Weekend Notes 🤝 Done Deals Daily
Who scored a hat-trick? Who's left in the hat?
One transfer, three games in the Championship, 12 in League One, 10 in League Two and every bit of EFL left in the FA Cup hat.
Welcome to Weekend Notes X Done Deals Daily.
Michi Frey (ST) - [Royal Antwerp - QPR] - Free
What should a relegation-threatened club do if they’re the second-least potent goalscorers in the division? If you’re QPR, you send an SOS to a striker who hasn’t kicked a ball this season. A striker who, last season, made 10 starts in the German Bundesliga, plus five sub appearances, and scored… no goals.
That’s a little tongue-in-cheek (though true). QPR are only in the market for free agents and Michi Frey could be a decent option. With Lyndon Dykes operating more as a No.10 in recent weeks, the Hoops have both a lack of goals and a lack of options for their forward role.
Before Frey’s torrid loan spell with Schalke 04 last term, his goal-scoring prowess had been impressive, scoring goals in Belgium at an average of 0.42 per 90 minutes (2020/21), 0.70 per 90 (21/22) and 1.04 per 90 (22/23).
Frey is a throwback No.9. A target man type. Powerful, hard-working and strong in the air. If QPR have signed the 2022 vintage of Frey, then he could be just what they need in their battle to avoid the drop to League One. But it’s difficult to be enthused by someone who hasn’t played a competitive game since May 2023, and whose last goal came in December 2022.
VERDICT: ON THE FENCE
League Two *and we cannot emphasise this enough* Newport County repping the EFL in the FA Cup.
Debuts don’t get Ogbeta than this.
Have you heard the one about the Magic Tractor? It drove down the lane and turned into a Maidstone cupset.
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Sunderland 3-1 Stoke City
Burstow (43), Ba (49), Ekwah (70) — Seelt OG (74)
Stoke suffered a second successive defeat ahead of a daunting meeting with league leaders Leicester, as Sunderland put away their chances. Amid his team’s declining performances, Mick Beale has also been due a bit of positive variance, and this was it: winning an even game 3-1 with Stoke missing three (Opta-defined) big chances. We also saw what is meant by Mr Ali Maxwell when he mentions Jack Clarke’s ‘attacking gravity’. Here, Clarke receives the ball bloody miles from goal, but in dribbling inside he not only draws defenders towards him, but into the path of his seemingly inevitable shot – which allows Clarke to instead slide a pass into the run of Abdoullah Ba, who scores.
QPR 1-1 Huddersfield Town
Paal (90+5) — Rudoni (86)
Paalez-vous disappointment? Huddersfield came away from back-to-back thrashings by Leicester City and Manchester City with Darren Moore needing at least two wins from a run of four far easier games: Plymouth (H), Blackburn (A), QPR (A) and Sheffield Wednesday (H). They’ve drawn the first three 1-1. Having outplayed QPR in this relegation six-pointer and led through Jack Rudoni’s well-taken close-range strike, they carelessly dropped two points to a late, late, late, late, late, late R’s goal. Moore has to beat his former employers next weekend for some knives to be sheathed; QPR just have to play better than they did here, despite Kenneth Paal’s much-needed, much-kneed-in equaliser.
Millwall 1-1 Preston North End
Flemming (5) — Potts (33)
Zian Flemming left unmarked; Brad Potts left in acres of space; two lower-mid-table teams left looking very lower-mid-table.*
*Yes, fine, Preston are 12th… for now.
Tom Bourke & Ryan Deeney
Carlisle United 1–4 Bolton Wanderers
Gibson (71) — Ashworth (31), Maghoma (36), Dempsey (90), Ogbeta (90)
Carlisle’s only away win this season came against Bolton, and Wanderers got their revenge here. Zac Ashworth’s first-ever league goal gave them the lead and Paris Maghoma showed composure to make it two. Jordan Gibson responded with a smart finish before Kyle Dempsey and Nathanael Ogbeta, on debut, widened the scoreline. A sixth win in seven matches moves Ian Evatt’s side back into the top two and leaves Carlisle 10 points adrift of safety, having won one of their last 14.
