Late heartbreak on Sutton’s EFL homecoming

29/08/2021 - League Two

By Finley Chung, Sutton United writer

Sutton United were left stunned and heartbroken, as two late Oldham Athletic goals consigned the hosts to another defeat in the League. David Ajiboye looked to have given Sutton an historic first ever EFL win, but Carl Piergianni and Junior Luamba sent the Oldham fans into bedlam, while leaving Sutton to wonder what might have been.

Sutton started the brighter of the two sides in this encounter at the VBS Stadium, with 2,805 Sutton United fans packing in to see EFL action at Gander Green Lane for the first time. Enzo Boldewijn sent a curling effort just past the upright, after Louis John and Omar Bugiel guided headers over the bar in a strong opening 15 minutes for the hosts.

The hosts dangerman was Dylan Bahamoula, who’s driving run and fierce shot was Oldham’s only first half chance of note as they rarely threatened, especially when they were disrupted by an early change when the left back, Sam Hart was withdrawn due to injury. The hosts were then back on top and last week’s scorer at Scunthorpe, Donovan Wilson drilled a low cross into the box, which was scrambled away by The Latics defence, who then saw a shot fly over the crossbar after another barnstorming run from Bugiel.

Sutton had the best chance of the half however, the ever tricky, Ajiboye fed Boldewijn after a brilliant run, only for the latter’s shot to spin off a Oldham defender, up into the path of Adjiboye who continued his run but only managed to steer his unchallenged header over the bar in the final chance of the half.

The visitors made another switch at the break, Davis Kellior-Dunn replaced Harry Vaughan. Oldham were in further trouble just 5 minutes into the second half, with Dylan Fage limped off and Oldham were onto their third left back of the game. Ajiboye was causing more trouble, having penalty appeals turned down by the referee, Darren Drysdale. Sutton were on top and at last, their fairy-tale moment arrived on the 62nd minute. Rob Milsom’s cross that was sent over was hacked away, only as far as Craig Eastmond, who’s seering shot smashed back off the crossbar and the onrushing Ajiboye who’s first effort was smothered by the keeper, but the second kissed the back of the net and sent the amber army into delirium.

QPR loanee, Faysal Bettache who had replaced Fage joined Dylan Bahamboula as Oldham’s biggest threats to The U’s slender lead, both firing shots well over Dean Bouzanis goal. Sutton did have more chances to kill the game, Bugiel firing over when he probably should’ve slipped in Boldewijn who was well placed.

Oldham kept huffing and puffing however and with just 2 minutes separating Sutton United and a first ever EFL win, they had their hearts broken, Kellior-Dunn drove at Ben White who had replaced the injured Milsom, hung up his cross which was met by the head of Carl Piergianni who’s headed hit the post and crept into the net to spark wild scenes of celebration for The Latics who looked to have snatched a point away from Sutton.

However, there was yet more drama at the VBS right at the end, after 5 minutes of added time, Sutton won a corner off Piergianni, who in turn headed the corner away and Oldham sprung a counter, Bettache released Bahamboula who sprung away from the Sutton defence, exchanged passes again with the QPR loanee before his shot looped up in the air, dropped to Kellior-Dunn, who found Luamba who fired low past Dean Bouzanis to break Sutton United hearts and send Oldham back up north, with all three points and consign Sutton, to another League 2 defeat.

The Potter’s unbeaten run comes crashing to an end

29/08/2021 - Championship

By Lewis Williamson, Stoke City writer

Stoke went into Saturday’s game at Craven Cottage hot off a six-game unbeaten streak and looked ready to challenge a Fulham side that had yet to lose in the league just like the Potters.

However, it wasn’t meant to be and the afternoon would end in heartache as the home side pulled away with a 3-0 win over a Stoke side that looked unimaginative upfront with only three shots on target.

Michael O’Neill’s side featured no changes from the 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest seven days ago, giving fans the hope that a repeat of the result would follow.

Fulham put to rest any notions of a win for Michael O’Neill’s lads straight away with a fifth-minute opener from Harry Wilson off the back of a lovely passing move from the left-hand side, seeing the Welsh youngster teed up by Mitrovic in the middle of the eighteen-yard box.

