Football League Watch: Newcastle and Barnsley to go up?

Date published: Friday 16th September 2016 7:30

Ciaran Clark: Defender celebrates goal in QPR rout

Ciaran Clark: Defender celebrates goal in QPR rout

Ah, another weekend of Football League action is almost here, and this season is already shaping into an exciting and unpredictable campaign.

Plenty of twists and turns are still to come, while some unexpected surprises have already unfolded. We take a look at some of the potential key encounters for this coming weekend.

Is there any stopping Newcastle now?

Jonjo Shelvey

Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez came under criticism just two weeks into the season as his side had failed to get points on the board against Fulham and Huddersfield Town. Since those opening two losses, it’s been nothing but win-win-win for the Magpies, and five league games later – Rafa’s side are second and closing in on the table-topping Terriers fast.

The mid-week 6-0 thumping of QPR at Loftus Road took the Magpies to a goal difference of +12, and with only one goal conceded in six games in both league and cup, the team seem to have got things perfect at both ends of the pitch.

Saturday’s opponents, Wolves, have had the opposite luck to Newcastle so far. They were up to third after a 3-1 win at rivals Birmingham City on August 20th, but one point from a possible nine has seen them drop to 16th .

If Newcastle find any of the attacking prowess they produced on Tuesday, it could end up being a long afternoon St James’ Park for Wanderers.

Are Barnsley going to steal their Yorkshire rival’s limelight?

Conor Hourihane

Huddersfield have been the talk of the Championship up until this stage, but could there be another unlikely promotion candidate creeping up to steal the glory from the Terriers?

Barnsley are third, having got promoted to the Championship via the League One play-offs last season – despite only sneaking into the top six on goal difference at Scunthorpe’s expense.

A run of three-consecutive league wins, with 10 goals scored in the process and two clean sheets included, things are looking up for a side that were expecteded to be at the opposite end of the table at this stage.

Conor Hourihane’s Championship player of the month award for August was followed up by another goal in mid-week, proving the quality that the team possess. That 4-0 hammering of Wolves leads the Tykes nicely into this Saturday’s fixture with Reading. A win could take them top – Who’d have thought it?

What is going on at Coventry?

Coventry’s start to this season has been extremely poor, and even more so considering they were as high as first in League One for the opening three months of last season.

The Sky Blues are second bottom after seven games, but did register a very respectable point at Millwall last Saturday. The result will have pleased manager Tony Mowbray, although it didn’t help their league position.

Mowbray is reported to be constantly monitoring the free agent market for talent to add to his squad as he still awaits his sides first victory of the League One season.

As far as chances come for a win, the Sky Blues will fancy themselves against Oldham Athletic on Saturday. The Lactics have only managed to find the net four times so far this season, but their defensive record has kept them just below mid-table. In fact, they have more clean sheets than any other EFL club at this stage – not bad at all, considering the squad overhaul in the summer, and the loss of their manager, John Sheridan.

One thing is for sure – the longer that first win of the season eludes Mowbray, the faster the pressure will mount on the 52-year-old.

Hartlepool’s defence is costing them dearly

Anyone that watches Soccer Saturday on Sky Sports News will know plenty about Jeff Stelling’s favourite team. The presenter has endured some highs, but some incredibly worse lows already this season.

An embarrassing 6-1 loss to Stevenage (after taking the lead!) on the September 3 needed a reaction a week later, and thankfully for the Pools they got that reaction in the form of a 2-1 victory at Yeovil.

In truth, there have been plenty of positives for Craig Hignett and his team so far in their attacking side of the game. 12 goals from seven games is what has kept them as high as 14th , but the 16 goals conceded so far will worry the gaffer massively. Should he find a magic wand that can alleviate some of those defensive woes, there’s a good chance that his team could make a push for the play-offs over the course of the season.

In Saturday’s opponents, Mansfield Town, they face a side who have hit a mini-rocky patch, having lost twice and drawn once in all competitions most recently. The Stags are three places above Hartlepool, and this might be one game the punters struggle to predict the outcome of.

Best Bets

Barnsley to win promotion to the Premier League, because why not? 14/1. (Coral)

Coventry City to win their first game of the season, but to be losing the game at half-time. 33/1. Tasty. (Betfair)

We’ve already mentioned Hartlepool’s woeful defensive record, but I fancy them this weekend. With that said – Hartlepool to win and both teams to score. 4/1. (Paddy Power)

Ross Gibson

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