Football League Round-Up: Slav's Spirit, King Mowbray And Warbs' Impact

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 22 November 2017, 11:09

Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) rounds-up Tuesday's EFL action, which saw Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic conjure up a 5-4 victory, Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray bag an early birthday present, and Steve Evans' Mansfield move into the League Two play-offs.

Slav’s Cottagers show spirit

Just five days ago, Fulham fans were very worried. There was no certainty that Tom Cairney would fully recover from his injury, meaning they may have had to rely on a semi-fit Stefan Johansen. Neither Aboubakar Kamara nor Rui Fonte had convincingly replaced Chris Martin since signing in the summer, struggling in a team that looked slow and pedestrian.

That same team by the way, has just won 5-4 at promotion contenders Sheffield United. So, how have the above issues been resolved to make that result possible?

Ironically, Ryan Sessegnon’s poor performance at left-back against Wolves at the start of the month might have been a blessing in disguise. In the subsequent two games, he has been moved to the left side of the front three, where his attacking qualities have been maximized.

The youngster netted an impressive hat-trick at Bramall Lane, with a placed finish and an impressive low drive sandwiching a firm close-range finish after Sheyi Ojo’s cross. The latter scored twice himself while Cairney was back to his creative best.

The only blemish was their management of the game: they were 5-2 up with five minutes of normal time to play, but spent almost the entire period of injury time clinging on to a one-goal lead.

There is room for improvement at the back, but more irresistible attacking play will be key to turning Fulham's fortunes.

Warbs walking on water

We’re not mad enough to suggest that Mark Warburton is the next Brian Clough - not by a long shot - but to explain the former’s positive impact at the City Ground, it might be worth exploring the similarities between the two men.

“Old Big ‘Ead” was a footballing purist who allowed his players high-levels of creative freedom, without worrying unduly about the opposition. Warburton might not have the same arrogance as Clough, but his tactical philosophy is similar: he encourages players to be brave in possession.

Experienced striker Daryl Murphy grabbed the winner in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Norwich and behind him is a plethora of young talent growing in confidence by the game. Kieran Dowell and Barrie McKay rotate seamlessly as Ben Osborn adds boundless energy. Liam Bridcutt is a battle-hardened pro who holds things together in front of the defence, allowing full-backs Tendayi Darikwa and Eric Lichaj to get forward at will.

It is not a great surprise therefore that, after watching some dreary, ill-fated regimes, many fans of the Tricky Trees have taken the ex-Rangers boss to their hearts and attendances are soaring. It remains to be seen whether they can reach the play-offs this season, but one thing is for certain: Warburton has re-connected Forest with the core values that brought the club its finest hour.

Blackburn on the up

After Blackburn Rovers' 1-1 draw with Plymouth Argyle a month ago, we at The Sack Race suggested that their mentality against lower-placed sides could be stronger.

We also called for more game time for striker Joe Nuttall, who had been doing superbly for the Under-23s. Tony Mowbray must be one of our avid readers, because those two things have changed.

The team is playing with more energy and unpredictability, having scored 12 goals in the subsequent five games. They took Bury apart 3-0 on Saturday, then won 4-2 at Oxford on Tuesday.

Nuttall started both of those games, scoring at the Kassam, with his pace, energy and movement lifting the team’s attacking play. The Bury-born boy missed much of his 13/14 campaign in Man City’s youth setup due to a spinal fracture, but he used that year to analyse his game and he has admitted he then became a more intelligent player.

Not only that, Nuttall is hungry to prove himself, much like 19-year-old Ryan Nyambe, who has excelled at right-back. In fact, the average age of starting full-backs, midfielders and forwards in that draw with Plymouth was 28, while the same statistic for the win at Oxford was 24.

Rovers now have the perfect blend of attack-minded players who have plenty of ability, like the in-form Bradley Dack and Marcus Antonsson, but now they can also stretch play and keep opponents guessing. Well done, Tony.

Colclough’s night of hard labour

As if scoring twice in a 3-0 win for your side isn’t enough, watching the birth of your second child certainly makes a night to remember.

Wigan Athletic’s Ryan Colclough found out at half-time of his side’s victory over Doncaster that his partner’s waters had broken. Bizarrely, he wasn’t taken off at that point - it was only when he grabbed his second and Wigan’s third shortly after the break that he was substituted.

The Crewe academy graduate then made it to the hospital in his full-kit to meet his new son.

Colclough won’t be the only man having sleepless nights: manager Paul Cook and assistant Leam Richardson have plenty of attacking talent at their disposal and the 22-year-old's form only adds to their selection headaches.

Nick Powell, perhaps the most creative player in League One, picked up an injury in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Bradford, but when he comes back it will be difficult to know who to drop.

Will Grigg put in a strong shift up top, Michael Jacobs had an excellent game out wide while Max Power dominated in the middle alongside Sam Morsy and Lee Evans.

Almost every player on Wigan’s bench on Tuesday would arguably walk into most starting elevens at this level, such is their strength in depth.

If their current form continues, Colclough and co. will have double cause for celebration.

Stags finding form

7th October 1995 was the last time Mansfield Town won by four goals away from home: they were 6-2 victors at Wigan at a time when Simply Red were number one.

If you don’t know the Stags by now, you’ll never, never know that their away form had let them down earlier in the campaign, making Tuesday’s 4-0 win at Port Vale a hugely impressive result.

Centre-back Zander Diamond netted a brace either side of half-time, before strikers Danny Rose and Kane Hemmings completed a third consecutive league victory.

This run hasn’t created a sense of belief within the club, but rather enhanced it. Even before last Saturday’s 1-0 triumph at Coventry, a lot of fans remained convinced that results would improve and there were plenty of pro-Steve Evans chants.

The ardent support in the Midlands was rewarded with an impressive second half display as Alex MacDonald netted a late winner. That was followed up by another deserved 1-0 win at home to Stevenage, before the goal fest in Burslem.

It has taken Mansfield some time for their expensive recruits to settle in, but now Evans is beginning to figure out his best eleven and the team is playing with the cohesion required to live up to it’s pre-season billing.

A top three push looks well within their range.

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