Weekend Notes 🤝 Done Deals Daily
All the action from League One, League Two & the FA Cup 3rd Round combined with every done deal over the weekend...or should that be, "the only" done deal?
Over FA Cup 3rd Round weekend, EFL participants took to their tasks somewhat muggle-like, lacking the spells and wizardry we know they’re capable of. There were few shocks — the biggest jolt of electricity coming courtesy of the National League South’s Maidstone United. And let’s give a huge Sorting Hat cap doff to their manager and almost pod-namesake, George Elokobi, after his side knocked out Stevenage.
Though it was short on magic, there was still plenty to talk about in the FA Cup, and in Leagues One and Two. And that’s what we’re going to do, (Hog)warts and all. We’ve got you covered with the must-see moments from the weekend’s action in 5iveLights, the top lines from League One, League Two and the FA Cup 3rd Round, plus the solitary done deal in the EFL.
Stephen Wearne (AM) - Gateshead - MK Dons (Undisclosed)
Wearne rejoins his former boss Mike Williamson at Stadium MK. An attacking midfielder, Wearne is a diminutive figure who plays his best football as a No.10, linking up the midfield and the forwards. He also gets on the scoresheet himself, with 11 goals for Gateshead this season.
The signing caps what has been an extremely positive start to the window for MK. He is their only addition, but Dan Kemp’s return and the positive form under Williamson make them a team firmly in the promotion hunt.
Big thanks to NTT20 Squad member and non-league lover Kieran for his insight on Wearne.
RATING: LOVE IT
Patrick Bam-Bamford silences his critics in style
Two penalties in four minutes – and Cameron Dawson saves both
A first-half, first career hat-trick for Sammi3 Szmodics
All puncture, no tyre from these two Pirelli peaches
Joe’s White-hot heat denies the not-so-rutting Stags
FA Cup 3rd Round
It’s the 3rd Round, so we have to start with the Premier League teams who lost to someone from the Football League or non-league. Well… none of them have yet. But three EFL clubs away to Premier League opposition did impressively force a replay at their own gaff, and there were plenty of other highlights from the world’s second-best domestic cup competition. What? Nothing beats the Coupe de France, where Martinique outfit Golden Lion (not a pub team, in spite of the name) just flew 5,500 miles to Lille and back in order to lose 12-0.
Of course, as lovers of the Football League, NTT20 should feel sad when one of our members is knocked out by a non-league club – but if you’re not happy for Maidstone, your heart is made of stone. George Elokobi, itinerant defender turned reluctant manager, was clearly very emotional about the FA Cup even before his National League South outfit defeated League One Stevenage 1-0, and a similarly passionate interview after the match put the icing on the three-tier cupset cake.
Both sides had chances aplenty and either could have won it, but, as tends to happen, only one did. Stevenage’s Steve Evans was magnanimous in defeat, praising Maidstone and even admitting, “I’ve got no complaints with the officials today”, before ruining it by adding, “If we had that level of official for the past 10 weeks, we’d have a lot more points.” That is an elite ref-bashing mentality. The best never rest.
Maidstone aren’t the only non-league side in the Fourth Round hat, because Eastleigh rescued a replay from their trip to Newport’s Rodney Parade despite trailing with 10 men. Former EFL veteran Chris Maguire, ever the wind-up merchant, wound up Newport by converting a soft penalty. Alas, Chesterfield were downed by a stoppage-time winner from Watford’s Tom Dele-Bashiru (lovely first and second touch, deflected finish). Spireites boss Paul Cook was probably thrilled, mind, given he all but complained about having won the previous two rounds.
Back to the Football League, then, and those upstarts who inconvenienced the big boys on Sunday. Blackpool actually led Nottingham Forest 2-0 after half an hour at the City Ground, but possibly sat off just a little too much in taking only one shot between then and bedtime. Still, 2-2 is a fine result. Meanwhile, West Ham picked their first XI to face Bristol City, so Liam Manning’s visitors did well to earn a 1-1 draw in Stratford through Tommy Conway’s well-taken goal from a sumptuous Joe Williams through ball. And while Bolton’s nil-niller at a full-strength Luton may not sound like much of an upset, remember that two divisions separate them.
Speaking of upsets that don’t feel like upsets, League Two Wrexham won 1-0 at League One pseudo-rivals Shrewsbury. Well done to them. As a hipster, I naturally prefer Bristol Rovers’ 1-1 draw at Carrow Road (you won’t have heard of it), which forced Norwich to a replay at the Mem in spite of David Wagner’s stirring pre-match rally to his players that, “We don’t want a rematch, but if we have to, then we take it”. Grant Ward’s outside-of-the-boot equaliser made me yelp like a dachshund.