Derby County 2–1 Cheltenham Town
Bird (60), Collins (81) — Sercombe (50)
Derby County returned to winning ways to bolster their promotion push with a 2-1 win against Cheltenham Town. Liam Sercombe’s seventh of the season gave the visitors an unlikely lead before Max Bird’s free-kick and an acrobatic James Collins finish secured home points. The visitors couldn’t muster another effort at goal as Paul Warne’s side saw the game out. Derby now sit a point behind second-place Bolton, while Cheltenham remain seven points adrift of safety.
Port Vale 0-1 Portsmouth
Bishop (88 pen)
Pompey had to wait for a penalty two minutes from time to make their dominance count at Vale Park. Having been a little out of sorts over the last few weeks, getting the three points — by any means necessary — was vital for John Mousinho’s promotion charge.
However, the biggest talking point wasn’t Colby Bishop’s 14th goal of the campaign, but referee Craig Hicks being chased off the pitch by a Port Vale supporter after he had pointed to the spot. Thankfully, the fan didn't get to show Hicks exactly what he thought of the decision.
Wigan Athletic 2-3 Stevenage
Magennis (5 pen), Aasgaard (38) — Reid (15), Piergianni (66), L. Thompson (81)
Stevenage had to come from behind twice to earn a win that keeps them three points off the play-offs. Wigan had won their last two home games 1-0 and went ahead from the spot early. Ten minutes later, Vadaine Oliver proved his value to any sceptical Stevenage fans with a perfect knockdown from a long ball to tee up Jamie Reid for his 16th of the season.
Wigan went into the break ahead, but a looping header from MOTM Carl Piergianni gave Stevenage the reply they deserved, before substitute Louis Thompson sealed three points with a 20-yard daisycutter into the bottom corner. A Stevenage win keeps pressure on those above, and winning away is a habit Steve Evans will want to get used to — they’ve got trips to Peterborough and Oxford coming up.
Barnsley 1–2 Exeter City
De Gevigney (87) — Aitchison (17), Cole (31)
A quintessential game of two halves. The visitors flew out of the traps, winning the shot count 7-2 in the first half and having six efforts on target. A gift for Jack Aitchison, then a moment of brilliance from Reece Cole, made it 2-0. Barnsley won the shot count 14-2 in the second half but found the net just once, Jack Shepherd teeing up Mael de Gevigney for a consolation. This was Barnsley’s first loss against a side in the bottom half, and Exeter’s first win against a team in the top 10. Quirky.
Northampton Town 0-2 Shrewsbury Town
Udoh (57), Dunkley (75)
Some new/old manager bounce at Sixfields. The return of Paul Hurst at Shrewsbury saw them win for only the second time in nine. Shrews were by far the better side, somewhat surprising considering Cobblers had won eight of their last 12. Hurst will hope the bounce continues next week in a six-pointer against Neil Harris’ Cambridge, while Northampton remain 9th.
Bristol Rovers 3–1 Oxford United
Martin (16), Thomas (22), Vale (77) — Harris (58)
Oxford United’s indifferent form under Des Buckingham continued as they left Bristol pointless. The first half was a poor affair with just four shots and one from inside the area — and yet, two goals! The first for Chris Martin, and the second for Luke Thomas, who fired home from just outside the box under little pressure. Mark Harris deflected an effort past Jed Ward, but Harvey Vale sealed the points for Rovers. Ward was strong upon his return and produced a fantastic stop to deny Ruben Rodrigues late on. Oxford are now outside the play-off places as Bristol Rovers ended a run of four straight losses.
Wycombe Wanderers 2- 2 Fleetwood Town
McCleary (62 pen), Kone (83) — Omochere (14), Stockley (31)
If you’d have offered a point to Wycombe boss Matt Bloomfield after 31 minutes, with his side 0-2 down and boos ringing around the stadium, you can be sure he’d have snatched your hand off. But when Fleetwood goalscorer Promise Omochere received a second yellow card, Wycombe sensed an opportunity.
