Bergwijn should be available for Chelsea and he will certainly need them if his side are to stand any chance. This is no doubt Nuno's inevitable first big test, last season when Spurs faced adversity and pressure they crumbled, we now get to see if he is the man to change that.

Ronaldo runs the show on his return to the Theatre of Dreams

13/09/2021 - Premier League

By Nathan Shields, Manchester United writer

There was an abundance of expectation and excitement every time Ronaldo was on the ball, and he took aim on 10 minutes, though he could only find the side-netting.

Raphael Varane then headed wide from a Luke Shaw corner on 19 minutes.

Not long after, Fernandes audaciously attempted his own Beckham vs Wimbledon moment with an effort that dropped just over the bar.

United struggled to unpick Newcastle's low block, and it appeared like the game would be goalless going into halftime.

That was until the inevitable Cristiano Ronaldo opened his account on his second debut for the reds.

Freddie Woodman spilt Greenwood's shot, and Ronaldo was there to tap the ball into the back of the net from five yards, causing an eruption from the home support and plenty to rue their decision to wander off for a halftime pint before the whistle blew.

Much of the same from the reds to start the second half as they kept up their domination.

However, despite spending the majority of the game behind the ball rather than on it, Newcastle drew level on 56 minutes after a well-worked counterattack.

Ciaran Clark drove the ball out from the back from his own half before passing to Allan Saint-Maximin, who fed the ball into Javier Manquillo to drive home.

The Geordies' delight didn't last long, though, as homecoming King Ronaldo bagged again!

The unstoppable Shaw carried the ball up the pitch and slid through to the Portuguese in the area, and he was never going to miss one-on-one, thumping his shot through Woodman's legs.

David De Gea wasn't the busiest man on the day but did well to be alert on 67 minutes to make a smart save when Joelinton took aim.

Around 10 minutes later, the largely unneeded De Gea played a stunning pass from a dropkick to find Greenwood, who broke forward.

He laid it back to Pogba, who found Fernandes 25 yards out, who picked out the top left of the goal for United's third goal.

A fourth rounded off a dominant day for Solkjaer's side when Anthony Martial dummied Pogba's pass into Lingard, who turned and deftly curled his shot into the goal.

Top two for Tics as they beat Doncaster Rovers

12/09/2021 - League One

By Charlotte Atherton, Wigan Athletic writer

Wigan Athletic move into the automatic promotion places after a Will Keane double saw them overcome Doncaster Rovers at the DW Stadium.

The visitors opened the scoring on Saturday afternoon after Tommy Rowe found the back of the net 22 minutes into the match.

Wigan reacted well to going behind and just two minutes later found themselves back on level terms thanks to a powerful header from Will Keane.

Keane put the Latics ahead just after half-time as he once again found the back of the net to ensure his side secured all three points.

Wigan started the game confidently and that was there for all to see when Callum Lang fired a long range effort just over the bar in the opening stages of the match.

Doncaster had the next real chance when two ex-Wigan players looked to link up well as Kyle Knoyle rolled a ball across the box for Joe Dodoo, but he was a fraction too late to the ball.

The visitors took the lead soon after when a lapse in concentration from the Wigan defence allowed Dodoo to work an overhead kick into the box which landed perfectly for Rowe to fire home on the volley.

Wigan were not behind for long after Max Power whipped an inviting free-kick into the box for Keane to head the Latics back on level terms.

The Latics came close to taking the lead after Jack Whatmough headed a wayward corner across the goal for Kell Watts to meet, but his effort was tipped just over the bar by Pontus Dahlberg in the Doncaster net.

From the resulting corner, Tom Naylor had a chance to convert a teasing delivery from Max Power but his effort was headed just over the bar.

Watts was denied another opportunity in almost identical fashion early in the second half as Power’s free-kick met his head only to be tipped over the bar once again by Dahlberg.

Wigan took the lead in the 53rd minute as Charlie Wyke linked up well with Power whose delivery met the head of Lang and fell perfectly into the path of Keane who was able to fire Wigan in front.

Lang tried hard to bag another for Wigan with a long range shot from distance but it fell straight into the hands of Dahlberg.

In the end the two goals from Wigan was enough to secure all three points and leaves the Latics sitting pretty in second place.

 

Stoke return to winning ways at home

12/09/2021 - Championship

By Lewis Williamson, Stoke City writer

Stoke City welcomed Huddersfield Town to the Britannia this Saturday, hoping to bring their form back on track after a disappointing trip away to Fulham that saw them end their unbeaten run as the Cottagers put three past Stoke.

Huddersfield came into the game in high spirits after beating Reading at home by four, hoping the international break wouldn’t interrupt their form.

Michael O’Neill’s lads managed to rally the team around after the international break to secure the three points to keep the pressure on promotion rivals Fulham and West Bromwich Albion.

The lineup featured just two changes from the defeat to Fulham, with Joe Allen coming into the centre of the park to replace loanee Romaine Sawyers and Sam Surridge taking Steven Fletcher’s place up front.

Despite the nil each score at the halftime break, there was plenty of action in the first half between the sides with Joe Bursik being called into action for several saves. Surridge came close early on with a header off the back of a free-kick outside the 18-yard box, but the chance was too high.

