Football League Round-Up: Wilder flying, Hull halt hoodoo, and relief for Adams

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 23 October 2017, 09:26

Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) looks back on the weekend's action from the Football League, which includes Sheffield United's rapid progress under Chris Wilder, a Hull hoodoo lifted, and a vital win for a struggling League One club.

Take a walk on the Wilder side

Sheffield United’s 2-1 triumph over Reading put them 3rd, outside the top two only on goal difference. When we look at the starting line-up that beat the Royals and the career history of those players, this rapid progress under Chris Wilder seems even more impressive.

Jamal Blackman

Previously: Played no professional games between September 2014 and April 2016, but did well in League Two last season with Wycombe.

Now: Conceded just 11 goals in his first 13 games at this level and is the established number one, despite Simon Moore's return from injury.

Chris Basham

Previously: Spent his last five seasons either in the bottom half of the Championship with Blackpool, or in League One with the Blades.

Now: Hit the winner against Ipswich and is a consistent, committed leader at this level.

Cameron Carter-Vickers

Previously: Hadn’t made a single league appearance in his career.

Now: Looked completely at home in the Steel City Derby at just 19 years of age.

Jack O’Connell

Then: Developed well under Keith Hill at Rochdale, but has only played one of his last five seasons at this level.

Now: Looks comfortable not only defending, but carrying the ball into the opposing half to support the wing-back and provide overloads.

George Baldock

Then: His only Championship experience was 15 games in a relegated MK Dons side, although he did impress in League Two with Oxford.

Now: Always shows a willingness to block crosses and put a shift in for his side.

Paul Coutts

Then: Discarded by Derby in 2015 and had to drop down to League One to rebuild his career.

Now: Widespread calls for him to be picked for the Scotland team.

Mark Duffy

Then: Inspired Burton and United’s League One promotions but hadn’t previously been trusted at Championship level.

Now: Made a massive impact in the Steel City Derby, scoring the winner.

John Fleck

Then: played his last six seasons in League One.

Now: appears one of the best deep-lying playmakers in the Championship and scored a clever free-kick against Wednesday.

Enda Stevens

Then: Had lower league loan spells while at Villa, who rejected him before he made the League Two Team of the Season with Portsmouth last term.

Now: getting better every game in his wing-back role.

Leon Clarke

Then: seen as a reliable goalscorer in the division below but had little pedigree at this level.

Now: bagged a brace at Hillsborough and averages a Championship goal every 196 minutes.

Billy Sharp

Then: had only scored seven goals in his previous 42 appearances at Championship level.

Now: five goals in nine second-tier appearances at his boyhood club.

There is clearly quality and talent in this Sheffield United squad. However, Wilder has got it out of them with his excellent man management skills.

Mick’s middling Tractor Boys

Ipswich Town’s 1-0 defeat to East Anglian rivals Norwich on Sunday means that, since winning their first four games, they have lost six in eight in a run that has seen them slide down to 11th. While there is a great difference in results between their August form and results in the subsequent two months, performances haven’t been quite so contrasting.

Shot data disciples were sceptical of the Tractor Boys, even after a 2-0 win over Brentford put them joint-top. They ranked in the bottom three for expected goals allowed at that point and bottom six for expected goals created. The Suffolk outfit had taken just 34 shots in those first four games, 11 of which on target, yet managed to score nine goals. They were helped by the clinical finishing of summer addition Martyn Waghorn, who scored from all his first four shots on target.

Clinical finishing is naturally desirable, but it isn’t the best indicator of future results. Whether one player puts a chance away depends on a wild array of variables within a few seconds, whereas chance creation involves more players and happens over 90 minutes, meaning that it gives us more accurate evidence as to a team's longer-term potential.

Indeed, Mick McCarthy’s side have averaged more shots (12.3 per game) and shots on target (3.6) in the last eight games than their first four. They should have taken the lead in the first half of their derby on Sunday, Jonas Knudsen hitting the post inside four minutes before David McGoldrick headed over from close-range.

