The EFL is back to a full fixture list this weekend after the FA Cup 3rd round came into play last week.
And, across League One and League Two, there are plenty of good games to look forward to, as well as the odd story off of the pitch whose impacts will be seen – here’s to you, Messrs Jones and Doidge.
As is the case every Friday, then, we caught up with James Richards of D3D4football.com to discuss some of the biggest points going into the weekend…
1. We have to start at the Stadium of Light as Sunderland take on Luton. How do you see this one going and will Nathan Jones’ expected departure have an impact?
It is hard to know how the loss of Nathan Jones is going to affect the Luton players. He was such a big part of the club it is hard not to see it at least having a small impact.
Sunderland are very strong at home and a massive crowd is expected yet there is a pressure that comes with that.
I think Sunderland will be favourites but the way Luton have been playing should make for a great game.
2. Wycombe’s form has tailed off badly in recent weeks. They face top-six challengers Doncaster this weekend – can you see them getting anything?
Doncaster’s recent form makes them favourites but no one should take Wycombe lightly.
They are having a very good season even though five games without a win will be a concern to Gareth Ainsworth.
I’m not sure what Wycombe fans expect from the season. Most would be happy to stay up but a good run like they had at the end of November often raises those expectations.
I still think Doncaster have too much quality going forward with Mallik Wilks and John Marquis in electric form and expect them to win here.
3. There’s a Yorkshire derby as Barnsley host Bradford. Can the Bantams get anything at Oakwell with their upturn in mind?
A few weeks ago I would have given the Bantams no chance but they look like a completely different team since Rahic left.
Even so, I would still expect Barnsley to win despite the loss of Brad Potts. They are unbeaten in five and were unlucky not to win at Luton last time out.
Bradford can take heart from the fact that their strikers are starting to find the net at last. Eoin Doyle has hit four in his last five after struggling prior to this run. It should be a terrific match with a great atmosphere but I expect the home side to take the points.
4. In League Two, Bury host MK Dons in a game that should have plenty of goals – who do you see edging it?
If Bury can get into their rhythm then they are my pick.
At home they often impose themselves on the opponents and prevent them from having any time on the ball. Ryan Lowe deserves a lot of credit for how he has turned the club around.
If MK Dons can press the Shakers high up the pitch and limit the space given to Danny Mayor then it will be a good game but MK have not won on the road since early November and going to Gigg Lane makes me think that run might stretch on for one more game at least.
5. Both Newport and Oldham enjoyed wins over Premier League opposition last weekend – will getting back to league action be a problem for them?
League Two football is brutal and it will be straight back to business for both these sides. Oldham have seen both Surridge and Lyden leave after their loans expired with the latter picking up an injury that will see him out for a substantial period, ending any hopes of him returning for the rest of the campaign.
Forest Green will be very tough opposition as they have the best away record in League Two this season so it could be a difficult afternoon for Pete Wild’s side.
Newport will be hoping the cup win can kick start their lagging league form which has seen them fail to win any of their last five. In Crewe, they are facing a side that is pretty decent at home so it will be interesting to see how they’ll fare.
6. Finally, Christian Doidge sees himself back at Forest Green. Aside from the obvious controversy around the story – could he help fire FGR to a play-off spot?
Absolutely. Doidge was a massive loss to them and his return, although not ideal financially, will give them a huge boost on the pitch.
With Forest Green in great form the return of Doidge could tip them over the edge and see them become genuine automatic promotion contenders.
My feeling is that Doidge might still be sold during the window as Forest Green had probably budgeted the money elsewhere but while they have him they should make the most of it as strikers of his calibre don’t come along too often.