Stoke held on despite the early setback and through some stalwart defending managed to keep the Cottagers at bay, even answering the call at the other end with a shot from young wing-back Josh Tymon palmed away by Paulo Gazzaniga between the sticks for the home side.

Josef Bursik kept hopes of a renewal alive for the Potters with three fantastic saves within the first half, stopping two world-class shots from outside the box and a close-up header on the end of a freekick. This fine form kept the score as low as it was.

The second goal came in the 53rd minute as Mitrovic cut inside to hit a soft shot at Bursik who palmed it out to the hoof of Bobby Reid that lacked any hesitation as he put the home side 2-0 up.

Stoke pressed on undeterred playing some good possession-based football but this was for naught as Mitrovic found himself on the score sheet this time in the 72nd minute, capitalising on a rush out from Bursik to clear the ball which found its way across the empty net to the prolific goal scorer running onto the back post.

3-0 down and with the game all but over in the 93rd minute Bursik brought down Neeskens Kebano in the area, giving Mitrovic the chance to double his goal tally but Bursik rectified his mistake saving the Potters from a thrashing once again despite previous errors.

All-round a poor outing from Michael O’Neill’s lads as they look to challenge for promotion this year. However, there is no shame in losing to the possible champions this time round.

Burnley host Leeds in important last clash before international break

29/08/2021 - Premier League

By Ben Brown, Leeds United writer

Burnley and Leeds United will both be looking to secure their first league win of the season before the international break when the two sides meet at Turf Moor. Burnley remain winless so far and have the extra motivating factor of avenging their 4-0 humbling in this fixture last season, whereas Leeds will be looking to build on the positives shown during a frenetic 2-2 draw with Everton last week.

Aaron Lennon re-joined the clarets this week and started the Carabao Cup shootout win over Newcastle so could be in line for a start against the side where his professional career began, whilst Sean Dyche may have Ashley Westwood and Matej Vydra available after respective toe and groin problems. Chris Wood is likely to lead the line against a side he bagged 41 goals in 83 games for between 2015 and 2018.

Leeds will definitely be without German international Robin Koch who remains absent with a pelvic issue, but fellow central defender Diego Llorente may return after successfully coming through a 45 minute runout on his return from a minor problem in the midweek 3-0 cup win over Crewe. Another who returned from injury is Adam Forshaw, completing an hour in his first senior appearance since September 2019 following a gruelling layoff. He may appear today after impressing in that game whilst Patrick Bamford will be looking to prove a point following his recent international call up, against a side where it went all wrong for him during a 2016/17 loan spell.

The away sides better form thus far is reflected in the points on offer for this fixture, with correctly predicting a Leeds victory earning you 12 points on the site, whereas a win for the Turf Moor hosts gives you a tidy bonus of 25.

1 more game until Ronaldo: Manchester United head to Molineux hoping to get back on track

29/08/2021 - Premier League

By Nathan Shields, Manchester United writer

Prior to yesterday, a lot of the talk was over whether Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho will start their first games for the Reds on Sunday.

However, the focus has shifted.

As on Friday afternoon, Manchester United announced they had agreed a deal to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back to the theatre of dreams.

What has notoriously been a fixture that United's excellent away support dread, with a recent history of drab affairs, will now be a joyous occasion of scarf swinging and loud singing of 'viva Ronaldo'.

Unfortunately, Ronaldo will not be available for this one.

Varane was an unused substitute at St Mary's last weekend after his unveiling on the pitch the previous week, while Sancho has come off the bench in both fixtures.

Scott McTominay will be absent after undergoing minor groin surgery, with Alex Telles and Marcus Rashford remaining out.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday, Ole said of McTominay's injury:

"Scott has had surgery, and he couldn't carry on. We tried to manage it and get him through without surgery, but we couldn't, and, in the end, it was too sore for him. By the end of the Southampton game, when he came in, that was the decision."

Raul Jimenez is back from his serious head injury and has been leading the attack for the home side so far this season.