There was no shortage of effort in the team, they just couldn’t find the finishing touch they showed in August. While Ipswich's form peaked then strongly nosedived, they have only ever been a middling team that is neither promotion material nor relegation fodder.

Hull halt their away hoodoo

On 20th August 2016, Hull City won 2-0 at Swansea to go joint-top of an embryonic Premier League table. That night, few who watched Match of the Day pundits praise interim boss Mike Phelan and his side’s organization predicted that their next away win would come 14 months later.

Well-judged substitutions and a man-of-the-match performance from goalkeeper Allan McGregor helped them to a 1-0 victory at Barnsley. The Scot helped them stay in the game for 70 minutes, although the Tigers' cause was also aided by solid displays from centre-backs Michael Dawson and Michael Hector as well as the Tykes’ final third profligacy.

Midfielder Jackson Irvine and striker Frazier Campbell made a difference when they came off the bench with the two players combining for the winner. Sebastien Larsson’s corner was forced goalward by Irvine, whose effort was cleared off the line before Campbell smashed home.

The Manchester United trainee has been directly involved in a goal in each of Hull’s last five games. His Australian colleague meanwhile, might feel unlucky to have only started two out of a possible eight league matches since joining from Burton in late August. Leonid Slutsky has often favoured Markus Henriksen over Irvine, but that might change after Saturday.

If Hull's away form continues at the same rate, fans should start bargaining for extra time off work over Christmas 2018.

Crucial win for the Cobblers

For Northampton Town, league goals are like buses: they waited 31 days for one and then four came in the space of four days.

They will hope that Tuesday’s 2-2 draw at Rochdale - which saw them undo a late two-goal deficit - and Saturday’s 2-1 win at Gillingham has set the wheels in motion for a journey away from the relegation zone.

The most encouraging aspect of their victory at Priestfield, which ended a seven-game winless run, was the quality of both goals. Summer signing Daniel Powell perhaps has more ability than he has shown this term and the winger hit an excellent low drive inside the near post.

Loanee Matt Grimes, signed by Premier League Swansea previously for his form at Exeter, later hit a wonderful free-kick off the post for the winner. There is on paper talent in this side and that victory was the first real glimpse we saw of it.

In the latter stages, they defended well as a team, Ash Taylor and Aaron Pierre commanding at centre-back. Due to Brendan Moloney’s injury, 19-year-old academy graduate Shaun McWilliams had to fill in an unnatural right-back role and competed with admirable tenacity, as did Regan Poole, who added energy in a deep midfield role.

This victory gives the Cobblers a chance to navigate a route to safety - but with Blackpool, Oxford and Scunthorpe to come next, they cannot afford to carry any passengers.

Plymouth need their stoppers

The goalkeeping position has rarely been an area of concern for Plymouth Argyle manager Derek Adams and his predecessor, John Sheridan. In the last three seasons, Luke McCormick started 132 of their 138 league games and each year, he was part of one of the best defensive units in League Two.

McCormick played his part to preserve a clean sheet against Charlton in week two, when Argyle won 2-0 in their first home game back in League One with a Jake Jervis brace. The following month though, the 34-year-old picked up an injury in a 3-0 home defeat to Doncaster, which made way for a succession of stoppers.

Reserve keeper Robert Te Loeke was himself ruled out, so Kyle Letheren briefly stepped in. The ex-Blackpool man was largely responsible for keeping the score down in a 2-1 defeat at Bristol Rovers, before he too got injured at Blackburn on Tuesday.

Letheren was replaced by youth team goalkeeper Michael Cooper. The 18-year-old did well on his debut to avoid conceding in 45 minutes against experienced professionals, but wasn’t quite trusted to start at Wimbledon on Saturday.

Instead, emergency loanee Remi Matthews shone at Kingsmeadow and preserved a 1-0 win, as the Green Army ended their 12-game winless run despite mustering just two shots on target.

While the outfield players sometimes lack the confidence to attack with too much conviction, Plymouth need their goalkeeper to preserve points. Adams will hope Matthews can be their temporary saviour, but he will also hope for a little more continuity between the sticks.

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