Across a weekend low on shocks, QPR did threaten to knock out top-flight Bournemouth, but then they remembered their place and allowed a 2-0 half-time lead to become a 3-2 full-time loss. Sinclair Armstrong’s excellent opener showed what he’s capable of doing, only for the R’s defenders to… well, show what they’re capable of doing.
Given where the differences in quality between first- and second-tier clubs should lie, it’s disappointing to let in two goals from corners (taking QPR to 12 conceded from set-pieces this season), even before Jimmy Dunne was caught faffing at the back. “The club knows what I think we need to do to improve,” said R’s manager Martí Cifuentes, ominously, claiming he’d never experienced such “shocking” defending in his career before now. He really is new here.
It was a weekend of personal landmarks. Blackburn beat Cambridge 5-2 with Sammie Szmodics scoring his first ever hat-trick and 15-year-old Rory Finneran becoming Rovers’ youngest ever player, wearing a sponsorless shirt because he’s too young to endorse vaping. Quite right – his parents would ground him for life. Hull drew 1-1 with Birmingham thanks to a late equaliser from Matty Jacob, making his first start for the club where his grandfather played, and where he himself has been since the age of nine. Birmingham’s earlier goal, by the way, was a beaut – why does #NoFear football have to mean passing out from the back, and not a perfect Lukas Jutkiewicz header from a delightful Cody Drameh cross?
Elsewhere, 20-year-old Tom Fellows notched his first professional goal with a nice take in West Bromwich Albion’s 4-1 dismissal of Aldershot, which also saw Daryl Dike score in his first game since last April. Ethan Ampadu, whose 202 previous career appearances had brought a single, twice-deflected goal, scored twice as Leeds won 3-0 at Peterborough, though Patrick Bamford put him in the shade with a strike as dazzling as his new cut. And Cameron Dawson garnished his patently unrealistic penalty-saving record by saving two, from two different takers, in the first 10 minutes of Sheffield Wednesday’s 4-0 victory over Cardiff (who started with only two defenders and replaced one with a midfielder at half-time, opting for a back four of Ollie Tanner, Ryan Wintle, Perry Ng and Josh Bowler). Dawson has now saved half of the penalties he’s faced in his career, and seven of his last 10. That is silly.
There were quite a few four-goal margins; in fact, 4-0 was one of the round’s most common scorelines, all in the direction you’d imagine (Chelsea 4-0 Preston, Gillingham 0-4 Sheffield United, Southampton 4-0 Walsall). But Coventry thrashing Oxford 6-2 was fun for everyone apart from Oxford, as the Sky Blues raced into a 3-1 lead in the opening 17 minutes. Kasey Palmer, I can only apologise for not including this in 5iveLights, because good Lord.
Giving Good Accounts Of Themselves were Rotherham, whose narrow defeat at Fulham came from a mistake passing out from the back (typical Rotherham), and Middlesbrough, who lost 1-0 to high-flying Aston Villa due to a deflected goal that wouldn’t have found the net even one more time in a thousand. Boro won’t be too fussed – they have a League Cup semi-final coming up and a play-off place to chase. Millwall capitalised on sloppy Leicester defending to score twice, but went down 3-2 to three fine goals from Cesare Casadei, Ricardo Pereira and Tom Cannon. Stoke stuck at it against Brighton, eventually undone in their 4-2 defeat by a Joao Pedro double from a great header and a ruthless counter-attack. Whaddyagonnado?
There were similar vibes at Huddersfield, whose 5-0 defeat on their visit to Manchester City was all anyone expected. However, Sunderland fans expected a bit more from Mick Beale’s team in their 3-0 home defeat to Newcastle. Nobody truly fancied the Black Cats to make it 10 Tyne-Wear Derbies without a Newcastle win, in their first meeting since 2016, but there was precious little fight against the financial disparity: two of the goals were entirely self-inflicted, and that doesn’t even include Dan Ballard putting the ball into his own net.
Finally, in starting with home ties against League Two opposition, a pair of new Championship managers were given friendly undercards before the league’s heavy-hitters entered the ring. Swansea beat Morecambe 2-0 to begin Luke Williams’ tenure, while incoming Plymouth gaffer Ian Foster oversaw a 3-1 win against Sutton. The slightly longer-serving Kieran McKenna watched his Ipswich side beat Wimbledon by the same scoreline.
And, with Wigan taking on Manchester United tonight, that’s your lot. If you care about the four all-Premier League ties, you’re reading the wrong Substack.
A stingy portion in League One thanks to the FA Cup. It is January after all, and reduced portions are somewhat necessary after the feast of festive football. But a dearth of matches doesn’t mean we have to diet on goals — oh no! From the five games in League One on Saturday, we were treated to 18 goals with all ten teams getting on the scoresheet.