Jonny Otto and Pedro Neto are out, but centre-back Willy Boly could be fit to return from a hamstring injury. Several players did their chances no harm during the 4-0 away win at Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night, including Daniel Podence. Recent recruit Francisco Trincao is available from the start too.


Tottenham host the Hornets following midweek European success

28/08/2021 - Premier League

By Archie Burkinshaw, Tottenham Hotspur writer

Tottenham will be looking to continue their perfect Premier League start as they host Watford this Sunday. This will be a very different test for Tottenham - over their first two league games against City and Wolves they averaged 38% possession, encapsulating the counter-attacking nature of those performances.

They cant perform like that this weekend, Spurs will have to be on the front foot, to make sure they dominate possession and score goals early to kill off the game. Watford will no doubt look to hit Spurs on the break through Sarr and Dennis, who both have terrifying pace at their disposal.

Harry Kane will look to build on his two goals midweek as he looks set to receive his first Premier League start of the season. Spurs only injury concerns are defenders Joe Rodon and Cameron Carter-Vickers who will miss this game.

Watford will assess Juraj Kucka, who is nearing a return from the thigh injury which ruled him out at Brighton. Nathaniel Chalobah, Dan Gosling and Joao Pedro are still sidelined. New signing Ozan Tufan is not yet available, while goalkeeper Ben Foster suffered a hamstring injury in midweek and is expected to miss Sunday's match.

All the stats point to a Spurs victory this weekend, they have only lost once to Watford in their last 16 league meetings and also only once in their last 27 matches against newly promoted sides. But this is Tottenham so stats can often quickly go out of the window..

However with Kane and Son in the side I think Spurs will have far too much for Watford to handle and I also have faith in the defence to keep another clean sheet. So my prediction is for Spurs to replicate the result they got at home against Watford in the 16/17 season and win 4-0. Footrace are offering me a huge 140 points for this. Footrace sees Spurs as the massive favourites for this game, offering 3 points for a Tottenham win, 45 for a draw and a whopping 90 for a Watford win.


Lukaku - the elite striker needed in Chelsea

28/08/2021 - Premier League

By Louis Pantziarka, Chelsea writer

There can be no doubt that Chelsea have enjoyed an excellent start to their season. A 100% record in all competitions, a European trophy, no Premier League goals conceded and a drubbing of Arsenal, reads pretty well. With all due respect to the teams they’ve faced so far though, the Blues are heading into their toughest test of the season against Liverpool at Anfield this weekend. Romelu Lukaku’s performance on his return to Stamford Bridge last week was superb and his addition has turned Chelsea into genuine title contenders, regardless of the result on Saturday. Here’s why.

It doesn’t take a football genius to work out that the main thing Lukaku has brought any team he plays for, is goals. And lots of them. He’s bagged 193 league goals in 396 appearances across spells in Belgium, England and Italy – that’s an average of 0.49 goals per game. Considering how long he’s been around, that’s an astounding record and it’s exactly what Chelsea were missing last year. With an xG of 64 goals, the Blues managed just 56 goals and were crying out for a clinical striker.

It’s not just Lukaku’s goals that set him apart as an elite centre forward though. As was particularly evident against Arsenal, his link-up play has come on leaps and bounds since his United days. Chelsea’s midfield were constantly rolling balls into him and watching as he embarrassed Pablo Mari in particular with his strength and touch. The first goal came from one such occasion and the second showcased his brilliant spatial awareness, as his dummy on Marcos Alonso’s pass opened up space for his teammates. Lukaku managed 11 assists in Serie A last season and there’s no reason he won’t be able to carry that over to the Premier League.

Goals and assists are all well and good, and will be vital for Chelsea’s title push this season, but Lukaku brings so much more than that now. He found a new level of fitness under Antonio Conte and has become a real leader. He was instrumental in Belgium’s Euro 2020 run, as he led from the front. That campaign may not have ended in silverware, but he’s certainly shown he can win trophies, as he fired Inter to their first Scudetto since 2010. As a well-rounded professional, Lukaku now brings Chelsea so much more and is therefore nailed on to start at Anfield on Sunday.

The most points you’ll get for this one is 21 for a draw, with a Chelsea win securing 20 points. The home side are being backed as favourites, with 15 points available for a Liverpool win.

