Sutton duo up for EFL awards

06/10/2021 - Championship

By Finley Chung, Sutton United writer

Sutton United defender Joe Kizzi and manager Matt Gray have both been nominated for player and manager of the month awards respectively. In keeping with the theme of firsts for Sutton United this season, with the first ever Sutton United nominee’s for both the player and manager of the month in League Two.

United Fans can vote for the Kizzi on the following link . The other players up against Kizzi are Harry Smith (Leyton Orient), Jamille Matt and Luke McGee (both Forrest Green), Jake Beesley (Rochdale) and Luke Armstrong (Harrogate Town).

Defender, Joe Kizzi has had a special, meteoric rise to league football. He started out in Non-League for Eton Manor and Enfield 1893 in the Essex Senior League before moving to Waltham Abbey in the Isthmian North Division in 2014, before stints at Cheshunt, Wingate and Finchley and Billericay Town before heading to National League South Side Bromley before moving to Sutton United, newly promoted to the Football League in July 2021. In Saturday’s win against Northampton, Kizzi netted his first football league goal, cementing his journey from Essex Senior League, to established League 2 defender.

Elsewhere, manager Matt Gray has been nominated for the League Two Manager of the Month Award. Sutton had a sterling September, earning nine points out of a possible twelve during a run which only saw them lose out to Exeter City, with their Manager, Matt Taylor being nominated for the award, along with Leyton Orient’s Kenny Jacket and Port Vale’s Darrel Clarke. Gray’s side managed to defeat Carlisle, Hartlepool and Stevenage, to earn him the chance to win the award.

Jabbing: on and off the pitch

05/10/2021 - General

By Maurício Alencar, Footrace Football Expert

Off the pitch, some footballers aren’t getting jabbed. In the last week: Sajid Javid, the current health secretary for HM Government, expressed that he is “disappointed” several England footballers have not taken the COVID jab; Jurgen Klopp compared not taking the jab to drink driving; a report said that only seven Premier League clubs have over 50% of their squad vaccinated; players can only travel to red-list countries for internationals if they are fully vaccinated.

Footballers not getting jabbed is certainly a problem that has its wider impacts. As club players and staff do often travel around Europe and the rest of the world, it is only right that footballers get their jabs for their own protection and the protection of others. It was about time that discussions, as well as official regulations, concerning COVID jabs were going to be brought up in football. And a hot topic it certainly has become. 

On the other hand, on the pitch, some players are having a great time jabbing others. The new lenient Premier League foul rules this season mean that players can “go out and express themselves”, that games in the Premier League can “flow”, and that referees don’t have to “intervene for trivial offences”, according to Mike Riley. The new rules perfectly coincide with the return of fans: fire generates more fire. 

This symbiosis between fans demanding contact and players committing to contact can result in some particularly nasty scenarios. As Neville commented on Sky Sports Monday Night Football of an un-penalised Tarkowski tackle on Richarlison in mid-Septmeber, “that challenge cannot be encouraged by not being booked”. The lenient rules may be a slippery slope to severe injuries. Solksjaer said the rules make football like rugby. Klopp compared football to wrestling.

Arsenal fans will know. The names Martin Taylor, Ryan Shawcross, and Paddy McNair will make Arsenal fans’ stomachs twirl, and especially make Eduardo, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere’s hearts melt. Some rash challenges on a football pitch have hindered clubs’ fortunes, and destroyed players’ careers altogether. While the entertainment factor is undoubtedly enthralling, the potential for mistiming a wild tackle may have severe consequences.

So, some are jabbing but not getting jabbed, giving ‘a taste of their medicine’ to other players but not getting medical treatment themselves. 

They may be completely unrelated topics of conversation. Injury and illness takes a different toll on one’s body. They may yet be totally related subjects of conversation. One’s own health, as well as the health of those around, is just about the most critical thing in life. Only recently have people begun to widely realise that injuries, such as concussions and other head injuries, can have a serious knock-on effect and cause illnesses such as dementia. A nonchalant outlook to injuries versus a radical perspective to illness does not seem consistent. 

Premier League football, as well as the wider football community, finds itself at a crossroads. Will officials bring in vaccine passports to the great benefits of others against the fairly moderate benefits of the individual footballers? But will the same officials alternatively continue on with lenient foul rules against the very serious potential costs of footballers to the marginal benefit of spectators? The kinds of restrictions officials put on jabbing, both on and off the pitch, will be an important indicator of what attitudes to injuries and illnesses are in the game and beyond.