We start at the top, where three goals in nine second-half minutes saw Portsmouth beaten 2-1 by third-from-bottom Cheltenham. According to FootyStats, the xG for this game was 2.12 - 1.15 in Pompey’s favour, but Liam Sercombe took it upon himself to trade in the real thing.
Pompey took a just-about-deserved lead in the 49th minute courtesy of a Tom Bradbury own goal following a long throw. Two minutes later, the Robins responded with a long throw of their own, but this time Sercombe found space to chest the ball and hook it into the bottom corner for his fifth goal of the season.
Sercombe’s sixth, and the match-winner, came in the 54th minute. Conor Shaughnessy took one too many touches in his own box, George Lloyd picked his pocket, and Sercombe was on hand to smash a rocket past Will Norris. Pompey piled on the pressure but Darrell Clarke’s resurgent Robins clung on.
Hot on the heels of Pompey are Derby County who closed the gap between the sides to four points following their 1-3 win at Charlie Adam’s Fleetwood.
Adam will have been happy with his side’s start, but Derby grew into the game and took charge in the 27th minute. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was sent through on goal by Max Bird’s brilliant improvised flick and made no mistake. Derby doubled their lead just before the break when James Collins glanced in a Conor Hourihane corner.
Jayden Stockley set up a grandstand finish with 14 minutes to go, making it 1-2 with a picture-perfect towering header, but Tom Barkhuizen killed any Fleetwood hopes to close the show in the 90th minute. Derby have now won 9 of their last 11 games, whilst struggling Fleetwood have lost 8 in 10.
Fellow strugglers Exeter and Carlise faced off at St James’ Park, and Exeter won the relegation six-pointer 2-1.
Reece Cole gave the home side the lead just before the hour, showing the quality that the game had been lacking when he emphatically latched onto and dispatched a loose ball from 15 yards. In the 77th minute, the Grecians doubled their lead when Sonny Cox put away the rebound from Jack Aitchison’s 20-yard drive which hit the post. In response, Luke Armstrong hit the post for Carlisle — he really should have capped his debut with a goal, connecting with a cross from six yards out.
There was nothing wrong with the connection that substitute Dan Butterworth made in the 86th minute to give Carlisle a glimmer of hope. He caught Alex Hartridge’s headed clearance from a corner perfectly on the half-volley to smash into the bottom corner from 20 yards out. But Exeter held on, and that’s seven points from four games. Meanwhile, Paul Simpson’s side continue to struggle in front of goal.
Port Vale and Charlton had no such trouble finding the back of the net. These teams are only separated on goal difference and couldn’t be separated in a 3-3 draw at Vale Park.
It’s hard to tell who will be more disappointed with the point. Charlton took the lead on three occasions whilst Port Vale had a total of 29 shots to Charlton’s seven, and won the xG battle comfortably.
Charlton first took the lead in the 27th minute, when Corey Blackett-Taylor nutmegged Vale keeper Connor Ripley. An Ethan Chislett penalty on the stroke of half-time levelled it up. Daniel Kanu restored the Addicks’ lead on the hour, but it only lasted four minutes — Uche Ikpeazu scored his first of the season with a header (not Ashley Maynard-Brewer’s best work in the Charlton goal).
Tyreece Campbell thought he had won it with ten minutes left, only for Gavin Massey to curl one in from the edge of the area in injury time for three goals and a point apiece.
To the Pirelli, where two more teams tight together in the table went head to head. And, as before, a score draw – 1-1 – keeps Burton and Wycombe in 17th and 16th.
Bez Lubala brought the game to life just before the hour. He found himself inside the area at an angle, took aim and smacked a beauty into the opposite corner. Wycombe’s equaliser came ten minutes later, with Sam Vokes reminding League One fans of his Premier League heyday with an exquisite side-footed volley. Wycombe might’ve won it but for a brilliant reflex save from Max Crocombe, tipping David Wheeler’s powerful strike onto the crossbar, keeping it all square.
Salford hosting Forest Green was as close to a relegation six-pointer as you’re going to get right now. Both, however, were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw that doesn’t do wonders for either.
There was an added interest to the clash following the appointment of Karl Robinson at Salford, and to say it was a mixed start to his tenure would be an understatement. It took just four minutes for his team to score, Matt Smith looping in a back-post header, but 10 minutes later Robinson was dismissed for petulantly throwing the ball away – not a great look on debut. And from that point on, FGR gripped the contest.