They got a penalty! But Luke Leahy saw his spot-kick saved. They got another! This time Garath McCleary made no mistake. At 1-2, January signing Richard Kone saw a headed goal ruled out, but he found the equaliser on 83’. A fine finish and his first for Wycombe who, on the balance of play, deserved at least a point. They face another relegation rival in Cheltenham this coming weekend. It’s a massive game.
Lincoln City 0 - 0 Peterborough United
Peterborough drop to 2nd after a slack showing at Sincil Bank. It's only the second time this season — and the first time since matchday 4 — that Darren Ferguson’s side haven't troubled the scorers, as they dominated possession but failed to carve out huge opportunities or take the chances they did create. This result means that Michael Skubala's Imps still haven't won in nine, but they can absolutely take positives from the point and the performance.
Reading 1-1 Leyton Orient
Knibbs (23) — Agyei (19 pen)
Ruben Selles and Richie Wellens can’t argue about a share of the spoils as they watched their sides cancel each other out — neither team could add to first-half goals. The point extends the Royals’ unbeaten home run to five whilst Orient extend theirs to six both home and away.
Blackpool 1–1 Charlton Athletic
Dembele (53) — Ekpiteta OG (69)
Blackpool failed to make the most of Charlton’s lack of confidence in a 1-1 draw at Bloomfield Road. The Addicks cleared one off the line early doors before presenting Jordan Rhodes with a gifted, gilt-edged opportunity. Fortunately for them, the Scotsman fluffed his lines. Karamoko Dembele didn’t waste his opportunity when it arrived – he has now directly contributed to a goal in all four league games this calendar year. It took an own goal to get Charlton a draw and they remain winless in 13 in all competitions, whilst Blackpool are three points off the final play-off spot.
Cambridge United 0–0 Burton Albion
A tame affair between two sides under new management. Burton held on despite going down to 10 men, Steve Seddon given marching orders for a strong challenge on Jack Lankester, who rolled and grimaced initially, lifted his head to smile after the referee walked to Seddon, then grimaced again when the man in the middle returned. Played to perfection. Otherwise, the main takeaway from this match is that (according to Fotmob) both sides created a combined 0.85xG from 26 shots with no effort taken with 12 yards of goal. Still, back-to-back clean sheets for both have helped their prospects a tad – though Burton have now failed to score in nine of 15 away matches this term.
Doncaster Rovers 1-5 Stockport County
Biggins (65) — Madden (5, 46), Bailey OG (11), Lemonheigh-Evans (33), Olaofe (55)
These are remarkable highlights to watch back. All five Stockport goals were headed goals, although it’s more accurate to say that Owen Bailey’s own goal went in off his face. Doncaster were punched in the face repeatedly by a Stockport side that they simply couldn’t contain — either from open play or set pieces.
Alarm bells for Donny, whose next four fixtures are Sutton (A), Tranmere (H), Salford (A) and Grimsby (A). Stockport now have a cushion of seven points to 4th place, and a lead of five points at the top. Nick Powell put in the sort of performance we’d hoped we would see more often this season.
Wimbledon 2-1 Mansfield Town
Bugiel (45+2), Curtis (90+7) — Swan (63)
This was TETCHY. An early DOGSO red card for Jordan Bowery. Omar Bugiel and Will Swan trading goals. Then, in injury time: a HUGE Mansfield penalty shout turned down at 1-1, followed by a 97th-minute winner from debutant Ronan Curtis. Johnnie Jackson sprinted down the touchline to celebrate with his team – Wimbledon’s first stoppage-time winner at the new Plough Lane. Big, big win for Dons, while Mansfield are winless in four.
In transfer news: reports have emerged that Ali Al-Hamadi — the player we called ‘The January Transfers Window’s #1 trending topic’ — has strong interest from Ipswich Town.
Crewe Alexandra 2-3 Salford City
Rowe (44), Nevitt (45+2) — Smith (4, 55, 85)
Big. Matt. Smith. He scores with his head from open play. He scores with his head from corners. He scores with his feet every now and then, too. He’s got 18 goals this season – 11 with that big, clever head of his. He has a degree in International Management with American Business Studies, dontcha know?
