Matchday 11: Impressive Wolves, sizzling Shrews and Hecky's young guns

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 02 October 2017, 09:05

The Football League is really starting to hot up, we can barely keep up, yet have no fear our man Gabriel Sutton (_FootballLab) is here to take us through the main managerial talking points from the weekend's action!

Wolves success highlights evolving league

10 years ago, it is hard to imagine a Championship club appointing an ex-Valencia and Porto manager, signing arguably the best player from the latter. That is Ruben Neves, one of seven Portuguese-speaking players who featured in Wolverhampton Wanderers’ 4-0 win at Burton Albion, two of his compatriots scoring.

One them is 18-year-old wing-back Ruben Vinagre, who also epitomized the modernization of this league with the manner of his goal. He played a one-two with the bright and inventive Ruben Cavaleiro, spotting space in the box before showing wonderful composure to slot home inside the near-post. Not many second-tier left-backs, in years gone by, would have had that move in their locker.

Few players have the skill and flair of Diogo Jota, who has captured the hearts of supporters, even more so after scoring a superbly taken opener. That was soon followed up by a close-range finish from Romain Saiss, who allies grit and determination with a passing ability not dissimilar to Neves, whose initial free-kick hit the woodwork. The other goalscorer was Brazilian striker Leo Bonatini, who has not only taken his tally to four but also completed more key passes than any other striker in the Championship, underlining his quality link-up play.

At this rate, it could be a ‘bem sucedido’ (successful) season for Wolves.

Hecky’s young guns gain timely win

Saturday’s 3-1 win at Millwall on the last day of September was Barnsley’s first victory of that month. After a late QPR equalizer the previous Tuesday made them settle for two points from four games, this result was timely for the Tykes.

Tom Bradshaw netted a brace with two tidy finishes, taking his goal tally to seven for the season in all competitions. The ex-Walsall striker also works hard and shows good movement, making him vital to the team’s survival chances, so long as he receives the ball to feet rather than in the air.

The man supplying his goals was Leicester loanee Harvey Barnes, who has stepped up well to Championship level following a positive spell in League One at MK Dons last term. The winger looks bright, tricky and capable of a pinpoint cross, making him a serious prospect at just 19 years of age.

Paul Heckingbottom has no shortage of similarly talented players at his disposal, but the challenge for his young side will be to show the maturity to manage games effectively. That win in South Bermondsey is certainly a step in the right direction.

Time to take Salop seriously

Last time The Sack Race discussed Shrewsbury, we suggested that September would be a key month, which saw them play potential challengers Wigan, Blackburn and Scunthorpe. To their credit, they took seven points off those teams, following Saturday’s 2-0 win over the Iron, taking their seasonal tally to 29 points from 11 games. Now, we can consider them serious promotion contenders.

Paul Hurst’s team provides a slight contrast to Micky Mellon’s successful League Two outfit that dominated most teams with the ball and created chances at will back in 2014/15. This year, their game is more about efficient pressing to force mistakes, before being ruthless in the final third. The classic example of that is their second goal on Saturday, which saw hassling midfielder Abu Ogogo win a stray pass, playing through Carlton Morris for a simple finish.

That victory was the first time this year that they have won by more than one goal. They have shown the spirit and commitment to win the type of games, like against Rochdale and Gillingham, that in the last couple of seasons they might have lost.

In fact, when Paul Hurst took over in October last year, the team was rock bottom, six points adrift of safety. 12 months later they are top, six points clear of third. In that time, they have been transformed from a club grateful for mere survival to one feeling like the sky is the limit.

Who needs Seedorf? We’ve got Richie Wellens!

Rarely in a footballing context can ex-midfielder Richie Wellens be considered a more appealing proposition than Clarence Seedorf, but the former looks the better choice to be Oldham Athletic manager right now.

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When Wellens took temporary charge on Monday, the Latics had sunk back to the bottom after some horrific defending in a 5-1 drubbing at Rotherham. Since then, they have secured unlikely back-to-back wins, at home to high-flying Peterborough and away to big-spending Portsmouth.

Eoin Doyle scored braces in 3-2 and 2-1 wins respectively, taking his seasonal tally to six goals in six league starts. The Irishman looks full of confidence and threatens to find another purple patch, as he did for Chesterfield in the first half of the 2014/15 campaign. Doyle has formed a fine partnership with the more muscular Craig Davies while Ousmane Fane has provided grit in midfield since the change of manager, alongside the more creative Jack Byrne.

Despite the vast improvement in performances under Wellens, a decorated Dutchman is at the time of writing odds-on favourite for the job. Seedorf might be the only footballer to win the Champions League with three different clubs - but keeping Oldham out of the mire is a task Wellens looks more suited to.

Jack is back

Jack Lester was a Chesterfield legend as a player, but as a manager, he must prove himself all over again. The ex-striker should be credited for his influence on the academy at Nottingham Forest, who have already used seven graduates this season. However, leading a divided club to safety could be a different and perhaps more arduous task.

He inherits a squad that has suffered from a summer of upheaval, with a turnover of 39 players. 25 different players have already been used as predecessor Gary Caldwell rotated in vain to try and find the right system.

The lack of aggression and perhaps desire in midfield has let opposing teams run through without facing much resistance. That frailty has exposed a slow centre-backs, Sam Hird and 35-year-old Ian Evatt. At the other end, Chris O’Grady was a high-profile summer signing who has not performed as well as hoped, with just one goal to his name, even if Krystian Dennis has been more of a willing runner netting four.

To make matters worse, there is a lot of negativity from fans towards owner Dave Allen, who has been criticized for a lack of investment and mismanagement of the club. Jack Lester - welcome to senior management.

Managers Departed

Last man down

Graham Westley
Graham Westley
16th February
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