The equaliser came shortly before half-time, Charlie McCann scoring his first goal for the club. FGR looked the likely winners when Matty Stevens’ instinctive finish midway through the second half put them 2-1 up, and it stayed that way until Adrian Mariappa was sent flying in the box late on. It caused not only a melee, which saw him and Ryan Inniss both sent off, but also a penalty. Emotions were high, and Ryan Watson showed great composure to level the game from the spot. It was an incredibly frustrating ending for Troy Deeney and his team, whose wait for a win during his reign continues. They remain level on points with Sutton United at the bottom of League Two.
Another significant match-up was at the County Ground, as Swindon took on Colchester, another team under new management – this time, ColU with the Cowley brothers at the wheel.
Although Swindon have a cushion of 16 points on the bottom two, their position looks shaky since the recalls of Dan Kemp and Jake Young. Replacements are yet to arrive, meaning the burden of goalscoring is all on Charlie Austin, and it took an early penalty from the Swindon captain to calm a few nerves. Buoyed by that, Swindon doubled the advantage through centre-back Tom Brewitt, who was in the right place at the right time to slam home. Sadly for Swindon, the day peaked there.
Matt Jay pulled one back with a nicely taken header, although it did seem that he came back from an offside position. ColU were the better team in the second half, though, and deservedly levelled things at the death. The goal was officially given to Brandon Ihionvien, but in reality it was an extremely scrappy set-piece goal, bundled over the line. Not that the Cowleys were complaining – a point represents a good start to life in charge.
The result of the day came for Crewe Alexandra, ending Mansfield’s unbeaten home run in the league with a hard-fought 1-0 win on the road. Spirits couldn’t have been higher amongst Stags fans following their stunning New Year’s Day victory at Stockport, but Crewe did a great job in stifling the crowd and making it an afternoon for Nigel Clough and Mansfield to forget.
The only goal of the day was one of real quality, from a player in Joe White who may well have just played his final game for Crewe. The Newcastle loanee showed tremendous skill inside the penalty area to deceive Mansfield defenders before drilling the ball into the corner. If White is to be recalled and sent elsewhere, then he has endeared himself to the Crewe faithful and capped a brilliant loan spell. Mansfield pressure did come after the break, but it was Crewe who looked the more likely to score, Courtney Baker-Richardson missing two great chances. That’s now back-to-back wins for Lee Bell’s side, who continue to impress and sit in 5th.
Barrow took advantage of that Mansfield slip-up, returning to winning ways with a narrow 1-0 victory against a rejuvenated Tranmere side. It was a first half of few chances on a pitch that has been battered by rainfall in recent weeks. That wasn’t an excuse for Barrow, though, who took the game to Rovers after the break and thoroughly deserved their opener – and boy, what an opener it was. The ball was pulled back to Dean Campbell and he delightfully curled the ball into the top corner. Tranmere came agonisingly close to a late leveller when Josh Hawkes struck the post, but it wasn’t to be. The win puts Barrow just three points off top, whilst Tranmere’s four-game winning streak comes to an end.
This time two weeks ago, Bradford City had just made it four wins in a row under Graham Alexander, with news that Jake Young was set to return to the club from his prolific loan at Swindon. Fast-forward to now and it is back-to-back defeats and no involvement for Young, suggesting he’s set to be sold elsewhere.
Crawley Town were the beneficiaries, turning up to Valley Parade and leaving as 4-2 victors. In Danilo Orsi, they have one of the league’s most in-form players, and his first-half header broke the deadlock. The second half was much more chaotic, as Bradford roared back. When Liam Ridehalgh scores a rare goal and an Andy Cook penalty hits the back of Crawley keeper Corey Addai and goes in, you think it might well be your day.
The visitors were not having that, however, and stunned Bradford with a trio of late goals. Inspired by Orsi and Klaidi Lodos, Crawley ripped through their hosts with ease to head back down south with another three points. A chorus of boos at full-time summed up what the locals thought of their late collapse. In truth, the atmosphere was already negative in response to the Jake Young saga – fans have certainly made it clear that they will be furious with the board if he is sold.
One team that seems to be really enjoying themselves is Harrogate Town. They continued their good run of form with a strong 3-1 win at home to Doncaster. In Sam Folarin and Abraham Odoh, Harrogate have two excellent forward players, and they combined to open the scoring. Folarin received the ball from unselfish Odoh work before nonchalantly picking out the far corner.
Some Doncaster fans said their recent win over MK Dons was the best they have played for a long time, so failure to back it up comes as a huge frustration. Tommy Rowe did level the score with a beautiful 25-yard drive, but that was as good as it got for Rovers. James Daly regained Harrogate’s advantage with a sweeping low volley, before the star of the match, Odoh, wrapped things up with a peach. He is undoubtedly an asset who will earn Harrogate some money, and in the meantime, they continue to enjoy his performances – and sit just two points off the play-off places.