Two quality Crewe goals had put them in front at half-time, but Salford — Smith, specifically — took their chances in the second half. Salford are up to 19th, a good 10 points above the relegation zone. It’s eight points in four games under Karl Robinson, three of them away from home. Robinson has made a fantastic impact, and performances have been impressive; there’s been nothing fortunate about the recent points return.
Notts County 1-1 Barrow
Nemane (45+1) — Spence (22)
This was 5th vs 6th in League Two, and a competitive game ensued. With Cole Stockton and Dom Telford starting up front together for Barrow, there’s an expectation that the team’s attacking ceiling will rise, and both looked dangerous in a first half dominated by Barrow. Kian Spence had bravely nodded them ahead, but Aaron Nemane stuck in a Jodi Jones assist just before the half-time whistle. Jones’ creativity from the left is ridiculous — he’s equalled the League Two assist record (17) in January! The second half was all about his skill and delivery, with a number of further chances created. But none were taken, and the points were shared in Stuart Maynard’s first game as Notts manager.
MK Dons 2-1 Gillingham
Williams (79), Gilbey (88) — Walker (90)
For 75 minutes, this was an even game, with both sides creating bits and bobs without grabbing things by the scruff of the neck. Then MJ Williams bounced home a volley to give MK Dons the lead, and Alex Gilbey doubled it ten minutes later. New Mike Williamson stats just dropped:
Forest Green Rovers 0-1 Accrington Stanley
Nolan (22 pen)
A poor game, decided by a penalty. It’s hard to know what Ryan Inniss was thinking when wrestling Alex Henderson to the floor. Jack Nolan scored the penalty to win it. New Forest Green manager Steve Cotterill seemed pleased with his team’s display, but FGR are 9 points from safety now. Accy are jostling for position among play-off hopefuls.
Grimsby Town 1-2 Tranmere Rovers
Tharme (39) — Apter (35), Mullarkey OG (54)
Tranmere banished the demons of narrow defeats to MK Dons and Barrow by grabbing a third away win in four. Rob Apter was the star of the show, getting the better of Anthony Driscoll-Glennon to slot home an opener and then – after Doug Tharme had smashed Grimsby level – driving down the right wing to deliver a cross that was turned in by Tobias Mullarkey for an own-goal, and the winner for Nigel Adkins Seriously Super White Army. Since the start of November, they have picked up two points per game: 26 in 13 matches.
David Artell’s interview with BBC Humberside Sport is worth a listen. “I said to the players that was our worst performance by a distance. Why? On the ball we were just whacking it everywhere and up in the air. It was like kids' football, and we got bullied off the ball by a Tranmere side who are surviving on that and that’s credit to Nigel and his players.”
Swindon Town 2-0 Bradford City
Austin (17 pen), Devoy (45+2)
Swindon Town have kept a clean sheet for the first time in 19 games in all competitions! Interim Manager Gavin Gunning – a centre-back himself as a player – will have been delighted with the way Conor McCarthy and Frazer Blake-Tracy handled Andy Cook, and defended Swindon’s box SO much better than the last few months.
He’ll also have enjoyed the link-up between Paul Glatzel and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, which led to Glatzel being fouled for an early penalty. Then Glatzel made a clever run in behind, and showed skill and awareness to set up Dawson Devoy.
Bradford: lacking in ideas and confidence, and 18th in League Two.
Morecambe 0-1 Colchester United
Arthur Timothy Read is a fictional anthropomorphic aardvark. Arthur James Read is an English professional footballer capable of scoring simply delectable free-kicks. That, along with a penalty save by Owen Goodman to deny Ged Garner, gave Colchester United their first win under Danny Cowley.
Post-match, Cowley seemed pleased and energetic, particularly about what he calls his ‘sexy bench’. For reference, that’s Tom Dallison, Matt Jay, Connor Wilkinson, Harry Anderson, John Akinde, Owura Edwards and Sam Hornby. You know what? That is pretty sexy for a team in a relegation battle. Huge win for ColU, and a great start for the Cowleys.