Kane back with a bang as Spurs progress

27/08/2021 - Premier League

By Archie Burkinshaw, Tottenham Hotspur writer

Harry Kanes first start of the season resulted in two first-half goals seeing Tottenham through to the group stages of the inaugural Europa Conference League.

Giovani Lo Celso capped an excellent Spurs victory when his free-kick was deflected in for a third goal meaning Spurs ran away 3-1 winner on aggregate against Paços de Ferreira.

Following Kanes declaration on Twitter that he would be staying at the club, this game was always going to be about him, and he delivered. Kane was handed the armband by Nuno and he certainly led by example, almost scoring 20 seconds in after a wonderful Romero pass from kick-off.

Kane did go on to score 9 minutes later, due to great work, first by Winks who won the ball back and then by Gil, who neatly squared the ball back to Kane on the penalty spot to supply the finish. The England captain looked hungry to make up for lost time and another clinical finish put Tottenham ahead on aggregate for the first time in the tie.

It wasnt just Kane who looked revitalised, Winks, Gil and Lo Celso all put in brilliant performances. Thankfully, Nuno ditched five at the back that looked so awkward in the first leg, for a 4-1-3-2 formation, with Winks as the anchorman in-front of the defence. Winks swept up brilliantly, unleashing Lo Celso and Gil, with everything flowing through them.

It was an incredibly professional performance by Spurs who have now won three of their opening four games, scoring five times and keeping three clean sheets. I think most Spurs fans will be happy with that.

Spurs have been placed in a very winnable group G in the Europa Conference League alongside, Rennes, SBV Vitesse and NŠ Mura.


A trip to the West Coast for Wednesday

27/08/2021 - League One

By Jude Hall, Sheffield Wednesday writer

The Owls will be backed by a sold out away end as they look for a fourth consecutive league win when they travel to Morecambe for Saturday’s 3pm kick off.

Yet to concede this season and with a full week’s preparation ahead of the weekend, Darren Moore will be confident his side can continue their fine start to the season against The Shrimps who’s midweek cup exit to Preston North End made it three defeats in a row for Stephen Robinson’s team.

Last season’s League Two playoff winners nearly made the perfect start to the season as they travelled to promotion favourites Ipswich Town for their first ever League One fixture but were denied a shock win by Macauley Bonne’s stoppage-time equaliser for the hosts. The Shrimps did however get their coupon buster later that week with a 2-1 Carabao Cup win at Championship Blackburn Rovers.

Morecambe recorded their first ever third division victory the following weekend with a 2-0 triumph over Shrewsbury but have since been brought back down to earth with back-to-back league defeats to Rotherham United and Gillingham before Tuesday’s 4-2 cup loss.

Robinson will be looking for a reaction from his players following a change in fortunes, and one man he can look towards is the current League One top scorer Cole Stockton. After 13 goals last campaign, the 27-year-old striker has started the year on fire, scoring six in as many games. The Englishman bagged a brace in Morecambe’s opener at Portman Road whilst also netting in both of The Shrimps cup games against Championship opponents. Bailey Peacock-Farrell is yet to pick the ball out of his net in Wednesday colours and will face his biggest threat so far when the in-form forward welcomes him to the Globe Arena.

The mood at Hillsborough is a buoyant one, with The Owls flying high at the top of the League One table having secured bragging rights in two South Yorkshire derbies already this season. And Wednesdayites received another boost this week when the club announced that defender Dominic Iorfa has signed a new long-term deal at S6. The 26-year-old was heavily missed through injury last season but has played every minute of Wednesday’s campaign this term. Speaking to the club’s press The Owls defender said “As a collective we help each other out, from the strikers to the defenders.

“Getting that clean sheet is something we pride ourselves on during the game. When we were 2-0 up at Rotherham we were saying to each other ‘we do not concede, we do not concede’ and having that kind of mindset will stand us in good stead for the season ahead.” 