Son shines to hand Nuno vital win

04/10/2021 - Premier League

By Archie Burkinshaw, Tottenham Hotpsur writer 

In my preview I couldn’t see a way Tottenham could win this game, but I was hopeful that I could be proved wrong, and I certainly was. To my surprise, I loved every minute of Tottenham’s 2-1 victory over Aston Villa.

I was sceptical because I questioned Tottenham’s desire to perform after a terrible September, optimised by a shocking loss at Arsenal. This game was always going to come down to the amount of fight Tottenham could produce, Aston Villa are a well-drilled side in good form, they were never going to be a pushover.

To Tottenham’s credit they played with unity and bags of desire. Nuno got the lineup spot on, Alli was dropped for Skipp giving the midfield the stability it needed to allow Ndombele to create problems going forward. Romero came in at centre-back, playing superbly alongside Dier and vitally, Son Heung-min was back to his brilliant best after a slow start to the season by the South-Korean’s standards.

Cash has been having a superb season for Aston Villa but on Sunday he was tormented by Son who didn't give him a moment's rest. Every time Son picked up the ball the only thing on his mind was to drive at Villa’s full-backs and he looked dangerous all afternoon. Son provided two great assists, first for Højbjerg who provided a well-placed finish and then he forced Targett to turn the ball into his own net with a wicked low cross.

This was a massive win for Spurs going into the international break, and what was particularly pleasing was their response to going behind. At no point this league campaign have Spurs overcome a setback to pick up points, but after Watkins equaliser they were brilliant in managing the panic around the stadium, taking the lead once again four minutes later.

Fans won’t forget the horror show that was September very easily, but performances and results like this against a strong Villa side will keep the critics questioning the fit of Nuno at Spurs quiet going into the international break, but he must build from here and stamp some identity on this team.

I’m also convinced that Kane will start scoring soon, he missed a couple of chances against Villa, that last season he would have scored with ease. Once Spurs have their talisman scoring again alongside Son they have every chance to push for a top-six finish.


Latics return to the top

04/10/2021 - League One

By Charlotte Atherton, Wigan Athletic writer

Wigan Athletic return to the top of Sky Bet League One following a 2-0 victory over Gillingham on Saturday afternoon.

The Latics took the lead in the second half with a header from Max Power, before Will Keane doubled their advantage in the 83rd minute to wrap up all three points for the travelling side.

In tough conditions both teams failed to muster up any real chances in the opening stages of the game, but it was Wigan who had the first opportunity to take the lead. Callum Lang won a free kick on the edge of the penalty area, but his low shot wound up straight in the gloves of Jamie Cumming in the Gillingham net.

At the other end of the pitch, Ben Amos was called into action when a deep free-kick from Danny Lloyd looked certain to be going in before the Latics keeper tipped his effort just over the bar.

Gillingham had another opportunity to take the lead from the resulting corner when John Akinde worked a shot from close range, but Amos held firm to keep the game level.

Wigan had the next opportunity to take the lead when a shot opened up for Lang again, but his effort was hit at a tight angle and rolled just wide of the post.

Latics came close again on the stroke of half time when a cross from Power landed into the path of a Gills defender who almost deflected the ball into his own net, but Cumming was on hand to prevent the own goal.

Gillingham started the second half brightly and Amos was forced into a super save after a powerful header from Akinde who managed to get on the end of David Tutonda’s cross.

Shortly after Wigan were again provided the opportunity to take the lead when a deep free-kick from James McClean worked its way out to Lang on the edge of the area, but his half volley was wide of the goal.

Wigan finally opened the scoring 65 minutes into the match when a deep delivery into the box from McClean found Power who was able to head the ball into the right net – a perfect way to redeem himself after his own-goal mishap in midweek.

Latics wrapped up all three points when good play between Gavin Massey and Tendayi Darikwa allowed the latter to pick out Keane in the box who was able to slot home Wigan’s second of the game.

The win over Gillingham puts Latics back to the top of League One, going into the international break, and provides them with their sixth win in seven league games.