The Terriers fought back with a close header at the other end that went just wide just before the half. Two minutes into the second half, the breakthrough came for the visitors as Joe Bursik stopped Sorba Thomas’ freekick with his feet and off Terriers captain Jonathan Hogg, teeing up Harry Toffolo to open the scoring,

The Potters responded within three minutes, with Jacob Brown heading home from a corner on the left side by Mario Vrančić, beating Lee Nicholls who barely moved an inch.

After another thirteen minutes, Stoke took the lead to seal the three points after Mario Vrančić hit another great ball into the box from the right-hand side off a weaving run for Matty Pearson to turn the ball into his own net, ending the Terrier’s three game-winning run.

Michael O’Neill’s side are looking to continue their promotion push with a midweek visit from Barnsley.

Sutton Earn Historic Maiden EFL Win over Stevenage

12/09/2021 - League Two

By Finley Chung, Sutton United writer

A 5-minute double from Sutton United’s Richie Bennett earned the home side their maiden EFL win over the 10 men of Stevenage. Elliott List had given the Hertfordshire side the lead, before Bennett levelled just 3 minutes after List’s opener, with the Sutton man smashing home the winner from 12 yards when Terrence Vancooten was adjudged to have handled inside the box and was dismissed for his troubles.

In their first game since the heart-breaking EFL home opener against Oldham, Sutton manager, Matt Jay gave opportunities to Richie Bennett, Tobi Sho -Silva and Alistair Smith to look to earn Sutton a historic first ever EFL win.

The opening to the encounter was tough, as the sun shone down on the VBS Community Stadium pitch both teams were trying to find their rhythm early on. Bruno Andrade of Stevenage had the first chance midway through the first half, inches away from connection to a Ben Coker cross from the by-line. Stevenage keeper, Joseph Anang then had his gloves stung for the first time in the afternoon, as Richie Bennet took aim, but the Stevenage stopper held onto the effort. Tobi Sho-Silva then had a guilt edged chance to put Sutton Infront, but his header was straight at Anang.

Just after the half-hour mark, Stevenage had probably the best chance of the half. Coker got to the by-line yet again and hung a cross up to the back post, with Luke Norris connecting to the cross, but Dean Bouzanis tipped the ball onto the crossbar to see Sutton survive the scare. Bouzanis was called into action to again deny Norris at the end of the first half.

Half Time – Sutton United 0-0 Stevenage

The second half got underway with Enzo Boldewijn and Richie Bennett beginning to feature more prominently for the hosts, with the former being denied by Anang, while the latter was denied by a last-ditch challenge from Terence Vancooten. Sutton were on top and applying the pressure onto Stevenage, but the visitors quickly turned on the style on the break. Chris Lines threaded the ball through to Elliott List who smashed the ball home to put the visitors ahead. Sutton weren’t to be behind for long however, as Joe Kizzi surged down the right and his cross was met by the head of Richie Bennett to haul the hosts back level, just three minutes after going behind.

Sutton had their tails up and when Vancooten was adjudged to have handled in the box and received his marching orders, Bennett placed the ball down on the spot and the entire ground, well at least the Sutton United fans and everyone associated, took an entire collective deep breath. Bennett remained ice cool and slotted his penalty away to send Sutton fans into raptures and completely turn the game on its head.

Stevenage were working hard as the game ticked into its final half hour to get back into the encounter, with James Reid and Jamie Daly being introduced as the Herts side faced an ever more uphill battle to get something from the encounter. It was Daly who thought he had put the visitors back level with fifteen minutes remaining, but his celebration was short lived as the linesman on the far side raised his flag.

That was to be the last action and when the referee blew his whistle, a moment of joy for Sutton United and the players, after they recorded the club's first ever, English Football League win.

Blades Take On Posh In Search Of First Championship Success

11/09/2021 - Championship

By Owain Wyse, Sheffield United writer

Sheffield United host Peterborough in a 3 o’clock kick off at Bramall Lane on Saturday. The Blades are yet to win in the league this season and are sitting second bottom with just 2 points from their first 5 games. Fellow strugglers Peterborough travel up to Sheffield just 3 places and 2 points ahead of their hosts. United will view this game as a huge opportunity to show their quality against the newly promoted side.

As for team news, mystery surrounds whether new Blades number 1, Robin Olsen, will be available for selection. During the pre-game media the Blades boss said “it’s new rules on the Covid situation and Brexit I can not give you an answer on whether I can use him in my team”; Olsen was not on the EFL squad list released by the Blades during the week so it is unlikely he will feature this weekend. However, Jokanovic’s side will receive a boost from being able to call upon the services of other summer signings Conor Hourihane and Morgan Gibbs-White to make their Blades debut as they add their quality in the middle of the park. Other selection problems include David McGoldrick who is recovering from a calf strain and both Ben Davies and Sander Berge coming back from COVID isolation.

The visitors will be without their skipper, former owl Mark Beavers, and striker Ricky Jade Jones for the trip up north both missing out through injury.

Last time out, the Blades drew with 0-0 Luton at Kenilworth Road and have lost both home games at the start of this season to Birmingham and Huddersfield respectively. Whereas the visitors conceded a crushing 94th minute header as they went down 1-0 at the hands of West Brom. The Posh have also lost their first two games on the road, so whatever the result may be one or both teams' run of form must come to an end.

My prediction is a 3-1 Blades win as they shake off the early season malaise, hopefully coming back from the international break revitalised and with fresh ideas to put in a strong performance in front of the home support.

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