Walsall 1-1 Sutton United
Daniels (18) — Eastmond (23)
When I was a student in Bristol, I regularly frequented an excellent eatery called Jason Donervan — generally around 2am after an enjoyable evening dancing to Sean Paul.
Anyway, I always think of Jason Donervan whenever Walsall’s centre-back Donervon Daniels does something notable. The quality of his skill and finish to put Walsall ahead, by a player for whom such things are not expected, brought to mind Jason Donervan’s surprisingly flavoursome and well-balanced ‘Mixed Meat and Chips’ dish. Craig Eastmond equalised for Sutton, who have drawn four in a row.
FA Cup Fourth Round
That FA Cup, eh? That FA Cup, it just won’t go away. It might hibernate from time to time. But it's always waiting there, just around the corner, ready to make its way back through the sludge and smash through the glass ceiling, better than ever. Yeah, that FA Cup. It seems like it's fading away sometimes, but it will never die. And there's nothing you can do about it.
Maidstone United beat Ipswich Town. You may have heard about this. However, when a club in the National League South beats a club sitting 2nd in the Championship, away from home, it bears repeating. George Elokobi’s charges are the first team in 46 years to reach the FA Cup’s last 16 from outside the pyramid’s top five tiers, because while Ipswich wasted chance after chance after chance after chance, often thwarted by Lucas Covolan in goal, Maidstone broke from an Ipswich corner and nobody in blue remembered to mark Lamar Reynolds. Jeremy Sarmiento equalised, then gave the ball away for Maidstone’s winner. Bedlam.
This hilarious shot map can’t show the unbelievable scenes of jubilation, nor the beauty of Reynolds’ dink, but it does serve as a perfect encapsulation of cup football. An underdog will never dominate their betters, but there’s always the chance that they can score twice from their only two shots while their opponents score just once from 38.
On Sunday, Newport County nearly upset the FA Cup’s reigning runners-up. [That’s not a thing – Ed.] We must remember that while Manchester United may be a mess, that’s in a Premier League context – there were still 76 places separating these teams. Will Evans scored by outwitting Raphael Varane, who has won four Champions League titles and the World Cup, for goodness’ sake.
Suddenly, Newport were drawing 2-2 after trailing 2-0, with Evans having scored more non-penalty goals in all competitions than any other player in the Premier League or Football League. Manchester United eventually won 4-2, but it was another phenomenal effort from the South Walian cup specialists. The North Walian cup specialists, Wrexham, face Blackburn tonight.
Elsewhere, the fourth round was less dramatic, and featured bad news for Championship clubs. Swansea were hammered 5-0 by a strong Bournemouth XI full of former Football League talent, and Norwich were hammered 5-2 by a strong Liverpool XI full of just really good footballers. At least Borja Sainz banged in a belter. West Bromwich Albion lost a bad-tempered derby 2-0 to Wolves, which featured a half-hour delay due to horrific crowd violence. The only EFL team to shock a Premier League outfit were Bristol City, taking a commendable 0-0 draw from their home tie with Nottingham Forest.
In all-Championship affairs, Birmingham travelled to table-topping Leicester and were arguably the better team, yet lost 3-0 with the Foxes’ stand-in stopper, Jakub Stolarczyk, inarguably the game’s best player. Watford drew with Southampton despite leading for 84 minutes, and Plymouth and Leeds will also meet again in a replay.
Unfortunately, so will Sheffield Wednesday and Coventry City. Their 1-1 draw, less than a week after Cov won at Hillsborough in the league, forces the pair to do it all over again on February 6th – their fourth meeting in 10 fixtures since Christmas. But the problem isn’t to do with familiarity breeding contempt; it’s the contemptibly familiar sight and sound of Kasey Palmer being booed by a section of Wednesday supporters for… suffering racial abuse by a Wednesday fan in the previous game? Utterly, utterly grim.
It’s a sour note on which to end a footballing weekend that had some magic in it. Let’s think about George Elokobi’s happy face instead.