Dismal Devils lucky to draw against Everton

04/10/2021 - Premier League

By Nathan Shields, Manchester United writer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made five changes to the side that dramatically defeated Villarreal 2-1 in the Champions League on Wednesday. Most notably, the United manager dropped match-winner Cristiano Ronaldo to the bench.

The home side started the game brightly, and in the sixth minute, Aaron Wan-Bissaka's brilliant cross found Anthony Martial. But the Frenchman mistimed his jump and made poor contact with the header, heading wide.

It took another 15 mins for Solksjaer's side to create another clear chance when Cavani, who had freed himself in the box, met Fred's long cross. Jordan Pickford saved well from the Uruguayan's goal-bound header.

The game descended into some handbags, as a row between Scott McTominay and Yerry Mina sparked a lot of pushing and shoving and confrontation between the two teams, but referee Michael Oliver decided not to issue any cards.

After half an hour, David De Gea's strong hand kept out Demarai Gray's lively effort at goal, as the balance shifted Everton's as the second half neared its end.

The breakthrough came in shortly before halftime with a devastating finish from Martial. Bruno Fernandes found the United's no.9 cutting in from the left to meet the pass with a right-foot rocket.

Ole uncharacteristically made substitutions before the hour, bringing on Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho for Martial and Cavani in the 56th minute.

A move that clearly aimed to help kill the game off didn't do as intended, as Everton equalised in the 65th minute.

The visitors cleared a poor Fernandes corner and raced forward on the counterattack, with an unmarked Andros Townsend sweeping home from close-range, after good running from Gray.

Paul Pogba was next on for the Reds, for Fred after 70 minutes, with the game more wide-open than ever.

VAR spared United's blushes, ruling out Yerry Mina's tap-in for offside, much to the relief of the Old Trafford crowd and the disappointment of the away end.

Ronaldo plated up an excellent chance for Sancho to score a vital first goal in the colours of his new club, but his shot lacked power, and it was straight at his England team-mate Jordan Pickford.

After two disappointing home results, the Red Devils will be desperate to recoup during the international break and get back to winning ways away at Leicester in two weeks.

United will hope to be bolstered by the return of their captain, Harry Maguire, and Marcus Rashford to strengthen the team and boost their chances of bouncing back and mounting a title challenge this season.

Blades unlucky to lose at The Vitality

04/10/2021 - Championship

By Owain Wyse, Sheffield United writer

An unfortunate penalty and a goal just three minutes later meant that United were condemned to their second successive defeat at the hands of promotion rivals Bournemouth.

Slavisa Jokanović surprisingly went with an unchanged team despite the disappointment of the Middlesbrough game midweek, however, his persistence was rewarded with a much improved performance from his side. A good first half performance from United saw them play good football and mostly nullify a strong Bournemouth attacking line up.

Despite this the first two chances fell to the home side. A long range free-kick from Phillip Billing was well beaten away by the Blades stopper Olsen as it swerved at power towards his goal. Shortly after the high pressing play of Bournemouth drew a mistake from Olsen as he played the ball straight into Billing’s feet, however his shot was tame and only ended up back in Olsen’s grasp.

Ben Osborn was a constant threat down the left side firing crosses across the face of goal and his willingness to run providing an outlet ball for United, the best of his crosses found Sharp on the edge of the six-yard area, the skipper could only fire over the bar however the flag was, perhaps wrongly, up for offside anyway.

United’s best chance of the half came shortly after. John Fleck picked up a loose ball in the middle of the pitch and pushed it wide to George Baldock, his through ball bobbled past defender Lloyd Kelly and into the path of Sharp but disappointingly he blazed his shot over the bar. An Ollie Norwood corner just before the break was attacked well by Ben Davies but his header into the ground bounced just over Mark Travers' goal.

After the break Jordan Zemura bombed forwards behind United’s backline, he opted to slide the ball into Dom Solanke whose attempt forced Robin Olsen into a wonderful save with his outstretched foot.

United’s goal came in the 56th minute, a long ball forwards from the Swedish stopper was flicked on by Morgan Gibbs-White, Sharp used his strength to hold off the challenge of Zemura before cutting the ball back into the onrushing Gibbs-White, his effort on the half volley nestling into the top corner.