As expected, The Owls come into this one as favourites with just 10 points up for grabs for guessing an away win. However, with the division’s deadliest striker at the moment leading the line, Morecambe could well be the ones to hand Darren Moore his first defeat of the season with 30 points available should the hosts do so. Wednesday have only ever faced The Shrimps once in their history and it was in an FA Cup first round tie back in 2011. Goals from Chris’ Lines and O’Grady saw Gary Megson’s team into the next round with a 2-1 win at the Globe Arena. Will Wednesday continue their great start to the season and maintain a 100% record against the West Coast side? Or will Morecambe provide another upset this season? 


Blades look to build upon cup victory as they travel to Luton

27/08/2021 - Championship

By Owain Wyse, Sheffield United writer

Sheffield United will take on Luton at Kenilworth Road at 15:00 on Saturday. United will be looking to put together a run of form following their victory against Derby during the week.

Despite falling behind to a Louie Sibley placed finished just before the break at Bramall Lane the Blades battled back after the break. A change of shape at halftime saw John Fleck replace striker Daniel Jebbison this gave the Blades more control in the midfield whilst also giving creative midfielder Luke Freeman the freedom to express himself in a more attacking area. It was Freeman who provided the equaliser when overlapping centre back, sounds familiar doesn’t it, Kyron Gordon’s cross found the head of Freeman and nestled into the roof of the net. With just under 15 minutes remaining United skipper Billy Sharp pounced on a poor backpass from former Blade Richard Stearman for his 251st career goal and the winner, to set up a tie with his former club Southampton at Bramall Lane.

As for Saturday, the Blades take on Luton, who have started their season reasonably well with two wins and two losses from their opening four games. Luton will be looking to bounce back following a 5-0 thumping at the hands of Birmingham last Saturday.

United are still chasing their first league win of the season and with only one point on the board will be looking to get this season started sooner rather than later. However, a poor start to the season isn’t strange for United with Sharp drawing similarities between the beginning of this season and the last Blades promotion season in the pre-match media yesterday “The last time we got promoted we didn’t start particularly well. We need to get a win on the board and build on that”. The Blades are without any new injury issues, however in the cup Jokanovic made 11 changes from the game against Huddersfield, and with the second team impressing we could see some of those players getting a chance in the league, as the new boss tries to get his style of play across.

With United obviously keen to set themselves a platform for the rest of the season, we should see a passionate Blades performance with players wanting to prove their qualities to the manager and settle some of the unrest within the fan base.


The Football League Comes to Gander Green Lane

27/08/2021 - League Two

By Finley Chung, Sutton United writer

At long last, it seems the day Sutton United fans have been waiting for would never come, but League Football descends on the VBS Community Stadium, for Sutton’s first ever home Football League fixture of their entire 123-year history.

Sutton come into this encounter having had a week break from their last game, a 1-1 away draw v Scunthorpe United in which Donovan Wilson’s sublime backheel, reminiscent of Danny Welbeck’s famous goal for England at Euro 2012, secured Sutton a point.

Their visitors, Oldham Athletic, have had a similarly less than convincing start to the season. While the off-pitch ownership issues and protests took the headlines in their midweek cup encounter against Accrington Stanley, on the pitch, Dylan Bamboula is the only player to hit the target for Oldham in the League this season, something the Latics will be hoping changes quickly.

The visitors went through in the EFL Cup this week v Accrington, beating the League One side on penalties, to set up a draw with Premier League side Brentford in Round 3.

Sutton have a clean bill of health heading into this game, in which it will be interesting to see whether manager, Matt Jay will look to add to the 16 players he has used so far in the league this season.

Ben Wyatt’s injury sustained away at Scunthorpe isn’t as serious as first feared, so he’s available along with Rob Milsom and Louis John in contention for a return to the XI.

By contrast, The Latics have used the most players of any League 2 side this season, using 23 players so far this campaign.

In terms of the points available for the fixture, home advantage is with Sutton as a home win earns you 12 points, if you feel a draw is on the cards, then you can add ten to the Sutton total, with 22 points coming your way if the teams hold each other. Finally, an away win gets you a mammoth 25 points.

The VBS Community Stadium finally hosts Football League Action on Saturday, will it be Sutton or Oldham who come away victorious?




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