United’s lead wouldn’t last long however as Solanke rushed inside of Ben Davies and an Enda Stevens recovery challenge wasn’t a good one, bringing down the striker outside the area. Much to the shock of all in red and white the referee pointed to the spot for a penalty. VAR anyone? Solanke got back to his feet to dispatch the penalty into the top left corner. When asked about the penalty decision after the game United’s boss said “If I answer you honestly it will be ugly and if I answer you kindly it will be fake”

All three goals came within 9 minutes, poor United defending allowed Ryan Christie the time to pick his pass into the area and Phillip Billing prodded it into the bottom corner to put the home side ahead.

The changes came from United as Lys Mousset, returning from injury, and Oli McBurnie were thrown on in pursuit of a goal. Both players would have an opportunity to score the first coming to McBurnie, a Gibbs-White free kick smashed off the head of the unsighted Scotsman and trickled agonisingly wide of the near post. The best chance came to Mousset, against his former club, very late on in the game. Ollie Norwood’s delivery was headed across goal by John Egan, the French striker attacked the high ball and headed it against the cross bar from two yards out, the rebound fell to McBurnie with a difficult chance on the overhead kick, his speculative effort blocked by Gary Cahill.

A positive performance from United who will be wondering how they came away without at least a point to show for it. After the international break United take on Stoke at Bramall Lane.


Bantams back on track with promising home win

03/10/2021 - League Two

By Fletcher Smith, Bradford City writer

The Bantam’s triumphed over recently relegated Rochdale to boost promotion hopes following a poor 5 weeks of results.

The visitors begun the clash on the front-foot after Immediately creating a dangerous attack, Dale’s Jake Beesley laid the ball to the back-post but Yann Songo'o made a vital block to keep the score level.

Derek Adam’s side responded well to the early pressure from Rochdale by forcing Coleman to make a vital save. It was Levi Sutton who beat his man and played the ball into the path of Andy Cook, the Dale were forced to make consecutive to deny the clinical forward his 5th goal of the campaign.

After the opening 20 minutes the visitors created another chance to break the deadlock, Abraham Odoh’s unmarked run left him with room to strike inside the 6-yard area but the effort flew over.

Bradford city took the advantage 7 minutes before the break due to Alex Gilliead’s close range strike. After an effort from Levi Sutton forced the Dale’s keeper to spill the ball directly into the path of the skilful-winger who finished the chance with ease.

This was all there was until half time, the Bantams held a much-deserved lead and had the chances to increase their lead. Rochdale were a dangerous opposition and were very motivated to get back into the game.

After the second half restarted the clash began with a slower pace, but the Bantams still showed the same attacking intent as the first half.

10 minutes later Rochdale had a key opportunity which began with them in a four-on-one opportunity, unfortunately for the visitors resulted in the winger choosing to strike the ball into the side nettings instead of passing it across goal.

Another chance came for the visitors in quick succession, Danny Cashman found himself open at the back-post following a cross from O’Keefe, the effort didn’t test Richard O’Donnel due to it being placed miles over.

After the hosts defence hold firm, it allowed to catch Rochdale on the break, Levi Sutton completed an impressive run where he out-run his marker and drove the ball into the box. The hard work was rewarded after Bradford were given a penalty for a foul on Sutton.

Andy Cook stepped up to break the 7-game goalless streak, his powerful effort snuck under Coleman and doubled the advantage for the West Yorkshire side.

It wasn’t easy for Derek Adam’s men but they showed the passion and ability to keep the clean sheet as the game ended 2-0. Man of the Match for me was Levi Sutton, he was so influential in the win and set up both of the goals.

Stoke steal all three points as West Brom suffer first defeat

03/10/2021 - Championship

By Lewis Williamson, Stoke City writer

Stoke hosted the league leaders West Brom as they entered the weekend unbeaten in the league so far.  

The Potter’s lined up with only two changes to the eleven that started away against Preston North End during the week. 

Joe Allen was the most notable of these, ruled fit to play by the medical staff after his toe injury, coming into midfield for Romaine Sawyers who could not play against his parent club, West Brom. The second was the replacement of Leo Skiri Østigård in defence by James Chester.

Michael O’Neill’s side began as they meant to go on, pushing West Brom back with attack after attack, the first seeing Jacob Brown hit the post and Mario Vrančić hit the bar.

Moments later West Brom escaped going 1-0 down as an own goal from Darnell Furlong was out ruled by referee Tim Robinson, based on a foul in the goal’s build-up.

Goalkeeper Sam Johnstone kept the Baggies hopes of points alive as he saved a shot from Sam Surridge and then a penalty from the striker after bringing him down in the box.

Michael O’Neill’s lads managed a breakthrough in the 79th minute as Tommy Smith intercepted a poor pass from Conor Townsend, and played the ball through to Nick Powell to lob Johnstone.

The goal remained the only thing separating the two promotion hopeful sides, making it West Brom’s first defeat in the Championship this season.

A stellar performance from Michael O’Neill’s side, especially from Adam Davies in nets, and Nick Powell who notched another goal in his campaign.

Stoke are lifted to third momentarily before Coventry moved ahead as they trounced Fulham 4-1 at home. The Potter’s do move up to fourth place keeping them in contention for promotion as they travel to Sheffield United next weekend.

Spurs face must win game against Aston Villa going into the international break

03/10/2021 - Premier League

By Archie Burkinshaw, Tottenham Hotspur writer

There is a real possibility that Tottenham Hotspur will lose four Premier League games in a row for the first time since November 2004. It could be even worse than that for Tottneham, they could concede three or more goals in four consecutive top-flight fixtures for the first time since 1958.

This gives a brief insight into the disaster that is Tottenham Hotspur at the moment. But, as everybody knows football is a very fickle game and a win against Aston Villa on Sunday could restore a huge amount of faith in Nuno. There are strong parallels between Nuno’s and Pochettino’s first games against Aston Villa as Spurs managers. Poch had also had a shaky first few months when he came up against Aston Villa, the squad looked void of ideas and results had been very inconsistent. It was against Aston Villa that the Pochettino era was truly launched on November 2, 2014, Kane’s deflected free kick in the last minute securing a win from which Tottenham never looked back.

Can Nuno turn his fortunes around the same way, I’m not convinced. The squad currently lacks any identity and Nuno looks no closer to knowing his best team. Aston Villa have just hit a great run of form, demolishing Everton 3-0 and then travelling to Old Trafford were a 1-0 loss for United flattered them. Villa are a good side with a squad that manager Dean Smith has stamped his authority on, each player knows their role in the team. Spurs are currently the opposite of this. I am fearing the worst on Sunday. Spurs have no fresh injury concerns this week but Steven Bergwijn is unlikely to recover in time from an ankle injury, while Ryan Sessegnon also remains out.

It always pains me to predict a Tottenham loss but unfortunately this week I just can’t see Spurs coming away with the three points. As always, hopefully I am proved wrong. I’m predicting a 2-1 win for Aston Villa with Footrace offering 120 points for this result. Generously, Footrace have Tottenham as favourites for this one, a Spurs win will get you 10 points whilst a Villa win will gain you 30 points. Footrace also offers 25 points for a draw.


Leeds Look to Sting Hornets in Elland Road Clash

02/10/2021 - Premier League

By Ben Brown, Leeds United writer

Leeds United will be desperately looking to sign off before the international break with a victory to bring to an end their worst start to a league campaign since 1935. A host of previous absentees should be available for the visit of a Watford side who claimed important points in their most recent two fixtures against Newcastle and Norwich respectively as they look to re-establish themselves in their immediate return to the top flight.

Pascal Struijk and Diego Llorente are amongst those ready to return for the hosts, although Charlie Cresswell may still have some involvement in the centre of defence after an impressive league debut last week. Jack Harrison was introduced for the second half of that game against West Ham but showed evident signs of rustiness on his first day out of covid isolation. Now with a full week back in training under his belt he may be better placed to challenge Dan James for a starting spot, whilst Brazilian Raphinha has been declared fit after coming off with a niggle against the hammers. Luke Ayling, Patrick Bamford, Robin Koch and Adam Forshaw all remain absent.

Watford’s major absentee comes in the form of summer signing Peter Etebo, who is likely to be out until at least the new year due to a torn thigh muscle in the fixture against Newcastle. Tom Cleverley has recovered from a suspected concussion last weekend and goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann is back fit after a knee injury but is unlikely to be rushed back to displace an impressive Ben Foster during his absence.

Despite the two sides contrasting starts to the campaign the return of multiple key players for the hosts sees them propelled into favouritism on the site, with 7 points on offer for correctly predicting a home win. Backing another happy away day for the hornets could provide great reward however as a minimum of 40 points are available should that result successfully come through.





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